It was in France, in the mid-1960s, that the great American supercar came to life. A low-slung, muscular racing car built to win on the legendary Le Mans race circuit, the Ford GT project was spearheaded by no less a powerhouse than company Chairman and CEO Henry Ford II. His goal was to change performance car history. And he did. The Ford GT race car beat the world’s best in endurance racing, placing 1-2-3 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 and winning the next three consecutive years.
Today, the all-new 2005 Ford GT supercar comes to life in the form of three production road cars that honor the classic race cars in design and engineering ingenuity. Ford’s “Centennial Supercar” builds on the company’s product-led transformation and will be the flagship of Ford Division’s 2004 “Year of the Car” that will include the launches of the Ford Five Hundred sedan, Freestyle crossover and legendary Mustang – and then the Ford Futura mid-size sedan in 2005.
“The Ford GT is our Centennial Supercar because it reaches into great moments from our past, while casting a light into the future,” said Chris Theodore, vice president, Ford Advance Product Creation. “As we celebrate our centennial, the Ford GT represents many of the technologies, processes and people that will help drive our next 100 years.”
Design: Concept to Reality
Ford’s GT40 concept car was created to celebrate that great era in history and look forward to the great years to come. Unveiled at the 2002 North American International Auto Show, the GT40 concept became an instant sensation. And just 45 days after the vehicle was unveiled, Ford stunned the world again, officially announcing that a production version was in the works.
“The Ford GT is the ultimate Living Legend,” explains J Mays, Ford vice president of design. “It’s a true supercar with appeal equal to that of the greatest sports cars in the world but with the addition of a heritage no one can match. Essential elements of the original – including the stunning low profile and mid-mounted American V-8 engine – continue in this latest interpretation of the classic.”
Although the new production car and the original race car both share the mystique of the Ford GT name, they do not share a single dimension. The new car is more than 18 inches longer and stands nearly 4 inches taller. Its new lines draw upon and refine the best features of Ford GT history and express the car’s identity through modern proportion and surface development.
Contrary to typical vehicle development programs, the engineering challenge was to build the supercar foundation within the concept’s curvaceous form – and to build it in record time for Ford’s centennial. The well-defined project afforded the engineering team early insight: This car required a new way of doing business since the concept car was only 5 percent production-feasible.
Body engineers sought new techniques to shape the car’s sexy lines because normal stamping techniques couldn’t deliver these curves. But would the curvy door panels accommodate the requisite slide-down window? After extensive computer modeling and concessions by designers and package engineers, the window freely moved within the door panel. Aerodynamicists couldn’t bend the exterior sheet metal; instead, they came up with unique solutions under the body.
The result: a technological wonder wrapped in the Ford GT40 concept form.
“It’s amazing that we’ll show the first cars just a little more than a year after we started the program,” says John Coletti, director of SVT programs. “That’s a real tribute to the people, processes and technology behind the cars.”
The Ford GT production car, like the concept, casts the familiar, sleek look of its namesake, yet every dimension, every curve and every line on the car is a unique reinterpretation of the original. The car features a long front overhang reminiscent of 1960s-era race cars. But its sweeping cowl, subtle accent lines and high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlamps strike a distinctly contemporary pose.
The front fenders curve over 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires. In the tradition of original Ford GT racers, the doors cut into the roof. Prominent on the leading edge of the rear quarter panel are functional cooling scoops that channel fresh air to the engine. The rear wheel wells, filled with 19-inch wheels and tires, define the rear of the car, while the accent line from the front cowl rejoins and finishes the car’s profile at the integrated “ducktail” spoiler.
The interior design incorporates the novel “ventilated seats” and instrument layout of the original car, with straightforward analog gauges and a large tachometer. Modern versions of the original car’s toggle switches operate key systems.
Looking in through the backlight, one finds the essence of the sports car in Ford’s MOD 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 engine. The finishing touches are Ford blue cam covers, each featuring an aluminum coil cover imprinted with the words “Powered by Ford.”
A little more than one year ago, Coletti was offered a career opportunity – lead the Ford GT engineering program. The catch: The first three cars were to be delivered for Ford’s Centennial celebration.
Coletti teamed up with Neil Ressler, a former Ford vice president who left retirement to consult on the program, to quickly select the Ford GT “Dream Team” of engineers and con******ts. Neil Hannemann was tapped to be chief program engineer and oversee the day-to-day development of the Ford GT after years of cross-industry supercar engineering assignments.
The team quickly came up with innovative technologies and processes to deliver on the centennial commitment:
Computers, Not Prototypes: The Ford GT team relied heavily on computer models to compress the typical first nine months of engineering work into about three months, relying on 10 percent of the usual number of prototypes. The first prototypes were built in less than 100 days after program approval.
Solid Foundation: The Ford GT team knew this road car would require a stiff structure, much like a race car. As such, they developed an all-aluminum space frame comprising extrusions, castings and several stampings. The hybrid aluminum space frame chassis is based on efficient use of 35 extrusions, seven complex castings, two semi-solid formed castings and various stamped aluminum panels.
Grand Touring: The new Ford GT is intended for the road, unlike the original 1960’s race cars that ultimately spawned a limited number of production road cars. However, the new car required unique race-like engineering solutions – like engineering out the aerodynamic “lift” inherent in the original car’s design – for a car that will clock in at more than 180 mph.
All-American V-8: Ford proved it could dominate racing fields, peppered with exotic powerplants, with V-8 engines in the 1960s. The Ford GT motor, the largest V-8 in Ford's modular engine family, carries on that tradition. The engine features 85 percent new moving parts and produces 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque. Both figures are comparable to those of the 7.0-liter engine that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 and 1967.
Technological Wonder: The Ford GT features many new and unique technologies, including super-plastic-formed aluminum body panels, roll-bonded floor panels, a friction-stir welded center tunnel, 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.
