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U.S.A.:Ford's GT sports car stirs the faithful at Monterey historic races

By John McCormick / Autos Insider

Monterey, CA. - Ahead of me, the tortuous Pacific Coast Highway briefly straightens itself. My right foot flexes and within seconds, the speedometer has passed 140 mph. The Ford GT feels...well, unfortunately my driving impressions of Dearborn's most exciting production car ever will have to wait several more weeks to allow America's lethargic monthly automotive magazines time to publish their stories concurrently.

Suffice to say my GT road test was inspiring and that was before I tried the car on twists and turns of Monterey's famed Laguna Seca raceway. At the Monterey racetrack, the focus was on Ford as the featured marque. More examples of the Ford GT40, the 1960s Le Mans-winning race car that inspired today's GT, were gathered together than ever before. Also assembled were a veritable who's who of the world's top racecar drivers, from Carroll Shelby to Dan Gurney to Jackie Stewart, many of whom helped create the GT40's illustrious competition history.

The reverence accorded the GT40s scattered through the paddock at Laguna Seca underlines the racing community's enthusiasm for the car and could bode well for the future of the new GT, which hits the market next summer, priced under $150,000. "I think Ford has done a good job with the GT of capturing the spirit of the original in what is a modern car," says Bill Murray, an acknowledged expert on GT40s, who manages Denver's Shelby American Collection, a museum with one of the country's best gatherings of GT40s and Shelby Cobras.

Delving into the development of the $140 million GT program with principals Chris Theodore, Ford's Ford's vice president for advanced product creation, and Neil Hannemann, chief program engineer, reveals some intriguing comparisons to the GT40. Although the GT is not designed as a racecar, its development has been at a pace worthy of the racing world. "Considering we only started on the program in May last year, we have come a long way very quickly," notes Theodore.

Before the GT is ready for prime time, there is a good deal of refinement work left to complete, admits Hannemann. One practical issue yet to be solved is the almost complete absence of storage space on the GT. "Some sports cars boast of having room for two golf club bags, we have space for two golf balls," jokes GT40 con******t, Neil Ressler, a former Ford vice president and chief technical officer.

It remains to be seen whether the buying public will fulfill the rather ambitious annual sales goal of 1000 GTs set by Ford, but for now it's a car that can only do wonders for the company's image.

(Photo)Due on sale next summer, red Ford GT poses with Ferrari 360 Modena, Italian sports car used for comparison by Ford development engineers.

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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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