Inside Ford’s top-secret campaign to remake the Iconic GT Supercar

If a driver gets the counter-steering technique wrong, the masses of horsepower being channeled to the wheels from the engine will cause the car to over-rotate and spin. But the GT’s mid-engine design helps to mitigate that possibility by placing the center of gravity at the center of the car, rather than parked out over the front wheels, as in a Corvette, or over the rear wheels, as in a Porsche 911 All other things being equal, a powerful mid-engine race car with rear-wheel-drive and a responsive transmission will outdrive everything else on a track.

Only Certain Drivers Wanted

When Ford first unveiled the GT in Detroit in January 2015, it didn’t say anything about the cost or how many road cars it would be making. These details it revealed at the Chicago Auto Show in February: the new GT was going to cost in the mid-$400,000s, and Ford would be making 500 of them, 250 a year for two years.

And the company would be scrupulous about who got to enjoy the unique pleasure of parting with all that money to buy one. In April 2016, Ford announced that it would be accepting applications for GT ownership over the following month, via a special website that featured a “configurator,” which enabled prospective buyers to spec out their cars, choosing exterior colors, interior setups, wheels, and even the color of racing stripes.

It was a savvy idea. When the application period closed on May 12, Ford had received 6,506 fully completed applications to purchase the superhot supercar, and almost 200,000 people had used the configurator. Hundreds of potential buyers submitted videos with their applications, and many stressed their social-media reach in addition to showing how they’d use the car—whether to drive around town, like eGarage, whose video showed a GT being used to run errands with a baby in the passenger seat; take it on the track, like Brooks Weisblat, owner of DragTimes.com; or make it part of a large collection, like John Kiely and his father, Jack Kiely, who run a construction business in Long Branch, New Jersey.

It was generally assumed the fix was in for certain VIPs to jump to the head of the buying list. But Henry Ford III, the great-greatgrandson of Henry Ford himself and the marketing director for Ford’s Performance division, told me that the company was starting with as level a playing field as possible for future GT ownership.

Prospective buyers had to fill out an extensive questionnaire as part of their application, answering questions about whether they were collectors, or owners of a current Ford GT or any Ford, whether they did business with the automaker or were involved in Ford-affiliated charities, and whether they considered themselves as “an influencer of public opinion.” From the application, which inquired whether the prospective buyer held a motorsports sanctioning-body competition license, it seemed clear that Ford wanted people who didn’t just drive the car but used all its abilities. Additionally, buyers had to agree not to sell their car for a quick profit.

Matthew DeBord

Matthew DeBord is a Business Insider senior correspondent, covering transportation. He has appeared regularly on radio and television to discuss the auto industry.

Henry III stressed that initial consideration for sales would be given to existing Ford GT owners (about 10,000 cars of the previous version had been produced), as well as well-known owners of Ford’s other high-performance cars. None of this was unreasonable. It’s standard procedure among the world’s supercar manufacturers. Most of the people offered the opportunity to buy Ferrari supercars are existing Ferrari owners—and this is likewise the case for the more exotic versions of Porsches and Lamborghinis.

Nobody at Ford had any doubts that the GT supercar would be a runaway success. Drastically limiting production and setting the purchase price in the mid-$400,000 range would ensure that. The original GT40s had inspired a thriving replica market, with various period-appropriate V-8s dropped into the familiar chassis. The follow-up for the mid-2000s, which had sold for a mere $150,000, had achieved a cultish status. Sure, you could own a couple of Ferraris and a Lamborghini, maybe even something more exotic, like a Koenigsegg, Pagani, or Bugatti, but only a GT screamed “race car.” It wasn’t the car for millionaire wannabes. It was, and still is, the car for motoring enthusiasts with a deep sense of history. Henry Ford III wasn’t breaking a sweat about whether there would be 500 applications for Ford GT ownership. He was probably worried that there would be 500,000.

Excerpted from RETURN TO GLORY: THE STORY OF FORD’S REVIVAL AND VICTORY AT THE TOUGHEST RACE IN THE WORLD © 2017 by Matthew DeBord. Reprinted with the permission of Atlantic Monthly Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.