As on the historic race car, the Ford GT aluminum body panels are unstressed. Instead of the steel or honeycomb-composite tubs used in the 1960s, the Ford GT team developed an all-new aluminum space frame as the foundation. The chassis features unequal-length control arms and coil-over spring-damper units to allow for its low profile.
Braking is handled by four-piston aluminum Brembo monoblock calipers with cross-drilled and vented rotors at all four corners. When the rear canopy is opened, the rear suspension components and engine become the car’s focal point. Precision-cast aluminum suspension components and 19-inch Goodyear tires – combined with the overwhelming presence of the V-8 engine – create a striking appearance and communicate the performance credentials of the Ford GT.
The 5.4L powerplant is all-aluminum and fed by an Eaton screw-type supercharger. It features four-valve cylinder heads and forged components, including the crankshaft, H-beam connecting rods and aluminum pistons. The resulting power output is 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque.
The power is put to the road through a Ricardo six-speed manual transaxle featuring a helical limited-slip differential.
The original Ford GT racers were engineering and design marvels demonstrating Ford’s dedication and perseverance. In a few short years under the direction of Henry Ford II, the company built a program from scratch that reached the pinnacle of international motorsports competition – and stayed there for four racing seasons.
That innovation was born of inspiration from the company’s founder Henry Ford who, before launching Ford Motor Company in 1903, raced to victory in 1901. His car, the 1901 Sweepstakes – an ash-framed wheeled sled with a massive 8.8-liter, two-cylinder engine – was not particularly pretty or fast by today’s standards. It also handled poorly: The steering had to be manually “unwound” after each turn, as the geometry necessary for self-centering hadn't yet been conceived.
Henry Ford and his machine managed their first racing victory October 10, 1901, beating the favored competition in the “world championship” Grosse Pointe Race Track. Ford's average speed in the 10-mile event was 44.8 mph.
Sixty years later, Henry Ford II watched the Europeans dominate racing worldwide. Ford Motor Company had joined a 1957 Automobile Manufacturers Association agreement prohibiting direct involvement in racing, and the ban quickly took its toll on Ford's image and its ability to engineer performance. Thus in 1962 Henry Ford II decided to withdraw from the already-dissolving pact, and the company launched a massive racing campaign that would take the 1960s by storm.
A key component of “Ford Total Performance,” as the effort was called, was the quest to win the famed 24-hour Grand Prix d'Endurance at Le Mans. Perhaps the world's most significant – and glamorous – motorsport contest, Le Mans in the early 1960s was showing signs of becoming a Ferrari showcase, because the Italians had become the leaders in a number of endurance classes and events. But the Ford GT race car changed Le Mans forever, and today it signifies a new era for Ford Motor Company.
“It’s ironic,” states John Coletti, “that in the 1960s Ford brought out the fabled Ford GT racer to dominate Ferrari on the premier race circuits of the world, and that in the not-too-distant future, the Ford GT will return to outgun the Ferrari once again, but this time on the streets of America.”
The Ford GT engineering team employed modern engineering and technology to preserve the classic form of the classic Ford GT racecars that won at LeMans four years straight, including a podium sweep in 1966
2005 FORD GT DESIGN: A FULLY MODERN REFLECTION OF HISTORY
The Ford GT supercar’s design instantly stirs up images of the glorious Ford GT race cars from the 1960s. Yet today's presentation features all-new dimensions and a contemporary, striking interior – as well as epic engineering stories of how high-tech methods helped preserve a classic form.
“Designing a modern interpretation of a classic is more difficult than designing from a clean sheet of paper,” says J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice president of Design. “Much like designing a reissue of a TAG HeuerTM Monaco watch, we’ve had to strike a delicate balance in creating a slightly updated Ford GT that features new technology.”
Indeed, the first design proposal was a completely revolutionary design that interpreted cues from the past in a modern shape. The car used harder edges, abbreviated surfaces and short overhangs like a contemporary vehicle. Something about that design, which Mays called “generically modern,” just didn’t seem right to the design team.
“The priorities were all inverted with that design,” says Mays. “We had to start over from scratch to bring out the essence of the Ford GT race car. The key was to accept that a Ford GT should be a Ford GT and reject the idea of modernity for modernity’s sake.”
Or, as Doug Gaffka, director of Ford's Living Legends Studio says, “The bottom line is, if you’re doing a Ford GT, it had better look like a Ford GT.”
The second design, penned by Ford GT Chief Designer Camilo Pardo, paid more homage to the Ford GT Mark II race car. “Freeing ourselves of the fear of creating a car that looked too much like the original was a liberating experience for the team,” says Pardo. “But staying true to the original themes in a clean, modern design made it the most difficult project I’ve ever been involved with.”
That is, until the concept car was approved for production.
Then, Pardo's role changed from designer to protector. As the engineering team transformed the concept – which was only 5 percent production-feasible – into a production car, Pardo was tasked with preserving the essence of the concept's design.
Gaffka updated the mission saying, “If we're building the Ford GT, it had better look like the Ford GT40 concept car.”
Thus, Pardo consulted the engineering team on every aspect of the car, from the aerodynamic modifications to the finish of the supercharger casing.
Pardo’s counterpart on the engineering team, Fred Goodnow, design, engineering and launch manager, explains the challenge: “Usually a new vehicle is designed from the inside out, meaning that the chassis and suspension points are set before the exterior body is designed around those dimensions. In the case of the Ford GT, it was exactly opposite: We had to engineer within the given exterior parameters.”
As a result of close collaboration between design and engineering, the production Ford GT is remarkably similar to the concept car on which it's based.
“As a race car, the original Ford GT didn't have an interior design to speak of,” says Pardo. “They featured two seats, a steering wheel, a few toggle switches and lot of bare metal. That's it.” As such, the interior of the Ford GT is the biggest deviation from the vintage cars.
