Ford GT: The Legend Of American Automotive Triumph

The Story of the Ford GT

The story of the Ford GT is a compelling narrative that intertwines automotive innovation, rivalry, and triumph. It spans several decades and showcases the evolution of a car that became an icon in the racing world. This story is vividly brought to life at the Caramulo Museum, where a powerful Ford GT, the heir to the legendary GT40, now graces the permanent car collection.

 

Genesis: Ford vs. Ferrari

The origins of the Ford GT date back to the early 1960s, when Ford Motor Company was looking to boost its image with a successful racing program. Henry Ford II, the company’s president, sought to purchase Ferrari, a dominant force in motorsport. Negotiations initially went well, but at the last minute, Enzo Ferrari backed out of the deal, infuriating Henry Ford II. Determined to beat Ferrari at their own game, Ford decided to build a car capable of winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ford assembled a team of engineers and designers, including key figures like Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, and John Wyer to achieve this. The result was the Ford GT40, a car named for its 40-inch height. This new prototype, strongly influenced by Lola and based on a V8 engine in a central rear position, was designed to surpass Italian cars. After initial struggles, the GT40 MK II finally achieved success in 1966, famously taking the top three positions at Le Mans. This victory ended Ferrari’s dominance and marked the beginning of Ford’s reign at the event, with the GT40 winning again in 1967, 1968, and 1969.

 

The 2000s: Return of the GT

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company in 2003, the Ford GT was revived as a modern supercar, inspired by the original GT40’s design. Designed by Camillo Pardo, the new Ford GT featured strong similarities to the original model, evoking not only its lines but also its competitive and winning character. Due to a legal issue related to the rights to the GT40 name, the American brand’s new flagship would be known simply as the Ford GT.

Production began in 2004 in Wixom, Michigan, and lasted just two years, with 4,038 units produced. The new GT included several innovative features for the time, such as aluminium body panels and a magnesium centre console.

 

The Caramulo Museum’s Ford GT

The unit now on display at the Caramulo Museum is one of just 343 produced as part of the GT Heritage Paint Livery Package commemorative edition. It is painted in the iconic colours of Gulf Oil, evoking the victories of the Ford GT40 entered by John Wyer Automotive Engineering Ltd at Le Mans in 1968 (with Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi driving) and in 1969 (driven by Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver). With its 5400cc V8 engine and 550 horsepower, allowing a maximum speed of 330 km/h, this Ford GT is a powerful reminder of its storied past.

 

The 2016 Revival: Ford GT Mk II

In 2016, Ford once again brought back the GT, this time with a more futuristic and aerodynamic design. This version was equipped with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine producing over 600 horsepower. The modern Ford GT was designed not only for the road but also as a track-focused machine. It competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 1966 win by clinching victory in the GTE-Pro class.

 

Technological Marvel and Cultural Impact

The latest Ford GT showcases cutting-edge technology, featuring a carbon fibre body, active aerodynamics, and a host of innovations designed to optimize performance and handling. This supercar combines Ford’s heritage with state-of-the-art engineering, ensuring its legacy in the automotive world.

The Ford GT story has also permeated popular culture, most notably with the release of the 2019 film “Ford v Ferrari” (titled “Le Mans ’66” in some regions). The film dramatizes the historic 1966 Le Mans race and the fierce competition between Ford and Ferrari, bringing the legendary rivalry and the GT40’s triumph to a new generation of enthusiasts.

 

Epilogue

From its inception as a tool of corporate revenge to its status as a celebrated icon of racing and automotive excellence, the Ford GT’s story is one of relentless pursuit of victory and innovation. The Ford GT at the Caramulo Museum stands as a testament to this legacy, showcasing the evolution of a car that continues to inspire and captivate car enthusiasts around the world. Now on display, it is a powerful symbol of Ford’s engineering prowess and competitive spirit, available for visitors to admire from Tuesday to Sunday.

 

Photo Credits: Daniel Peres

 

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