Written by independent automotive journalist Nicole Ellan James
Ford. Ferrari. Le Mans. Shelby. We all know how the Ford GT40 came to be. But far less known or celebrated is the story behind the most recent iteration of the Ford GT supercar.
A few years ago during SAE International’s WCX conference, Raj Nair, Fords’ head of global product development and chief technology officer, let it slip that the company originally planned to celebrate its 50th-anniversary win at Le Mans with an S550 Mustang.
Code-named “Project Silver,” the Mustang was intended to compete in the GTE PRO class at the race. But in order for it to be competitive, it needed a lot of upgrades and modifications to the point it would carry a $250,000 price tag. In addition, the top brass at Ford didn’t think Le Mans was the best fit for the Mustang.
“To be candid, I still wanted to do it,” Nair told engineers in attendance at the conference in Detroit. “I was really mad,” Nair said, adding that at the time he felt the company was “underestimating the importance of the 50th anniversary” of the historic 1-2-3 win Henry Ford II and Carroll Shelby accomplished.
“I was just determined,” Nair said, adding, “we were going to have to do it, but we were going to have to do it differently.”
The result? Nair assembled a small team to work on the ultra-top-secret car in a ultra-top-secret room at Ford’s development center in Dearborn, MI.
Named “Project Phoenix” — as it rose from the ashes of the failed Mustang program — the new Ford GT was designed from the start to be both a street car and a racing machine.
One by one, Nair brought in the top Ford executives as the GT came together, which moved the car’s development forward and ultimately led to first- and third-place finishes at the Le Mans in June 2016.
“Our plan was clear,” Nair said of the GT’s development. He added that it was a test bed for engine development and new technology that would push the boundaries of the materials used. Nair said, “We had to stretch our understanding of what was possible with aerodynamics.”
Adding to the development, a few years later the 2020 Ford GT was given a lightweight sculpted carbon-fiber body with a unique clear coat over the exposed carbon-fiber weave. It received new buttress air ducts to increase airflow by 50% and increased suspension damping to enhance handling and body control further.
In the spirit of continuous evolution, the twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine received an additional 13 horsepower accompanied by a broader torque band, revised calibration and mechanical upgrades such as gallery-cooled pistons and higher-energy ignition coils. Other highlights include larger intercoolers to keep charge air temperatures lower and the standard Akrapovič titanium exhaust.
The 1966 Ford GT40 racecar weighed 2,682-pounds; keep in mind, it was a race car, unequipped with many features we deem necessary today. The 2020 model, equipped with all the modern creature comforts we expect a road car to have, is just 3,354-pounds.
Offered during the 2022 Palm Beach Auction, this particular 2020 Ford GT, Chassis No. 40, is a limited-edition Carbon Series and will sell with No Reserve.
Power is derived from a mid-mounted 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine factory rated with 660hp. The engine is mated to a 7-speed Getrag dual-clutch automatic transmission.
It is finished in Frozen White, complemented by a Carbon Red Graphics package that features red-accented side-view mirrors and a red center stripe down the exposed single carbon-fiber stripe covered with STEK paint protection film.
The vehicle sits on a set of gloss exposed carbon-fiber wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, brought to a stop by Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes with red calipers.
This GT also has the upgraded Dark Energy leather interior, an option only available on Carbon Series cars starting with the 2020 models. The interior features an F1-inspired carbon-fiber steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara with an integrated LED rev indicator and 6-point harnesses with anchors.
This one-owner supercar has 242 actual miles and comes with its original Window Sticker, ordering kit with carbon-fiber case and other original documents.