The new interior conveys performance and modern craftsmanship and offers a rare automotive pleasure – a glimpse of the engine at work through the rear-view mirror.
“The passenger cabin of most modern cars is isolated from the engine,” says Pardo. “But, in the Ford GT, the supercharger is right there, inches behind your ear. It creates an intimate relationship with the engine, more like a motorcycle than a car.”
The centerpiece of the interior is a brushed-magnesium tunnel, which contains the center-mounted fuel tank. The tunnel is flanked by a pair of deep bucket seats featuring carbon-fiber shells and leather seating surfaces. To provide ventilation, the leather seat cushions are dotted with aluminum grommets similar to those used in the vintage endurance racers.
The tunnel supports a polished-aluminum emergency brake handle, rotary climate controls and a six-speed manual shift lever topped with an aluminum knob. The center console, with exposed magnesium supports, houses the AM/FM/CD audio system, starter button, air bag deactivation switch and auxiliary power point.
The instrument panel features a comprehensive array of analog gauges, including a center-mounted, oversized tachometer wrapped in aluminum bezels. In homage to vintage Ford GT race cars, stylized toggle switches line the panel, controlling the headlights, foglights, dimmer switch, windshield wipers and rear defroster.
The matte-black instrument panel, door panels and lower portions of the tunnel are crafted in Azdel SuperLite Composite. This is the industry's first application of Azdel throughout the interior. Azdel is roughly 30 percent lighter than standard injection-molded substrates, offers better wear resistance and is recyclable.
The door pulls are made of the same aluminum extrusion used for structural braces in the engine bay. On either side of the foot wells, sections of the extruded-aluminum space frame are also visible.
To maximize passenger comfort, Pardo and the engineering team made extensive use of a virtual reality computer-modeling device called the Digital Occupant Buck. Best described as the “virtual you in the digital vehicle,” the digital occupant buck allowed the engineers to fine tune the interior for comfort and outward visibility. Using data from this tool, the team maximized the seat travel, increased the rake of the firewall, adjusted the pedal and steering wheel placement and even modified the angle of the shift lever for improved ergonomics.
Interior comfort considerations had two effects on the exterior styling of the Ford GT. To increase passenger headroom, the engineering team wanted to raise the roof height. However, the design team felt the low profile was an essential aspect of the Ford GT design. The engineers and design team fought for each millimeter, finally agreeing to raise the roof 17 millimeters above that of the concept. To compensate for the added height, Pardo returned to the studio and scaled up the entire profile, preserving the overall proportions of the design.
Second, Pardo designed the concept car with flush-mounted windows to recreate the smooth, fuselage shape of the original Ford GT. The execution of this design proved difficult since fixed windows would not be acceptable in a modern supercar, and drop-down windows created a packaging nightmare. A series of elaborate apertures were considered and rejected, until the team sectioned the window, and Pardo pushed the bottom edge of the window inboard. The solution preserves the continuity of design and allows the window glass to drop completely into the door, snaking between the hidden side-impact beam and the concave exterior door panel.
The cantilevered doors created yet another production challenge. Due to their size and shape, the exterior panels were too complex for traditional stamping. Thus, the team shaped the panels using super-plastic forming that uses air pressure to force heated aluminum panels into a one-sided die. This process also enabled the team to reproduce the sweeping curves and intersecting shapes throughout the rest of the exterior. Pardo calls the design, from the dramatic sweep of the front fenders into the nose to the transition from the C-pillars into the rear deck, “organic and geometric.”
Pardo's design also contained functional heat extractors and air intakes reminiscent of the race cars. Wind tunnel testing, done on a fiberglass replica of the show car, proved the design had remarkably good internal airflow, but rather alarming amounts of high-speed lift. To preserve the silhouette of the show car, the engineering team limited aerodynamic changes primarily to the underside of the vehicle. As a result, a subtle rear spoiler extension, front and side splitters and dramatic venturi tunnels wrapped under the rear clip are the only visible changes.
“We were lucky,” admits Pardo. “By concentrating on the underbody, the engineering team was able to optimize the aerodynamic stability without altering the classic silhouette of the design.”
That classic shape also required Pardo to break one of the tenets of modern design – the short overhang. The result imbued the concept car with the powerful design of the original. Fortuitously, it also allowed engineers to integrate the front bumper – necessary for safety regulations – without modifying the exterior design of the production car. The long overhang also allowed for prominent light enclosures incorporating the turn signal and bi-xenon headlamps. Below, an enclosed foglamp completes the front end.
The ducktailed rear clip was just as essential to the car’s profile, but not as accommodating of current safety regulations. As such, designers crafted a floating bumper – punctuated by massive dual exhausts pipes – that is separate from the rear clip. The result passes bumper requirements without altering the tapered rear end. The rear is finished with two large, round taillights with indirect LED brake lamps and centered reverse lights.
For Pardo, the mechanical appearance was an integral part of the Ford GT design: “First, the engine is visible to the driver through the rear-view mirror,” he says. “Second, the engine is displayed under glass, on display to all passers-by. Third, the rear clamshell opens, to expose the beauty of the engine, frame, and suspension components.”
Thus, the design team took the unusual step of consulting the engineering team on the finish, location and design of every visible surface in the engine bay. The engineers simplified the wiring harnesses, tucked ignition cables under a polished aluminum cover and added Ford blue cam covers, each featuring aluminum coil covers imprinted with the words “Powered by Ford.”
Even the shape and finish of the space frame was considered. “We didn't want the Ford GT to look like a stock car, with off-the-shelf tubes welded together,” says Pardo. “Instead, we worked to make sure the shape of every extrusion had a structural and aesthetic purpose, like the exposed frame of a motorcycle.”
