The Ford GT began as a concept car designed in anticipation of the automaker's centennial year and as part of its drive to showcase and revive its "heritage" names such as Mustang and Thunderbird. At the 1995 Detroit Auto Show, the Ford GT90 concept was shown. At the 2002 auto show, Ford unveiled a new GT40 Concept car. Camilo Pardo, the head of Ford's "Living Legends" studio, is credited as the chief designer of the GT and worked under the guidance of J Mays. Carroll Shelby was brought in by Ford to help develop the Ford GT; which included performance testing of the prototype car. While the project was still secret, it was called Petunia.
The GT is similar in outward appearance to the original Ford GT40 cars, but bigger, wider, and most importantly 3 in (76 mm) taller than the original 40 in (100 cm); as a result, a potential name for the car was the GT43. Although the cars are visually related, structurally, there is no similarity between the modern GT and the 1960s GT40 that inspired it. Three production prototype cars were shown in 2003 as part of Ford's centenary, and delivery of the production Ford GT began in the fall of 2004.
As the Ford GT was built as part of the company's 100th anniversary celebration, the left headlight cluster was designed to read "100".
A British company, Safir Engineering, who built continuation GT40s in the 1980s, owned the "GT40" trademark at that time. When they completed production, they sold the excess parts, tooling, design, and trademark to a small Ohio company called Safir GT40 Spares. This company licensed the use of the "GT40" trademark to Ford for the initial 2002 show car. When Ford decided to make the production vehicle, negotiations between the two firms failed. The production cars do not wear the GT40 badge.
The GT was produced in model years 2005 and 2006, with the first customers taking delivery in August 2004. The GT began assembly at Mayflower Vehicle Systems in Norwalk, Ohio and was painted by Saleen in their Saleen Special Vehicles facility in Troy, Michigan. The GT is powered by an engine built at Ford's Romeo Engine Plant in Romeo, Michigan. Installation of the engine and manual transmission along with interior finishing was handled in the SVT building at Ford's Wixom, Michigan plant.
Of the 4,500 GTs originally planned, approximately 100 were to be exported to Europe, starting in late 2005. An additional 200 were destined for sale in Canada. Production ended in 2006 without reaching the planned lot. Approximately 550 were built in 2004, nearly 1,900 in 2005, and just over 1,600 in 2006, for a grand total of 4,038. The final 11 car bodies manufactured by Mayflower Vehicle Systems were disassembled, and the frames and body panels were sold as service parts.
Like many exotic vehicles, when the Ford GT was first released, the demand outpaced supply, and the cars initially sold for premium prices. The first private sale of Ford's new mid-engine sports car was completed on August 4, 2004, when former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley took delivery of his Midnight Blue 2005 Ford GT. Shirley earned the right to purchase the first production Ford GT (chassis #10) at a charity auction at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Auction after bidding over $557,000.
A few other early cars sold for as much as a US$100,000 premium over the suggested retail price of $139,995 (Ford increased the MSRP to $149,995 on July 1, 2005). Optional equipment available included a McIntosh sound system, racing stripes, painted brake calipers, and forged alloy wheels adding $13,500 to the MSRP.
The production run of 4,038 GTs ended the 2006 model year on September 21, 2006, short of the originally planned 4,500. The Wixom Assembly Plant has stopped production of all models as of May 31, 2007. Sales of the GT continued into 2007, from cars held in storage and in dealer inventories. During the GT's lifetime, the car was featured on the cover of the video game Gran Turismo 4, and was also featured in Need for Speed: ProStreet, as well as being made into physical form in the Transformers: Alternators toyline, which featured realistic cars turning into Cybertronians; the Ford GT mold was used for the characters Mirage and Rodimus.
The GT won Top Gear's Gas Guzzler of the Year award in 2005. One of the show's presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, owned a GT and despite initially reserving very superb acclaim for the vehicle, ultimately requested a refund from Ford due to extensive problems with the cars aftermarket alarm system.
A modified roadster version of the GT, the Ford GTX1, was displayed at the 2005 SEMA Auto Show.
The Ford GT features many new and unique technologies, including superplastic-formed frame, aluminum body panels, roll-bonded floor panels, a friction stir welded center tunnel, covered by a magnesium center console, a "ship-in-a-bottle" gas tank, a capless fuel filler system, one-piece door panels, and an aluminum engine cover with a one-piece carbon fiber inner panel.
Brakes are four-piston aluminum Brembo calipers with cross-drilled and vented rotors at all four corners. When the rear canopy is opened, the rear suspension components and engine are visible.
