News: This Is What The Ford GT40 Could Have Looked Like

This Is What The Ford GT40 Could Have Looked Like

James Gent By James Gent
June 16, 2020
1 comments

With the inaugural Virtual Le Mans generating plenty of online ‘conversation’ this weekend – “wait, Fernando Alonso gets 63 laps back?!”, etc – it’s fitting that early design sketches of the GT40, a future four-time event winner, were also doing the rounds on social media. Dug up by Ford archivists and posted to the official Ford Performance twitter account this weekend, these conceptual drawings were originally penned in June 1963, just under a year before the Blue Oval’s most famous sports car made its global debut.

At first glance, there is plenty of carry-over between these sketches and the first complete chassis – GT 101 – presented to the press in April 1964. Granted, the hood vents are nowhere to be seen and the pop-up headlights are an interesting touch, but the sleek aerodynamics are on-point, the embryonic side intakes are there (interestingly, horizontal strakes only appear on the side profile), and we can even see circular taillights bookending twin exhaust pipes.

Most significant though is the cut-away shot, which reveals suspension components, a rear-mounted engine, and a hinged canopy in-place of conventional doors. How apt that a concept designed by Ford as a two-fingered salute to Maranello would share one of the most characterful aspects of Ferrari’s most radical concept to-date, the 512S Modulo. That the clay model, dated 19 June 1963 and completed just eight days after the initial sketches, also features Testarossa-style air blades down the flanks makes the irony almost tangible.

And yet, somehow, these drawings are not the original designs for the GT40. They’re actually conceptual sketches for the first generation Mustang.

Yes, really…well, okay, sort of.

Before arguably the world’s most famous muscle car arrived in April 1964 (busy month for Ford), a team helmed by Lee Iacocca and led by designer Eugene Bordinat introduced an open-top, two seater concept at the United States Grand Prix in October 1962 called the Mustang I. Built atop a spaceframe chassis and featuring sleek aluminium bodywork inspired by the North American P-51 ‘Mustang’ aircraft, the concept was designed with low costs and low weight in-mind – the two-seater weighed just over 1,500lb (700kg) – rather than bombastic power. At a push, the rear-mounted 1.5-litre V4, lifted from a Ford Cardinal and twinned with a four-speed manual gearbox, would produce 109hp.

Despite that indignity, two examples of the Mustang I two-seater – one a non-running fibreglass show car, the other with a full working powertrain – were completed by August 1962. Not long after, at the United States Grand Prix the following October, the rolling model was put to the test on-track by the late, great Dan Gurney at Watkin’s Glen. Ford’s rumoured answer to the Corvette though gained little traction with the American public, and soon Bordinat’s team switched focus to a clean sheet design for ‘Mustang II’. One with a front-mounted V8 and two-plus-two seating built on the same platform as a Ford Falcon. It apparently went on to do quite well.

Though the above sketches attempted to breathe one last lease of hard-top life into the Mustang I, production was never on the cards. Four years later, however, a descendent of the sketches, one built by the same team behind the Lola Mk6 and now featuring a 7-litre V8 in place of the gutless four-cylinder, went on to make history on 19 June 1966 at Le Mans. Like the sketches, it also stood 40in tall. Funny that…

*Images courtesy of Ford Performance and the Ford Motor Company

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The Lola MK6 GT should probably have been mentioned as it was the GT-40.