Through unprecedented cooperation between design and engineering, the production Ford GT is remarkably faithful to the concept car's design. “There were some pretty heated discussions and times when both teams dug their feet into the ground,” says Pardo. “But the engineers really outdid themselves. Although we changed every surface of the Ford GT, we kept 98 percent of the original design.”
FORD GT SHOWCASES PASSION, INNOVATION, NEW TECHNOLOGIES
The Ford GT team today crosses the finish line of a year-long race to build a modern tribute to motorsports’ most famous endurance race car. In the spirit of the company’s 100th anniversary, these “Centennial Supercars” capture the excitement of the original Ford GT, while showcasing the modern engineering and technology that will help lead the company into the next 100 years.
When Ford executives gave the Ford GT program the “green light” last February, they added one caveat – the first production vehicles needed to be ready for the company’s Centennial celebration in June 2003. John Coletti, director of Ford Special Vehicle Team Programs, answered with a simple, “Sure, we can do that,” not knowing exactly how it would get done.
By May 2002, Coletti had assembled the best engineers at Ford Motor Company – dubbed the “Dream Team.” In conjunction with many key suppliers, the Ford GT engineering team is using unique technologies and processes to bring the car to market in record-breaking time.
The team used computer-modeling techniques to prove out chassis and body development. Even initial crash testing was performed using computers to help better predict actual crash tests and shorten the development timeframe. These intensive computer studies will be verified with physical prototypes and ultimately will cut the team’s prototype requirements by 90 percent – helping compress the typical four-year development program into less than two.
“Engineers generally want to prove out computer models with physical prototypes,” says Coletti. “Instead, we relied on advanced engineering and computer tools to cut prototype builds and save time and money. The advanced technology that is driving the Ford GT program today could very well be the industry standard for future vehicle programs.”
The Ford GT team also is looking at new ways to do business internally and with suppliers. Ford engineers and key suppliers are all co-located in one building. This office structure encourages ad-hoc meetings to resolve issues immediately. Meanwhile, mechanics build prototype models in an adjacent garage, allowing another point of instant collaboration.
The Fast Track
Since official program approval in May 2002, the 2005 Ford GT has been on the fast track for product-development timing. The build process of the first three production cars kicked off March 10, 2003. Internally, these vehicles are referred to as “Jobs One, Two and Three,” referring to Ford’s term for the beginning of vehicle production, “Job One.” Regular production of the Ford GT will begin in spring 2004.
“Developing the Ford GT from approval to drivable production models in less than a year is quite a challenge,” says Neil Hannemann, chief program engineer for the Ford GT. “But these three cars serve as a testament to the passion and expertise of Ford engineering.”
Stiff Aluminum Space Frame
Usually a new vehicle is designed from the inside out, meaning that the chassis and suspension points are set before the exterior body is designed around those dimensions. The exact opposite is true of the Ford GT. To preserve the design of the Ford GT40 concept car shown at the 2002 North American International Auto Show, the Ford GT engineering team is doing most of its work “under the skin.”
“The first step in creating a world-class supercar is creating a stiff structure,” says Huibert Mees, chassis supervisor on the Ford GT program. Mees set contradictory targets for the chassis: extremely high torsional stiffness for unparalleled body control, yet efficient use of materials, necessary for a lightweight chassis to reach performance and handling targets.
The team developed an all-aluminum space frame, comprising 35 extrusions, seven complex castings, two semi-solid formed castings, and various stamped aluminum panels. The structure has two unique features: A large center tunnel to house the mid-mounted fuel tank and cut-out roof sections for the cantilevered doors.
“Using CAD/CAM and finite-element analysis, we were able to design and test several iterations of the fuel tunnel and roof structure,” says Mees. “That process enabled us to add significant stiffness to the overall structure.”
Another contributor to chassis rigidity is the industry's first application of friction-stir welding, used to construct the multi-piece central aluminum tunnel (housing the fuel tank). With this technique, a tool rotating at 10,000 rpm applies pressure to a seam and actually blends the metal there, forming a smooth, consistent seam.
Compared to automated MIG welding, friction-stir welding improves the dimensional accuracy of the assembly, and produces a 30 percent increase in joint strength. And because the seam is continuous, the technique effectively isolates the fuel tank from the passenger compartment. A patent application is pending on this new friction-stir welding process.
Once the structure of the hybrid-aluminum design was approved, Mees' team addressed each component to maximize strength and minimize weight. As a result, larger extrusions such as the primary frame rails have a different thickness on each wall. Portholes or windows in the complex castings – which support the suspension and powertrain – decrease unnecessary mass. Even the small castings that join the A-pillars to the roof have been fine-tuned for utmost rigidity and lightness.
“The results are astounding,” Mees says. “In our tests, the Ford GT chassis is stiffer and more rigid than the current competitive set. Indeed, we predict it will be better than upcoming competitors as well.”
Extensive use of computer-aided crash modeling during the design phase helped the Ford GT program team cut cost and time during the early stages of development. The crash analyses were used to predict the forces generated during impacts and the resulting shapes of the crushed structures without the costly and time-consuming destruction of hand-built prototypes.
As a result of these analyses, the front and rear bumpers are connected to the frame via extruded aluminum “crush rails” that accordion during impact. These rails are designed to absorb most of the damage during low-speed impacts and are bolted to the frame for easy removal and replacement.
Crash modeling also verified that the center tunnel is the preferred location for the Ford GT fuel tank because it helps reduce risks, most notably in collisions. As an added benefit, the location keeps overall weight distribution and the center of gravity relatively consistent at differing fuel levels. The “ship-in-a-bottle” design of the fuel tank is an industry first. The mechanical components, including the fuel pumps, level sensors and vapor control valves are first mounted on a steel rail. Then, the single-piece tank is blow-molded around the rail. This method maximizes fuel volume and reduces the number of connections to the fuel system.
