DETROIT — The Ford GT made a triumphant return Monday with the unveiling of a sleek and edgy supercar the automaker plans to build next year.
The GT was developed over the past year by a small team, in a small room in the basement of the Product Development Center in Dearborn, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas. The hidden entrance was only accessible by a few people.
Ford will make a limited number of GTs for sale in the second half of 2016. It will be a global car but the first sales will be in the U.S., said Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
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Ford kept the car largely secret until about a month ago when news began to leaks and spread on the internet.
The GT was among a trio of performance vehicles Ford showed. As expected, Ford revealed the next-generation 2017 F-150 Raptor high-performance, off-road pickup.
The third was the Shelby GT350R Mustang: a stripped down, track-ready and street legal version of the GT350 shown in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The three are among the more than 12 new Ford performance vehicles coming by 2020 as the automaker has reorganized its regional performance divisions into a single global unit. Ford wants to take advantage of a 70 percent increase in performance vehicle sales in the U.S. and a 14 percent increase in Europe.
The GT marks the return of the rear-drive mid-engine super car which was last sold in the 2006 model year. It returns for 2016, the 50th anniversary of the first of the GT40’s four consecutive wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
“Ford shook the automotive world when it introduced America’s first true exotic car in 2005,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with KBB.com. “Now the Blue Oval is poised to do it again, only this time there will be a street and a race version of the car. This allows the automaker to pay homage to Ford’s 1-2-3 sweep at Lemans 50 years ago, while creating the possibility it will do it again. Dealers, start your waitlisting!”
The new GT will feature a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 engine, generating more than 600 horsepower. The last GT had a 550-horsepower supercharged 5.4-liter V-8.
Ford CEO Mark Fields said the lightweight body and aerodynamic shape will enable the V6 to exceed 600 horsepower.
Ford said the car will be assembled in a “purpose-built” facility but he would not say if it will be in the U.S.
“The business case is never why you do a car like this,” Ford said. “It is a statement vehicle; but we want it to make business sense.”
“A halo car is only as good as long as it’s in production” said Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for Kelley Blue Book. “Any goodwill generated in the enthusiast community from the previous GT has worn off. The GT successor factors into the global One Ford philosophy that is being extended to performance. While the Mustang is being sold in export markets for the first time, Ford may have come to the conclusion a true halo car on top of the lineup that is capable of being competitive at places like Le Mans is a must. In 2016, it also positions the company to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of winning Le Mans.”
While gas prices happen to be low now, “we would have done this if fuel prices were high,” Ford said.
At the other end of the spectrum, pickup fans have been waiting for a new Raptor off-road pickup since Ford redesigned the 2015 F-150 with an aluminum body. The 2017 Raptor will go on sale in the fall of 2016. The truck that was introduced for the 2010 model year has developed a cult-like following.
The new truck has its own purpose built steel frame body that shaves off more than 500 pounds. It continues to have a prominent and distinctive grille.
Under the hood is a new second-generation turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that replaces the current 6.2-liter V-8 and the truck will get Ford’s new 10-speed transmission.
To better handle all kinds of terrain, there are six preset modes including street, mud, snow and rock crawling.
The other hot car is the GT350R. A limited number will be available in the U.S. and Canada later this year. They will be made at Ford’s plant in Flat Rock.
Like the regular 2016 GT350, this race version has a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V-8 with a flat-plane crankshaft which gives it a different firing order for more high-revving power and powerful exhaust sounds. It puts out more than 500 horsepower and more than 400 pound-feet of torque. It has a six-speed manual transmission.
Engineers tuned the suspension, made the car more aerodynamic and took out weight with standard carbon fiber wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 high-performance tires with rubber compound and a construction unique to the Shelby GT350R. The combination of incredibly stiff and light wheels with these tires are designed for optimum steering and handling.
The rule of thumb for the GT350R was that if a part did not make the car faster around a road course, engineers considered removing it to further shed weight.
About 130 pounds were shed by removing the air conditioning, stereo system, rear seats, trunk floorboard and carpet, backup camera, emergency tire sealer and inflator and even the exhaust resonators which had the added benefit of creating a sharper exhaust tone.
There are some distinctive styling cues to denote it as a race car.
Customers can choose an optional Electronics Package with dual-zone air conditioning, 8-inch touch screen with navigation, seven-speaker audio system, turn signal mirrors and more.
“This is the pinnacle of performance Mustangs today,” said Dave Pericak, director, Ford Performance. “The Shelby GT350R Mustang lays the groundwork for a story that will play out for years to come on the track and the street.”
©2015 Detroit Free Press
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