It has been a few years now since the Ford GT arrived, lived its short life in production and then passed through the gates into supercar Valhalla. But as awesome as the GT was, it may not have even been the best performance model Ford had in its arsenal. The car that helped reinvigorated the automaker’s performance future, and paralleled the GT’s production, was actually one that was never built: the Ford Shelby GR-1.
The $2.2 million dollar GR-1 concept that thrilled auto show audiences was preceded in conception by the Ford Shelby Cobra concept, an equally important concept that helped realize the supercar architecture dreams needed to get the GT into production. Although short-lived, the three-headed monster of the Cobra, GT and GR-1 was meant to reestablish Ford again as a serious supercar contender and pay homage to Ford’s greatest collaborator: Carroll Shelby and his Daytona Coupe.
Although using the same platform as the GT, the Ford Shelby GR-1 is a front-engined, two-seat, fastback vehicle. The front-positioned engine configuration is exaggerated by the concept’s long hood in proportion to the rest of the vehicle and the teardrop-shaped cabin that pours itself into the fenders which seem to barely be able to contain the car’s aggressive stance and wheels. These wheel arches and compact overhangs define the chiseled appearance of the car’s athletic build.
In front, the GR-1’s design is dominated by an air intake and air flow splitter that directs cooling air into the engine bay and wheel wells, while air vents on the top of the hood exhaust hot air from the radiator. Trapezoidal HISS (high intensity solid state) and LED headlamps bear a strong familial resemblance to the Ford GT and also echo the original Shelby Daytona coupe that inspired the GR-1.
Although it is easy to get sidetracked by the concept’s drop-dead good looks, the bulging hood foreshadows the V10 engine that is seemingly barely contained within the bay. It should be noted, that the GR-1 was not some rolling, soulless shell, but an operational concept that was successfully test-driven at high speeds at Ford’s Dearborn Proving Ground and given a full engineering feasibility study. Ford reported that the 6.4-liter all-aluminum V10 produced 605 horsepower and 501 lb-feet of torque via a 6-speed manual transmission. Purportedly 0-to-60 mph were in the 3.9 seconds range. The Kamm tail in the rear and butterfly-hinged doors finish off what is arguably the prettiest Ford never to be built.
Inside, a fully-equipped interior features several references in the center stack shape, steering-wheel design and vent openings to Shelby and the original Cobra.
But while the car could be built as-is, in order to see the light of day on the dealership floor Ford would need to make a few alterations from the original design. First would most likely involve replacing the V10 with a powerful, but smaller V8 engine. This would happily allow the power-plant to be positioned further back and allow better weight distribution. The wheelbase would also be stretched to handle a full-size gas tank and the windshield’s rake decreased slightly to meet safety regulations to better protect occupant’s heads. But those are relatively minor concessions. And since the development and engineering costs have already been spent on the GT and previous Cobra concepts, this would actually be an economical way of Ford returning to supercar production after the GT’s death in 2007. As an indication of price, the Cobra roadster was estimated to cost just over $100-grand if put into production.
Now may not be the time for Ford to get involved in a low-production, high-cost car. But keep your fingers crossed that when the right time comes, they remember where they put the GR-1’s blueprints.