As another industry first, the Ford GT features a capless fuel filler neck under an aluminum cover. The aperture automatically opens as the fuel nozzle is inserted and seals the fuel system when the nozzle is removed.
Most aluminum space frame vehicles use nut inserts paired with shims or washers to tailor the fitment of each body panel. However, the Ford GT team developed a novel new method, called a “plus-nut,” to efficiently join the body and frame, as well as locate the body panels in the proper position relative to the space frame.
These fasteners are essentially aluminum nut inserts, with additional machining stock on the mating surface. While machining the suspension and engine mounts, Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) milling accurately trims each aluminum plus-nut for precise body positioning. The patent-pending fasteners eliminate the need for shimming the body, reducing assembly costs and improving panel fit.
The aluminum body panels themselves are also fairly advanced, manufactured using super plastic forming (SPF). “Super plastic forming is fairly new for the industry,” says Bill Clarke, Ford GT body structure supervisor. “It was a critical factor in producing the large sections, complex shapes and delicate accent lines of the concept vehicle. Large, intricate panels like the cantilevered doors simply would not have been feasible with traditional stampings.”
Rather than using a matched metal die to stamp the body panels, super plastic forming works by heating an aluminum panel to temperatures near 950 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 500 degrees Celsius), then using high-pressure air to plastically form the aluminum panel over a single-sided die. This process produces complex shapes not possible with conventional stamping and reduces tooling costs since only a single-sided die is required.
According to Clarke, the super plastic forming also reduced production complexity. “As an example, with super plastic forming we were able to make the exterior of the rear clamshell in one piece,” he says. “The same panel with traditional manufacturing would require five or six separate stampings joined together on the assembly line.”
The rear clamshell engine cover also represents another industry first: It features an aluminum shell hemmed to a carbon-fiber inner panel. The carbon-fiber piece is lightweight and extremely rigid, which helps stabilize the clamshell. In addition, the inner panel houses an air duct into the engine air box from the exterior intake just below the C-pillar.
Like the concept car, every air intake and heat extractor on the production Ford GT is functional. According to Kent Harrison, Ford GT performance development supervisor, preliminary wind-tunnel testing showed the concept car had remarkably good internal air flow.
“We first tested a fiberglass replica of the concept car in the wind tunnel,” says Harrison. “Because the design was so close to that of the Ford GT race cars, the intakes and diffusers were all in the right place. We only needed minor changes to improve air flow through the car.”
The heat extractors in the front cowl were modified to pull more heat from the front-mounted radiators. The side intakes under the B-pillar were slightly enlarged, driving more cooling air into the engine bay and transmission cooler. Finally, an additional set of vents on either side of the rear glass help diffuse heat from the engine compartment.
However, improving the aerodynamic stability was not such an easy task. The team also tested an original Ford GT race car in the wind tunnel, and with computer simulations, to measure drag, lift, and downforce. To their surprise, the original car exhibited very high frontal lift at speed.
“The whole team had an even greater respect for the drivers who took the original car down the Mulsanne straight at over 200 mph … at night … in the rain,” says Harrison. “Because the new design shared a similar design, the new aero model exhibited similar lift. We had to do something for more downforce.”
However, to preserve the design of the concept car, Harrison had to concentrate on the underside of the vehicle. Harrison's team added a front splitter, which creates a high-pressure area for front downforce, and limits the volume of air traveling under the vehicle. They also added side splitters to prevent air from sliding under the rocker panels. A smooth, enclosed belly pan reduces underbody turbulence. Finally, venturi tunnels accelerate exiting air, creating a vacuum that literally sucks the car to the pavement. The cumulative result is significant downforce at speed and one of the most efficient lift/drag values on a production car.
A double-wishbone suspension design with unequal-length aluminum control arms, coil-over monotube shocks and stabilizer bars is used front and rear. The upper control arms are the same at each corner. They are made with an advanced rheo-cast process that allows the complexity of form associated with casting while retaining the strength of forging. The metal, heated to just below its melting point, is the consistency of butter when it is injected into a mold at high pressure. Pressure is maintained as the part cures, preventing porosity in the final product for exceptional strength.
“We knew from the beginning that the new Ford GT was going to be a road car, not a race car, so that helped us quickly design the suspension,” says Tom Reichenbach, vehicle engineering manager for Ford GT. Tapping into his personal racing experience and his knowledge from working on a Ford’s Formula One team, Reichenbach knew the obstacles and opportunities ahead of him. “We’ve managed to build a world-class supercar on a race team schedule,” he says. “As they say in motorsports, ‘The other teams won’t wait for you at the starting line.’”
Brembo one-piece brake calipers with four pistons each grab cross-drilled, vented discs at all four wheels. The discs are a massive 14 inches in front and 13.2 inches in the rear, for fade-free stopping power. Anti-lock control and electronic brake force distribution help provide consistent, straight braking even from very high speeds.
One-piece BBS wheels are wrapped by Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, size 235/45ZR-18 in front and 315/40ZR-19 in the rear.
Supercharged 5.4-liter V-8
The Ford GT is driven by an all-new, mid-engined powertrain producing 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque. The engine architecture comes from Ford’s MOD engine family, which includes performance powertrains like the 390-horsepower 4.6-liter DOHC supercharged V-8 in the SVT Mustang Cobra and the 380-horsepower 5.4-liter SOHC supercharged V-8 in the SVT F-150 Lightning.
“We're just starting to tap the performance potential of Ford's modular engine architecture,” says Curt Hill, Ford GT powertrain engineering supervisor. “This application really demonstrates its awesome potential. The 5.4-liter engine easily produces 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque, while meeting all the current emissions and durability standards. Those numbers are comparable to the race-prepared, blue-printed 427 (7.0-liter) big-blocks in the Ford GT race cars.”
