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April 17, 2023

Ford GT90: the lost prototype of the GT saga

At Squadra Lupo we have a special predilection for Ford GT models. Under the roof of our garage rest together a Ford GT Liquid Carbon -only 20 in the world- and a 2005 Ford GT -yes, one of the 4038 built-. The GT was born with the premise of maintaining the original design and spirit of the GT40, but the difficulty lay in transforming a 60´s racing car into a street sport supercar in line with new technologies and advances in aerodynamics and safety. But between the GT40 of the sixties and the GTs of the new millennium there was a futuristic player that few know or remember, and that could have laid the foundations for a new generation of supercars: the GT90.

Within the Ford universe, the acronym “GT” instantly refers to the GT40, the highly successful prototype that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans consecutively between 1966 and 1969. Presented to the specialized press on April 1, 1964, its GT designation corresponded to Gran Turismo, and 40, at the height of the body in inches. It had four different versions of engines and bodies -three for competition and one for street use- and is considered a global icon of the blue oval.

Years later, more precisely in 1971, Ford used the GT name again but this time for a new rally prototype: the GT70. Its fiberglass body allowed a total weight of just 800 kilos which, added to the 240 hp of its V6 engine, gave it an excellent weight/power ratio. Unfortunately, and after building six units, the project was cancelled. When everything seemed to indicate otherwise, in the mid-nineties Ford decided to revive the acronym -and why not, the spirit- of those advanced projects and shook all the drawing boards with its incredible GT90.

Officially introduced to the public at the 1995 Detroit International Motor Show, the GT90 first showcased the styling that would later become known worldwide as “new edge” characterized by a mix of triangular shapes, flat angles, and intersecting and colliding windows. This design was applied to models from very different ranges such as the Ka, the Focus, the Cougar, the Mondeo and the Australian Falcon.

The prototype was built by a specialized group of Ford SVT -Special Vehicle Team- in just over six months, and parts of the Jaguar XJ220 were used for this. The body panels were made of carbon fiber, while the chassis is made up of an aluminum monocoque with independent suspension on both trains. The total cost of development reached 3 million dollars.

The centrally located engine was an engineering marvel: a 6.0-liter DOHC V12 with four Garrett T2 turbochargers capable of delivering a whopping 720 hp at 6600 rpm. Using two blocks of Lincoln V8s, engineers first removed the last pair of cylinders from the rear of one of them, and the first pair of cylinders from the front of the other. Then both severed blocks were welded. Due to the immense heat it produced, the exhaust manifolds had a ceramic shield similar to that used on the Space Shuttle. The declared top speed was 380 km/h, with acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3 seconds. The manual gearbox was a five-speed FFD-Ricardo with rear-wheel drive.

The interior design was futuristic, with six round dial gauges, blue upholstery and aluminum accents on the center console. Although it was tried to resemble the GT40 of the sixties, Ford’s idea was to use it as a test bed for new developments in design, engineering and technology concepts aimed at mass-produced vehicles. Clearly, Ford never forgot the importance and successes of the GT40, and even though the GT90 never went into mass production, there is no doubt that it has the same blue oval DNA as the latest´s GT generations.

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