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How Ford Kept The GT A Secret, And Stunned The World At The Same Time

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On: Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 10:00AM | By: Carl Malek

How Ford Kept The GT A Secret, And Stunned The World At The Same Time

When the 2017 Ford GT was unveiled to the world at the 2015 North American International Auto Show last month, it was an unexpected suprise that few saw coming. With the GT now traveling the show circuit, the backstory, as well as the level of secrecy that once enveloped the project, is now beginning to rise to the surface, and it will sound like the backdrop to a movie plot.

So just how did Ford pull off one of the biggest suprises in recent auto show history? It all began in a small basement storage room at Ford's Product Development Center. There, in that tiny unassuming room, a small number or employees began work on the ressurected supercar. Unlike many other employees which are typically issued electronic key cards, the employees in the GT project actually were issued metal keys and did the majority of their work under the cover of darkness to maintain the highest levels of secrecy. When the small team of six designers needed to see their project in natural light, they whisked it outside on the weekends when no one else was around, to maintain its incognito status. The project was given the code name Phoenix (another clever trick to throw off snoopers) and when it rose like the proverbial bird out of the bowels of the Product Development Center, not a single photograph of the 2017 GT leaked out to the public, a rare feat in an era where embargo-breaking leaks are commonplace.

"A lot of people probably knew something was going on, but no one actually knew" what the project exactly was, according to Ford global design chief Moray Callum in an interview with Automotive News. "This was probably a once in a lifetime chance to get to do a vehicle like this. I'm still pinching myself that we're actually doing it." The extreme levels of secrecy helped Ford steal the show, while leaving rivals such as Acura (who unveiled their NSX supercar a few hours after the GT) in the dark about Ford's plans. However, Callum revealed that there was another reason for the GT's level of secrecy: to protect it from the bureacracy and red tape that tend to slow down programs not only in Ford but also in other automakers—GM was notorious for its levels of bureacracy prior to its bankruptcy. Callum revealed that decisions regarding its design and mechanicals had to be made quickly, and that the team could not afford to have any aspect of the project bogged down by corporate road blocks.

"Usually we like to encourage, especially on improtant programs wide input from around the world. But on this one, we sort of realized both in terms of time and keeping it quiet that we probably had to change the process here, so we selected a small group of designers." Ford began work on the GT in late 2013, when Alan Mually was still at the helm as the company's CEO—he stepped down last summer. Ultimately it was Maully's sucessor, Mark Fields, who was COO at the time, as well as Raj Nair, the company's product development chief, who ultimately provided the encouragement and push that the GT project needed to help it stay alive.

The idea behind the reborn GT was to bring it back in time for the 50th anniversary of Ford's historic victory in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans when the company's GT40 racecar snapped Ferrari's dominance of the event, fulfilling Henry Ford II's promise to beat Ferrari on its own turf. In perhaps a bit of fateful irony, Ford II's grandson, Henery Ford III, became heavily involved in the project, serving in the role of global marketing manager for Ford Performance. Demand for the previous GT also played a factor in Ford's decision to ressurect the icon. That particular iteration of GT sold for $150,000 when it was new, but since it ended production in 2006 many examples have sold well above their sticker price, mainly due to their rarity and retro-inspired styling. Last fall a GT crossed the block at Mecum's Chicago auction fetching a hammer price of $475,000 in a dramatic example of how strong the market is for them.

Callum also revealed that the design team was nervous due to the way that the car was developed, but, with it unveiled, they now feel relieved. "With such a small team you don't actually get to bounce opinions off of people. We were on tenterhooks ourselves until the first people saw it." Look for the 2017 Ford GT to begin arriving at select Ford showrooms sometime next year.



Stephy | 3:30PM (Tue, Feb 3, 2015)

I love the design of the new ford GT and they did a good job at keeping a secret until it's reveal at the North American International Auto Show. Cant wait to see it hit the showroom floor.

Wonder how much they will go for?

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