In 2016, the Ford GT returned to, and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the 50th anniversary of the original GT40’s 1-2-3 finish at the Circuit de la Sarthe. It was the type of fairy-tale ending you’d expect to see play out on the silver screen, rather than a race track.
But apparently, Ford’s original plan to celebrate its milestone didn’t even include a new GT.
While speaking at SAE International’s WCX conference Wednesday, Raj Nair, Ford’s vice president of global product development, revealed the company initially wanted to field Mustangs for its Le Mans comeback, Automotive News reports. Dubbed “Project Silver,” the Mustang race car would have required $250,000 in modifications, and Ford had concerns about its aerodynamics.
In addition, Ford determined the iconic endurance race wasn’t a good way to market the American pony car, so it scrapped the project.
“It was all good learning, but it turns out not to be the right fit. Ultimately, Mustang does not need Le Mans to be a global car,” Nair said, via Automotive News. “To be candid, I still wanted to do it. I was actually a little bit mad … in fact, I was really mad.”
Nair reportedly thought the company’s executives were “underestimating the importance” of the anniversary. And because it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he took it upon himself to assemble a 12-person team to develop a new GT supercar.
“I was just determined that we were going to have to do it but we were going to have to do it differently,” Nair said.
To ensure “The Blue Oval” got as much bang for its buck as it could, Nair’s team developed the road-going GT concurrently with the racer. This kept costs down and allowed the project to serve as a test for technology that will be used in future road cars, such as light-weight composites and active aero.
We’re not sure why, but rocky starts seem to be a trend among Ford GT projects, as both the 2005 and 2017 Ford GT’s almost never came to fruition.
Thumbnail photo via Ford
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