The interior design incorporates the novel "ventilated seats" and instrument layout of the original car, with straightforward analogue gauges and large tachometer. Modern versions of the original car's toggle switches operate key systems. "Like its namesake, the GT40 concept is not over-wrought with advanced technologies," Mays says. "While it represents the best of Ford design, engineering and expertise, it is a no-frills machine. You won't find voice-activated telematics here - not even power windows - just pure, refined performance”.  That claim notwithstanding, it’s a safe bet that the new car has a computer or two more than the 1964 version.  And, to be honest, that’s no bad thing.  It would take a very brave enthusiast to argue that the new car would be less user-friendly than an original would be.  The new GT40 is going to provide its owners (always assuming that there are going to be some) with infinitely more on-the-road pleasure than an original ever could.  Walk to your garage, put the key in, turn it, and go.  Who could do that with an original car?  And who would bet on an original being more comfortable? 

Behind the cockpit is the essence of a GT40: a V-8 engine and a complex array of polished stainless-steel header pipes, and braided stainless steel fuel lines with anodised aluminium fittings.  Engine size is 5.4 litres, its power enhanced by a supercharger with intercooler.

The powerplant is all-American, from Ford's modular engine family. The version in the GT40 concept features aluminium four-valve heads, forged steel crankshaft, H-beam forged rods from Manley, and forged aluminium pistons from Karl Schmidt Unisia, fed by a Roots-type supercharger from Eaton with an intercooled intake; all this combines to make more than 500 horsepower (at 5250rpm) and 500 foot-pounds of torque (at 3250rpm). Those figures are similar to those of the most powerful period GT40, the Mark IV, a car that could top 200 mph on the Hunaudières straight at Le Mans. Because of the supercharger and high-revving, free-breathing valve train, the new car produces this power from only 5.4-litres; in the mid-sixties no less than seven litres were needed. Behind the 9-inch heavy-duty McLeod clutch, the SVT team installed a special transaxle to accommodate the mid-engine layout. Sourced from RBT, the close-ratio six-speed uses internal components from transmission manufacturer ZF. It is fully synchronized and features an integral limited-slip differential.

“The GT40 concept should do three things: go fast, handle exceptionally and look great," says Chris Theodore, Ford's vice president of North America Product Development. "To be true to its Ford heritage, we had to create a supercar that would be uniquely a Ford. Anyone can do technology showpieces, high-displacement engines and modernistic designs, but there's much more to a GT40. There's heritage and heart. We think this car remains true to the spirit of its predecessors."

Instead of the sheet steel or aluminium honeycomb tubs used in the 1960s, Ford's SVT Engineering group developed an all-new aluminium spaceframe as the foundation for the GT40 concept. This news will bring wry smiles to the faces of those replica-GT40 owners whose cars differ from the original in little other than their spaceframe chassis! 

We may well ask why the move to a spaceframe has been made, and the most likely answer is that a spaceframe is easier and cheaper to construct (and to tool up for) than is a monocoque in steel or carbon-fibre.  Constructed of extruded sections and aluminium panels, the spaceframe provides a rigid foundation for the engine and driveline while permitting the use of the specially fabricated composite body panels. The spaceframe consists of a central cabin section, a front suspension sub-section, and a rear powertrain-chassis cradle, bolted together for rigidity.  While the original GT40s owed their chassis stiffness to a pair of beefy sills that doubled as fuel reservoirs, the new concept relies on a single central tunnel for its backbone. While greatly improving entry and exit, it has the added benefit of providing a structurally secure location for the fuel supply.

The concept's suspension has been fabricated almost entirely from scratch. The layout, front and rear, uses unequal-length control arms and a push-rod/bell-crank system to interface with the horizontally mounted spring-damper units. Mounting the spring-damper units horizontally allowed the designers to achieve the characteristic low-slung GT40 profile.

As on the historic car, the composite body panels are unstressed. The chassis features four-wheel independent suspension with unequal-length control arms and longitudinally mounted spring-damper units to allow for its low profile. 

Braking is handled by six-piston aluminium Alcon calipers with cross-drilled and vented rotors at all four corners. When the rear canopy is opened, the rear suspension components and engine become the car's focal point. Precision-milled aluminium suspension components and 19-inch Goodyear tyres - combined with the overwhelming presence of the V-8 powertrain - create a striking appearance and communicate the GT40 concept's performance credentials.  In an age when concept-car tyres have been likened to giant black rubber bands, the GT40 concept is proud to have a relatively tall 45-series sidewall - a throwback to the original car.

The GT40 concept offers excellent entry and exit, thanks to the wide-opening doors and the centre-mounted fuel cells that allow the driver and passenger seat positions to be moved outward, closer to the sides and shallow sills. The two racing fuel cells, sourced from ITW, run longitudinally down the central tunnel and are filled via polished fuel caps at the base of the windscreen.  In the original cars, of course, the fuel cells were outboard, in the sills, but they posed driver and passenger alike a significant problem in getting in to or out of the car.  Anyone who has tried a GT40 for size, particularly on a wet day, will have looked in dismay at the muddy footprints on the seat on which he is about to park himself; this problem should not afflict the newcomer.

The new GT40 is a left-hand-drive two-seater featuring leather-wrapped, custom Recaro bucket seats. Aluminium grommets that allow occupants more ventilation are embedded into the stitching; whether these work in the same way as did those on the original cars has not been revealed.  For easy access, the adjustable handle to control seat position is located on the front of the seat, rather than below.

A console runs the entire length of the GT40 passenger compartment. It houses the six-speed, short-throw gearshift lever, CD player, and a leather-wrapped armrest to store "extras" that can't be allowed to clutter the cockpit.  The interior colour scheme is two-toned: black and silver. The console, sill plate, handbrake lever, gearshift lever, safety belt buckles, and pedals are aluminium. "There is no luggage space behind the seats and no room for a set of golf clubs anywhere in this car," says Mays. "It's a car designed for the driver who carves asphalt in his spare time."  No change there, then.

Really, what we need to know now, is just how likely the car is to reach production, and if/when it does, will it really cost “only” $100,000?  Readers in the UK should remember that to get an example into Britain they will have to add shipping costs, and, of course, approximately 30% in Import Duty and VAT.  Remember the Boston Tea Party?  It happened because the Americans didn’t like paying British taxes; our taxes don’t seem to have reduced any since then, and the New World doesn’t realise just how lucky it is.  That $100,000 will equate to 100,000 pounds by the time the car reaches British shores. 

(Photo courtesy of Brady Pack).

Because you have read this far, the chances are that you are already a GT40 enthusiast.  You may be relishing the prospect of being able to buy a production GT40 at a fraction of what a real one – no, let’s make that an original one - would cost.  On the other hand, you may be bemoaning the watering down of a legend.  Before long, perhaps everybody with $100,000 to spare (less when the cars hit the used-car market) will own a “GT40”, and the mystique of the marque will be forever diminished.  Is it right to re-use the glorious name we have come to love so much?  Should Ford have let the GT40 remain a legend?

We heard lots of encouraging words about the GT90, which, we were told, was actually being considered for production – and then it quietly slipped away.  Do we – do you – want the GT40 to meet the same fate?  Why not write to Ford and let them know what you think?

Most of the information in this feature has been sourced from Ford’s press releases; for keeping me informed about what’s going on with the GT40 concept I’m grateful to John Sadler, Bob Wood and Brady Pack (all of whom own original GT40s), Ford’s Dan Bedore, and Safir GT40 Spares.

John S Allen

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