In this installment of “Like Father, Like Son,” we’re taking a look at a prestigious American racing family, whose exploits brought fame and glory to Ford and vexed Enzo Ferrari to no end … the Ford GT40 and its spiritual successor, the Ford GT. Will the GT make its father proud? Make the jump to find out.
Like Father: Ford/Lola GT40
An absolute legend, the GT40 was born of one of the greatest rivalries in racing history. In case you haven’t heard this trans-Atlantic yarn before, listen close. Henry Ford II had a thing about the 24 Hours of LeMans race: he wanted to win it. In the early 1960s, Carroll Shelby had the blessing of Ford to shoehorn Ford V8s into a tiny British roadster known as the AC Ace, creating the infamous Cobra. Despite being a monster in 427 format, the open version of the car had trouble at high speeds. After an attempt to rectify the situation with a sleek coupe body penned by Peter Brock and known as the Daytona, and even getting a class win over the GT Ferraris at the 1964 LeMans race in a special version of the car, Ford grew impatient. In 1963, after hearing that Ferrari might be open to offers, Ford began talks.Enzo Ferrari, the reclusive and temperamental patriarch of the Marenello scudiera, strung Ford along for a while. There are a few theories. One was that he actually was considering selling to Ford but was offended by the terms involving control over the Ferrari racing team. The other is that Ferrari was simply trying to bid up their selling price, knowing the Fiat group was interested too. With two competing bidders, Ferrari ended up selling to Fiat for more than he would have otherwise. Or so the tale goes. What we do know for sure is that Enzo rifiutare di accettare Ford’s terms, or in plain English, he said, “hell no.” Ford, incensed, vengeful, got on the horn with Lola, Lotus, and Cooper, all race car constructors. For a variety of reasons, Lola was selected (probably because their Lola GT Mk. 6 was already a mid-engined coupe, running American V8s competitively on the track). Ford engineers met with Lola engineers, they had some wine, one thing led to another, and a new car was born. By 1964 the car was ready to debut at the Nurburging 24 hour race. From there, the car evolved into various versions, but famously won the 1966 LeMans race with a 1-2-3 win over Ferrari.
The Mk. III version was softer and built for the road, but the original Mk. I and the mean, heavily refined Mk. IV versions are unforgettable. The GT40 is an icon – possibly the best sportscar of all time. How will its progeny hold up?
Like Son: Ford GT
Sorry kid, your dad is a tough act to follow. He humiliated Ferrari single-handedly and forever embodied Ford’s racing heritage. An American bruiser on an unforgiving world stage, he showed those effeminate Europeans how to play for keeps. And you want to follow in those footsteps? In some ways, the Ford GT, no matter how unimaginably awe-inspiring, was destined to be an interesting footnote in the history of Ford. That footnote might read:
“* – In 2003, Ford reimagined the classic GT40 and produced the GT until 2006. Awesome performance and presence aside, it was not born out of racing and had questionable reliability.”
Reliability? Well what fun is a car if you can’t actually drive it? Jeremy Clarkson, famously and quite publicly, related his experiences with his beloved Ford GT’s schizophrenic alarm system in his Times UK column. It’s one of this author’s favorite pieces of automotive journalism, but humor aside, it was so nerve-rackingly problematic that Clarkson made Ford buy it back. You read that right. Despite being one of the highest-profile car celebs in the world, Ford flubbed the repairs enough that he demanded they refund his money. Ouch.
So of course, with a supercharged modular V8 of 5.4 liters amidships, and with a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds, the car performed like it looked. At least when it ran. If you want to find out what it drove like, read one of the thousands of reviews. Journalists love a car because they don’t have to live with it after the test. But honestly, while one could live with a temperamental car that was old, those vices don’t play well in a new car, especially one designed to be the best sportscar Ford ever offered for the street.
Like any child of a high-profile celebrity, the Ford GT was going to have some problems, but there’s no Betty Ford Center for the GT to clean up its act.
The Family Portrait
Written out of the will! Looking the part, with slinky supercar bodywork, and being faster than stink, the Ford GT just doesn’t cut it when the pantheon of supercars keeps getting larger. Hell, there are Mustangs sold today with similar horsepower (and, in fact, the same engine). This is a controversial one, but the GT simply can’t live up to the GT40’s iconic status.