By: N.A. on July 26, 2002
Original Article: WAIKATO TIMES

Ford has moved the GT40 project on another stage by naming the four key “supplier partners” who will get this limited-production car on the road.

The new GT40 will debut late next year and go on sale in 2004.

The supercar will be built in limited numbers, a symbol for the American car maker’s upcoming centennial celebrations.

The companies involved as supplier partners are Lear for interior systems; Mayflower with responsibilities for the aluminium spaceframe design, body structure, skin panels and interior trim; Roush Industries, which will develop the powertrain; and Saleen, which already has experience of low-volume niche manufacturing with its own GT cars.

All four supplier partners operate within a 440km radius of Ford’s HQ at Dearborn, and although there won’t be all that many GT40s produced, the whole project, design and build, is being run to a just-in-time schedule.

Ford has its own inhouse team, hand-picked by vice-president for North American product development Chris Theodore.

He’s been thinking about this kind of thing since he joined Ford in 1999, and describes the whole GT40 project as being likely to “teach us valuable lessons about the power of small, nimble product teams and supplier partnerships”.

Other members of the Ford group include people with present or past experience in the company’s Special Vehicle Team, in F1, CART, NASCAR and GT racing. It includes Neil Ressler, at one time involved with Jaguar Racing and recently retired as Ford’s vice-president in charge of advanced engineering and motorsports development, and Carroll Shelby who was hired by Ford to oversee the racing programme of the original GT40, back in 1964.

Design work on the GT40 started in March 2001, the project went into the serious development stage that summer, and the concept car made its debut at the North American Auto Show in January of this year.

It went down a storm, despite some unexpectedly dismissive comments from sections of the media which felt this was just an exhibition job likely to go no further.

There’s no confirmation yet about the final specification, the likely performance figures, the price, how many will be built, or even what the car will eventually be called. But it’s a very serious project.

So, of course, was the original GT40. Henry Ford II’s intention to build a Le Mans winner was announced in 1963, the car was launched to the press in June 1964, and by 1969 it had four successive Le Mans wins to its credit, including a one-two-three in 1966.