Although McLaren and Ford usually live out their lives at opposite ends of the automotive spectrum, the two manufacturer’s histories actually are intertwined. Perhaps that’s why Ford has gotten in the weird habit of selling examples of its mid-engine GT to high-ranking members of the McLaren organization.
Road & Track recently discovered that McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s personal website has a 2017 Ford GT, of which 250 units per year are being produced, listed among his collection of road cars. What’s more, Ford sold former McLaren F1 driver Jenson Button one of just 101 examples of the previous-generation GT that were designated for the European market.
Ford’s decision to put a GT in Button’s garage in 2005 admittedly made the most sense, as he was driving for Honda-powered BAR at the time (What better way to sell your product than to show that even your competitor’s contracted drivers want one)? Button, though, sold the car in 2011, when McLaren Automotive opened its doors, likely because he was given a 12C as a company car.
Brown, on the other hand, has both a GT and a McLaren’s rival to it, the 675LT, so it’s odd that Ford would give him a chance to potentially prove its car is inferior. Plus, considering Ford only approved 500 people — such as Jay Leno — from an applicant pool of roughly 7,000, it’s even more surprising it chose Brown.
Although Brown has two Ford racers in his extensive car collection, and is likely to drive his car plenty since he used to be a racing driver, he can’t deliver the one thing Ford wanted from its GT customers: publicity. While he does have roughly 24,200 Twitter followers and is well known in the industry, he also is one of the faces of McLaren. As a result, he won’t be able to showcase the car to his followers as much as Ford would like.
The only explanation we can think of for the “Blue Oval” being so chummy with McLaren has to do with the latter’s founder, Bruce McLaren. Bruce was a racing driver in the 1950s and 1960s, and piloted the GT40 to its historic victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.
Considering how much that win meant, and still means, to the Ford family, we wouldn’t be surprised if anybody from the Woking, England, factory who applies for a GT is automatically green-lighted.
Thumbnail photo via Honda Racing