The Ford GT engine features an all-new, aluminum block fitted with high-flow, four-valve cylinder heads and dual overhead camshafts. To bear the stresses necessary to produce 500 horsepower, a forged-steel crankshaft, shot-peened H-beam connecting rods and forged aluminum pistons are used. “In total, 85 percent of the reciprocating parts are unique to the Ford GT,” says Hill.
Fuel is delivered via dual fuel injectors per cylinder. A modified screw-type supercharger blowing through a water-to-air intercooler supplies sufficient airflow for engine output.
Hill's team specified two race-inspired powertrain components, a dry-sump oil system and a twin-plate clutch. The high-capacity, dry-sump oil system provides consistent lubrication, even during maximum handling. The twin-plate clutch delivers low pedal efforts while still providing the clamp loads necessary to handle 500 foot-pounds of torque. More significantly, these two features allow the powertrain to sit more than 4 inches lower in the frame as compared with the front-engined SVT Mustang Cobra. This helped maintain the low design profile and keep the car’s center of gravity low for better handling. Backing the clutch is an all-new, six-speed transaxle from Ricardo. The clean-sheet design enabled Ford engineers to tailor the individual ratios to their specifications, without being forced to select from an existing assortment. The transmission is fully synchronized and features an integral, torque-sensing, limited-slip differential.
To maximize passenger comfort, Ford GT chief designer – Camilo Pardo – and the engineering team made extensive use of a virtual-reality computer-modeling device called the digital occupant buck. The device is a revolutionary step in CAD/CAM technology with a virtual re-creation of the interior surfaces translated from the CAD data; a physical mock-up of the seat, steering wheel and pedal assembly; and a test engineer fitted with magnetic sensors, which manipulate a virtual person inserted in the digital interior. “The real advantage of digital occupant is that it allows engineers to develop a comfortable interior for a wide range of statures,” according to Kip Ewing, supervisor of package, prototype and launch for the Ford GT. “As an example, I could sit in the Ford GT seats as a fifth-percentile female, and evaluate her reach to major controls. Five minutes later, I could sit in the car as a ninety-fifth-percentile male and evaluate his outward visibility.”
As a result of this testing, Ewing tweaked the occupant package for the maximum range of accommodation. This included obvious improvements, such as maximizing seat travel and headroom. But he also made other subtle improvements, like centering the pedal package relative to the driver's seat, and canting the shift lever toward the driver.
For Coletti, technology like the digital occupant buck and patented body fasteners are what make the Ford GT stand out. “Any company can take a concept car and turn it into a crude, limited-edition production car,” he says. “But the craftsmanship and technology of the Ford GT make it a world-class supercar. It's a testament to the engineering expertise and technological resources that are taking Ford Motor Company into the future.”
FORD GT ENGINEERING TEAM - PERSONAL PROFILES AND WORK BIOGRAPHIES
Chris Theodore, Vice President, Advance Product Creation
Ask Chris Theodore about Ford’s product future and he grabs a pen and paper, sketching cars trucks, crossovers and various vehicle platforms. He annotates them with arrows and circles, interjecting with explanations of development cycles, manufacturing options and customer desires along the way.
Theodore is vice president, Advance Product Creation. His role includes: creating a strategic design vision for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products and brands; developing new products and features; bringing together technology, marketing and trends with concepts and show vehicles; and facilitating a stable cycle plan and platform selections. Theodore also leads the Ford Performance Group, including the Ford Special Vehicle Team, and Ford Motor Company’s advance product activities throughout North America.
Theodore, a life-long car enthusiast, has vast experience in the automotive industry, beginning as an engineer in the heavy truck group at Ford. He has been a researcher at Detroit Diesel, director of engineering at AMC, general manager for minivans and small cars and senior vice president of platform engineering at Chrysler.
Theodore returned to Ford as vice president, Ford North America Car in 1999, almost instantly conjuring plans for a Ford GT program as he re-energized the car market with the introduction of the Thunderbird. He holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and an MBA from Michigan State University.
Neil Ressler, Ford Motor Company Senior Technical Adviser
Two weeks after the Ford GT concept was unveiled at the 2002 North American International Auto Show, Bill Ford asked Neil Ressler to consult on the feasibility study to turn the concept into reality. Ressler – then in semi-retirement – was ideal for the task, as he was involved with two previous mid-engine programs: In the mid-1980s, Ressler worked on a Ferrari 308 competitor, code-named GN34; in the ’90s, Ressler spearheaded the Petunia project, another two-seat, mid-engine sports car that evolved into the Ford GT concept car.
Once the program was approved, Ressler assumed the role of con******t to the Ford GT team, identifying and recruiting the best engineers within Ford Motor Company and bringing years of real-world experience to the team. In addition, he serves as a liaison between the team and upper management.
Ressler joined Ford in 1967 as a senior research scientist and became principal design engineer for suspension and steering in 1971. Between 1981 and 1994, Ressler served as chief components engineer for the Climate Control Division, chief engineer of Small Car Design and Development, chief engineer of Chassis and Electrical Engineering and executive director of vehicle engineering, Car Product Development.
Ressler was elected a Ford vice president in 1994 as head of Core Product Development, Ford Automotive Operations and became head of Advanced Vehicle Technology later that year. In 1998 he added the chairmanship of Jaguar Racing and Cosworth Racing to his duties and became a board member of Stewart Grand Prix. From 1999 until his retirement in 2001, Ressler held the position of Ford Motor Company vice president and chief technical officer. He holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the General Motors Institute, a master's degree and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Michigan State University.
O. John Coletti, Director, Ford Special Vehicle Team Programs
John Coletti's engineering career started when he was 16 years old. In 1965, he purchased a scrapped 318-cubic-inch Plymouth engine for $5 and dismantled it in his parents’ garage just to see what made an engine tick. After studying the internal components, Coletti reassembled the parts, but never succeeded in starting the engine. Fortunately, his later exploits have been much more successful.
