There are a lot of incredible facets of the Ford GT, but perhaps the most incredible is that it almost didn't get built. Ford always planned on going to Le Mans in 2016 to honor the 50th anniversary of its historic win over Ferrari, but building an all-new car to do it wasn't part of the plan. Instead of building the GT, Ford considered sending a Mustang to Le Mans.
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That's per Raj Nair, product development head at Ford and one of the driving forces behind the GT. that Nair revealed that the Mustang race car project was cancelled in 2013 over concerns that it'd take too much work to make it competitive in GT racing. Ford estimated that each Mustang race car would take $250,000 or more in modifications, and even then, it'd be at an aerodynamic disadvantage.
"It was all good learning, but it turns out not to be the right fit," said Nair. "To be candid, I still wanted to do it. I was actually a little bit mad … in fact, I was really mad."
Nair still wanted to honor Ford's Le Mans history, so with blessings of key executives, he assembled a team of just a dozen people to start exploring the possibility of building a new GT.
"I was just determined that we were going to have to do it but we were going to have to do it differently," said Nair.
His team then began working on the GT in secret, and convinced the executives that cancelled the Mustang race car project that it could develop a street car and a Le Mans-winning race car side-by-side. Interestingly, Ford was able to keep the GT's development and production costs low thanks to advancements it made developing the Mustang race car.
With Ford executives on board, the GT street car made its in-person debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, and began racing both in IMSA and the World Endurance Championship in 2016, but you know how that story goes.
Ford did eventually develop a Mustang road racer, the GT4 (pictured above), but that car competes at a much lower level than the GT.
Clearly, Ford's bet on building a bespoke race car paid off handsomely, with a win at Le Mans in 2016 and at Daytona earlier this year.