The story of the original Ford GT40 is the pinnacle of automotive folklore. It’s a story so famous that it’s transcended car culture and found its way into films and credit card commercials. Less well known, is the story of the 2017 Ford GT. Ford made a point of reminding everyone what their Ford GT racecar went through this past summer at LeMans, by plucking it off the racetrack and plopping it straight onto the auto show floor in Detroit.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate what we’re looking at. This is the Number 68 Ford GT GTE; the car that crossed the finish line at the front of the pack at the 2016 LeMans race. When the race was over, the champagne was cleaned up and the spectators flew home, Ford didn’t pack the car into a trailer, ship it back to Multimatic, refurbish it to a glossy finish and lock it away in their headquarters. They stuck it, here, in Detroit, complete with dirt, broken bits of carbon fibre and holes in the body work. Why? Because it’s a racecar, and this is what racecars look like.
It’s a little odd how, unlike their original 1967 win, the story of the Ford GT at LeMans in 2016 has largely come and gone. Here’s a company that didn’t participate in the GTE class for 48 years – they didn’t participate at all for 37 years.
Then, I’d like to imagine that some staunch Ford executive in a pin-striped suit looked out from his glass box in the sky, took a drag of a fat Cuban cigar, and said “Ya know that LeMans thing we did way back when? We should do that again.” And they did it. They built a car. They raced said car, and they won. When most people recount the story of the original GT40, they conveniently leave out that Ford got their asses handed to them for three years before they won; their cars caught on fire, they crashed spectacularly, several drivers died before the first Ford GT40 ever crossed the finish line. That didn’t happen this year. They built the car, they raced the car, and they won.
Supercars today achieve performance that’s nothing short of god-like. Horsepower numbers that would have earned you land speed records a mere twenty years ago are routinely found in cars with dual-zone climate control and 28 way adjustable seats today. The fact of the matter is that these cars are prohibitively expensive, so they’re babied as such – kept under car covers and eight layers of turtle wax. That’s precisely what makes this car so beautiful. This was a car, built for LeMans and nothing but. Ford didn’t stick a 3.5l V6 into the Ford GT to piss off the purists; they did so because it made sense given the displacement limits placed on the GTE class.
While Ferrari was busy marketing the matching luggage set that can be purchased with your Ferrari 488 for roughly the price of a used Miata, Ford unveiled the car, promised to sell it to 400 people so that it could legitimately be called a ‘production car’, and went racing. While Ferrari took the 488 to LeMans to prove that it has legitimate racing performance, Ford took their car to LeMans because that’s all it was built to do. Better yet, it wasn’t built by Ford in some Kentucky factory next to a Fiesta, it was built in Canada, by a bunch of Canadian gearheads at Multimatic.
That’s what this is. A dirty, wounded and abused, beautiful race car. Nothing more, nothing less. The 2017 Ford GT is the Canadian hero we deserve; it’s a gift from the automotive gods that proves that yes, there are people out there that still wholeheartedly love performance.