Today, Coletti has the enviable position of Ford Special Vehicle Team programs director. He oversees product development and engineering of all SVT vehicles, including the SVT Mustang Cobra, the SVT F-150 Lightning and the SVT Focus. Coletti also oversees the Ford GT engineering program, directing the ground-up development of Ford's Centennial Supercar.
Coletti holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from Wayne State University as well as a master's degree in business from Michigan State University. Coletti joined Ford Motor Company in 1972 as a product design engineer in the General Products Division and was named Mustang business planning manager in 1989. His efforts were integral in reviving the hallowed pony car for 1994 and led to his assignment as director of the Ford Special Vehicle Team in January 1994.
Neil Hannemann, Ford GT Chief Program Engineer
When the Ford GT swept first, second and third place at Le Mans in 1966, Neil Hannemann was an 8-year-old stationed with his family an air base outside Everaux, France. Although Hannemann didn't attend the race, he vividly remembers the excitement of an American car dominating the hallowed European race.
Today, Hannemann is developing the spiritual successor to the historic race car. As the chief program engineer for the new Ford GT team, Hannemann is responsible for the design, testing and certification of every aspect of the new Ford supercar, including the chassis, powertrain, body, interior and electrical systems.
Hannemann attended the Air Force Academy and received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the General Motors Institute. His automotive career started at Chrysler where he worked on the Dodge Viper road car, the Le Mans-winning Viper GTS-R race car and finally as program manager for the Dodge Intrepid Winston Cup program. In 2000, Hannemann moved to Saleen, Inc. as chief engineer for the Saleen S7, a mid-engine, high-performance car.
Fred Goodnow, Ford GT Design, Engineering and Launch Manager
When John Coletti was given approval to transform the Ford GT from concept to production, he asked Fred Goodnow to complete a feasibility study. Contained in an innocuous, half-inch black binder, that study served as the blueprint for the GT program. In it, Goodnow outlined the entire program, including the basic vehicle specifications, manufacturing proposal, business model, engineering structure and development timeline. Thus, many of the stunning accomplishments of the Ford GT team can be attributed to the vision of a single man, Fred Goodnow.
Once the feasibility study was approved, Goodnow assumed the role of design, engineering and launch manager for the Ford GT. He was intimately involved in the conceptual, design and prototype phases of development. Goodnow is also responsible for coordinating the production launch, including ramp-up of manufacturing facilities and supplier content.
Goodnow started with Ford Motor Company in 1971, working as a design engineer and product planner on light-truck programs. In 1978, he transferred to Small Car, where he worked on niche vehicles like the Ford Escort EXP and developmental vehicles including a mid-engine sports car code-named GN34. In 1991, Goodnow was appointed advanced concept program manager for Ford Special Vehicle Engineering.
There, he oversaw the creation of concept cars, including the mid-engine GT90 concept and the open-wheel Indigo concept. Goodnow holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the General Motors Institute and a master's degree in business from Wayne State University.
Bill Clarke, Ford GT Body Engineering Supervisor
Tacked to the wall above Bill Clarke's desk is a cut-away sketch of a vehicle, drawn when he was a fifth-grade student in Pittsburgh. The drawing of a mid-engine, V-8-powered, two-seat sports car was inspired by his most cherished model of the day: a Ford GT Mark II.
Today, that drawing seems rather prophetic, as Clarke is the body engineering supervisor for the Ford GT. He is responsible for the engineering, validation and release of all body panels, interior components and all electrical sub-systems not associated with powertrain.
Clarke holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State University, as well as a master's degree in business from the University of Michigan. He joined Ford Motor Company in 1988 as a design and release engineer for Ford truck programs. In 1998, he was assigned to the Dearborn Assembly Plant as the vehicle-engineering supervisor overseeing the body and chassis assembly for the Mustang.
Curt Hill, Ford GT Powertrain Engineering Supervisor
Growing up in rural Illinois, Curt Hill's first exposure to powertrains was working on the family's farm equipment. At a young age, he developed a working knowledge of the diesel-powered combines, tractors and other equipment that kept the farm running. Little did Hill know that this experience would lead to an impressive career in powertrain development.
Today, Hill is responsible for the design, validation and release of all Ford GT powertrain systems. This includes the engine, transaxle and driveline components, as well as the fuel, calibration, cooling, air intake and exhaust subsystems.
Hill received a bachelor's degree in industrial technology from Illinois State University and a master's degree in business from Wayne State University. In 1979, he joined the Ford engine division where he worked in robotics, engine assembly and engine validation. He was promoted to component engineering supervisor in 1988 and to engine systems supervisor in 1994. Eventually, Hill was assigned to Advanced Powertrain Engineering, where he served as a technical leader specializing in artificially aspirated engines, intercooling and experimental transmissions.
Kip Ewing, Ford GT Packaging, Prototype and Launch Supervisor
Kip Ewing couldn't bear the thought of leaving the first Ford GT prototype flat black, even in the early stages of development. Ewing’s two-man team took the body panels from “Workhorse Number One" and painted them over a series of late nights at home. That hand-painted red livery – inspired by the Shelby American Ford GT that won Le Mans in 1967 – has become a symbol of the team's dedication and enthusiasm.
As the Ford GT packaging, prototype and launch supervisor, Ewing's oversight extends beyond the build-up – and painting – of the pre-production vehicles. He is also responsible for overall vehicle packaging, ensuring that the Ford GT design is compatible for mechanical systems, structure and occupant ergonomics, all within the constraints of the original concept car design.
Ewing's automotive career started with Aston Martin, working on the Virage design team. He also worked as a vehicle engineer with Callaway Cars, as a studio engineer for ASC and as a designer of coach-built vehicles for Bentley Motor Cars. Ewing joined the Advanced Programs division of Ford Motor Company in 1996.
