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Why It Took Ford 37 Years To Build The Ford GT – HotCars

by Nov 6, 2022Blog0 comments

Jason Cammisa of Hagerty explains the growing pains the Ford supercar had to endure before arriving in 2005.
For the last handful of years, there arguably hasn't been a more well-informed, charismatic automotive journalist than Jason Cammisa. Rising to prominence in the mid-2000s for his work with Automobile Magazine, he would go on to contribute to the Motor Trend Group, Road & Track, and more recently, Hagerty; the world's largest provider of classic car insurance.
Since arriving at Hagerty nearly two years ago, he has introduced a handful of series that delve into the world of automotive culture. None more insightful than, "Revelations". As Jason put it, the show is "a series of untold stories about automotive legends." On its 22nd episode, Jason regales us with the turbulent timeline of how the Ford GT came to be, 37 years after the GT40 shocked the world at LeMans.
We all know the story of how Ford dethroned Ferrari in 1966 with a 1-2-3 finish, but what we didn't know is the controversy surrounding the win. After all, Ford was claiming an American victory, when in reality besides the Ford badging, it truly was a British automobile.
What people forget is the original GT40 was not built by Ford, but was a race car commissioned by Ford, yet built by British engineers that had no relation to Ford, whatsoever. Virtually a Lola T70 with Mustang concept car styling, Ford planned on returning the following year with an all-American car — and they did.
Related: The Coolest Cars That Jason Cammisa Has Driven
Returning to Le Mans in 1967 with the MKIV GT40, Ford revealed not only was the car built in American, by American Engineers, but it would feature two American drivers: Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt, to remove all doubt this would be an American victory.
And remove all doubt they would, with the MKIV finishing thirty-two miles ahead of the Ferrari. With Ford's success the ensuing two years, introducing a GT40 road car was ripe for the picking. But over the next 37 years, Ford would continue to drop the ball on building a mid-engine, halo car as a result of economic factors, or bad overall planning.
Related: This Is How The New Ford GT Became A Le Mans Icon
It's first attempt, the GT44 was promising, however inflating gas prices caused by the crisis during the '70s axed this project before approval for production. The Ford Mach II, the second attempt to revive the GT40, remained on the cutting room floor in favor of the De Tomaso Pantera. By the time the third attempt came around, Ford was trying their hand in WRC racing and introduced the GT70; a mid-engine V6 that never was able to compete, killing off any dreams of production.
The fourth attempt, as Jason puts it, "a Lotus Esprit with a Ford V8" sounded the most intriguing, yet just didn't excite the Ford executives. The fifth attempt was the closest we've ever been to a GT40 production car, pegged to once again be a Ferrari fighter. Powered by the Taurus SHO engine at the time, the achingly gorgeous concept failed in favor of the Ford Explorer, arguably Ford's most popular car, outside of the Mustang.
It would be another three attempts before Ford got it right. After the GT90, a quadruple-turbo Rausch V12, and V12 Ford Indigo were both given the axe, it wouldn't be until Chris Theodore arrived at Ford before sealing the deal.
On the eighth and final attempt, Theodore convinced design chief J Mays during a drunken flight where Theodore reportedly whipped out a pencil and sketched the GT for Mays. By the time the flight had landed, Theodore had a $150 million budget and 15 weeks to reveal the GT at Ford's celebration of 100 years.
The rest is history, as they say.
Jacob is a writer and gearhead splitting time between Southern California and Phoenix, Arizona. When he’s not wrenching on his and his wife’s questionable fleet of cars; he’s learning DIY repair, researching car culture and history, or casually browsing used cars. Jacob cut his teeth writing for the now defunct, Oppositelock, before the website was blown up.