The mid-mounted 5.4 L Modular V8 engine is all-aluminum with a Lysholm twin screw-type supercharger. It features a forged rotating assembly housed in an aluminum block designed specifically for the GT program. A dry sump oiling system is employed, allowing the engine to sit low in the car's frame. The DOHC 4-valve heads are a revision of the 2000 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R cylinder heads (with slightly increased wall casting thickness in the exhaust port). The camshafts have unique specifications, with more lift and duration than those found in the Shelby GT500. Power output is 550 hp (410 kW; 558 PS) at 6500 rpm and generates 500 lb·ft (678 N·m) of torque at 3750 rpm. A Ricardo six-speed manual transmission is fitted featuring a helical limited-slip differential. Car and Driver tested the GT in January 2004 and recorded a 0-60 time of 3.3 seconds, with a 5-60 time of 3.7 seconds.
Top speed: 205 mph (330 km/h)
Quarter-mile (400m): 11.8 seconds
0–62 mph (0–100 km/h): 3.9 seconds
0–124 mph (0–200 km/h): 12.3 seconds
0–186 mph (0–300 km/h): 44.3 seconds
The United States Environmental Protection Agency mileage estimate for the GT is 12 mpg‑US (20 L/100 km; 14 mpg‑imp) in city driving, and 19 mpg‑US (12 L/100 km; 23 mpg‑imp) in highway cruising, for a combined 14 mpg‑US (17 L/100 km; 17 mpg‑imp).
At the 2015 North American International Auto Show and at the unveiling of Forza Motorsport 6, a new Ford GT was introduced and is set to be produced and released in 2016. It will mark 50 years since the GT40 won the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans and has run successfully in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans to mark the anniversary, winning their class.
The car is to be powered by a newly designed 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine making 647 hp and 550 lb/ft of torque. According to Ford, "the GT will exhibit one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car," thanks to its lightweight carbon fiber construction. Underpinning the GT is a carbon fiber monocoque bolted to aluminum front and rear subframes covered in carbon fiber body panels. The car also has racing inspired pushrod suspension, active aerodynamics, and dihedral doors. The windshield of the vehicle is made of Gorilla Glass manufactured by Corning, which is also used for smartphone screens. Gorilla Glass is used to reduce the weight of the vehicle by allowing for a thinner windscreen with the same strength.
Beginning in December 2016, Ford plans to build the GT at a rate of one car per day until October 2020. 2017 and 2018 model year vehicles will be reserved for selected GT buyers, 2019 vehicles for buyers passed over in the initial selection process, and 2020 vehicles for new customers.
The Ford GT has been campaigned in various racing venues. These include:A highly modified GT was raced in 2006 and 2007 in Super GT's GT300 class in Japan powered by a 3.5 L Ford Zetec-R engine produced by Cosworth in the mid-1990s for Formula One.
A Swiss team Matech Concepts had three Ford GT GT3s in the FIA GT3 European Championship. The Ford GT Matech team won the title in 2008.
Atlanta-based Robertson Racing ran a Doran-built Ford GT-R in the American Le Mans Series GT class (formerly GT2). The team made its first 24 Hours of Le Mans appearance in 2011, scoring 3rd in the GTE Am Class.
Black Swan Racing ran a Falken Tires-sponsored Ford GT-R in the GT2 class in the American Le Mans Series during the 2008 season.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is running 4 factory-supported Ford GTs. Two in the FIA World Endurance Championship under the GTE Pro class and two in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the GTLM class during the 2016 season.
The Ford GT1 is a racing version developed by Matech Concepts to comply with FIA GT1 rules. The official race debut of the Ford GT1 coincided with the kick-off of the 2009 FIA GT Championship season in Silverstone. For the 2010 FIA GT1 World Championship season four cars will be fielded by two teams: Matech Competition and Marc VDS Racing Team. Three GT1 Fords competed in the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans race, with two (the number 70 car run by the Marc VDS Racing Team and the number 61 car run by Matech Concepts) retiring early on. The third car retired later in the race. For the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship season, Matech left the series which left Marc VDS running the four cars during the season, two under the Marc VDS Racing Team name and the other two cars under the name of Belgian Racing.
The Ford GT was also homologated for the FIA GT3 rules by Matech Concepts. The Ford GT GT3 is involved in numerous championships including the FIA GT3 European Championship, FIA GT1 World Championship, Blancpain Endurance Series, and others. The GT3 version is slower than the GT1 version (producing around 500 instead of 600 HP) and features different bodywork.
On 12 June 2015, at Le Mans, it was announced that Ford will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016 with a factory-supported, four-car effort operating as Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. The car will be campaigned by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship. The car debuted at the 2016 24 Hours of Daytona on January 30–31 finishing seventh and ninth in class.
On June 19, 2016 the Number 68 Ford GT of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing finished 1st at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class. Marking 50 years after Ford GT40 MK2 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 where they came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd. In the 2016 6 Hours of Fuji and the 6 Hours of Shanghai, both the Ford GT's finished 1-2 at both races, the 67 winning both and the 66 coming second in both.