There, he worked on the occupant package of the Lincoln LS, was awarded numerous patents for his work on adjustable pedals and led the early package development of the next-generation Ford Mustang. Ewing holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma.
Tom Reichenbach, Vehicle Engineering Manager, Ford GT
Tom Reichenbach's first car was a wrecked 1959 Corvette, bought from a junkyard a year before he received his driver's license. Reichenbach, with his brother and father, spent three months restoring the car, from refinishing the body to repairing the engine, transmission, differential and brakes. That experience got Reichenbach interested in everything that makes a car go, stop and turn.
As the vehicle engineering manager for the Ford GT, Reichenbach is responsible for everything that makes the supercar go, stop and turn. Reichenbach reviews the impact each proposed design change has on the overall feel and performance of the Ford GT. To ensure the Ford GT meets all of its performance targets, Reichenbach also oversees aerodynamic, vehicle dynamics and chassis development.
Reichenbach holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University as well as a master's degree in mechanical engineering from University of Kentucky. Reichenbach started at the Ford Electronics Division, where he developed on-board electronic systems for Ford Racing and the first fuel-injection system on a Champ car. This led to his assignment as vehicle dynamics supervisor for Ford Racing, where Reichenbach provided technical support to Winston Cup, Trans Am and Formula 1 teams.
Huibert Mees, Ford GT Chassis Design Supervisor
Possibly the most impressive testament to Huibert Mees' technical expertise is not his resume, but his one-off 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo convertible. Armed with a reciprocating saw and a hand-drawn schematic, Mees removed the hard top, adapted a soft-top from a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass and reinforced the Monte Carlo's underbody to cope with the missing structural support. The finished product is seamless enough to convince even the most avid aficionados that at least one Monte Carlo convertible rolled off the assembly line.
Today, Mees is the chassis design supervisor for the Ford GT. A technical expert in chassis architectures, Mees is responsible for the engineering, validation and release of all chassis components. These include the space frame, suspension components, brake system and steering mechanism.
Mees holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Duke University and a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He joined Ford Motor Company in 1990, in advanced vehicle engineering. As a design engineer, he was awarded a patent for his work on the Jaguar S-Type and Lincoln LS rear suspension geometry. Mees was designated a chassis architecture technical expert in 2001 and served as a design con******t on pre-program chassis development.
Kent Harrison, Ford GT Performance Development Supervisor
Early in the Ford GT program, the team decided to perform wind-tunnel testing on a 1968 Ford GT configured like the JWA Racing Team entry that won at Le Mans in 1969. As the drag and lift numbers came across the screen, Kent Harrison and the team fell into stunned silence, as modern testing showed the vintage cars exhibited significant front lift at speed. That meant the Ford GT race car had minimal steering control on the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans, where the vintage cars crested 180 mph. Harrison's team quickly agreed that Le Mans winners Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver were very brave men.
As the Ford GT performance development supervisor, Harrison's primary role is the oversight of vehicle performance and aerodynamics. He is charged with optimizing aerodynamic performance, measured by coefficient of drag, lift and downforce, as well as managing internal airflow through the air intakes and heat extractors. Harrison also is responsible for meeting straight-line performance targets.
Harrison joined Ford Motor Company in 1989, beginning his career testing engines on the dynamometer. He became a vehicle development engineer in 1992, responsible for design and release of body and interior components and then a vehicle integration engineer in charge of overall performance on various truck programs, including the current Ford Escape. Harrison also spent two years at Ford Racing as the Craftsman Truck series program manager. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois, as well as a master's degree in business from the University of Michigan.
Mark McGowan, Ford GT Vehicle Dynamics Supervisor
For Mark McGowan, a 1971 Lotus Europa S2 served as a test bed for his budding engineering career. To make his college commuter more competitive in autocross events, McGowan optimized every item the rules and his pocketbook would allow. Aided by a rebuilt engine, new bushings, updated suspension, new roll bars and larger brakes, McGowan won two regional autocross championships.
Today, McGowan has a similar role on the Ford GT program. As the vehicle dynamics supervisor, McGowan is responsible for the testing, optimization and tuning of all chassis systems, including the brakes, suspension rates and steering mechanisms. McGowan also leads the team's "test pilots” who evaluate vehicle behavior at the limits of performance.
McGowan started working for Jack Roush Performance in 1983 as a chassis design engineer. During that time, he worked on Ford SVO projects, as well as the design, build and testing of all Bob Bondurant school cars. In 1990, McGowan transferred to Ford Motor Company where he most recently served as the vehicle development supervisor for the Lincoln Aviator. McGowan holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toledo.
Camilo Pardo, Chief Designer, Ford GT
At the 2002 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Camilo Pardo debuted two works of art, in two very different media. In addition to the Ford GT concept he created, Pardo also designed the black-and-white leather go-go outfits, which he says are "influenced by 1960's style, updated with modern lines," worn by show models.
Now, as chief designer for the Ford GT, Pardo works with the engineering team to preserve as much of the concept's design in the production car.
Pardo started working at Ford Motor Company in 1985, in Advanced Design. Since then, Pardo has rotated through international design assignments in Dearborn, Ghia, Italy and Cologne, Germany. For the North American market, Pardo worked on the Ford Thunderbird and was chief designer for the current Ford SVT Mustang Cobra. Pardo holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the College of Creative Studies.
The AutoGuide.com network consists of the largest network of enthusiast-owned enthusiast-operated automotive communities.
AutoGuide.com provides the latest car reviews, auto show coverage, new car prices, and automotive news. The AutoGuide network operates more than 100 automotive forums where our users consult peers for shopping information and advice, and share opinions as a community.