Ford GT40 Concept Car

Ford GT40 Concept Car in Gulf livery. (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

When Ford debuted its GT40 concept at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2002 it completely stole the show. Nobody knew it was coming, and nobody (including yours truly) thought Ford would actually build a production version. It was less than 6 months after the September 11th attacks. A new level of uncertainty had gripped the nation. Car companies didn’t know what the economic fallout would be. GM’s “Keep America Rolling” campaign started a few weeks after the attack, with major price cuts that actually kept Americans visiting dealer showrooms versus locking up their bank accounts. Most automakers joined the effort, the government instituted several automotive tax incentives, and 2001 ended up being a healthy year for new car sales. But could Ford, a company that was already struggling financially in the early 2000s, really afford to build a single-minded, low-volume sports car?

Ford GT40 press kit

Ford GT40 press kit from the 2002 Detroit Auto Show

Maybe not, but only a few weeks after the Ford GT40 Concept debuted Bill Ford Jr. held a press conference announcing the car for production. I spent approximately 24 hours having a mental argument with myself over what to do. I had no idea what the production version would cost, but I knew it would be a six-figure-plus price tag. The most expensive car I’d purchased at that point in my life was a $27,000 Honda Odyssey minivan. BUT…I grew up after the original muscle car era, and I always hated hearing old guys talk about Hemi ‘Cudas and LS6 454 Chevelles: “Yeah, I remember when those cars were new and I really wanted one…but I never got around to it. Oh well.” Looking at the GT40 Concept, now set for production, I realized, “This is the Hemi ‘Cuda of my generation. Do I want to be one of those old guys 20 years from now, talking about how ‘I could have bought one…but never got around to it…'”

Ford GT40 concept in clay modeling

Ford GT40 concept in clay modeling (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

After 24 hours of internal struggle I contacted Ford’s West Coast PR manager, John Clinard, and told him I wanted to “get on whatever list was forming for the new Ford GT40 sports car” (everyone still thought it would be called the “GT40” at the time, but we’ll cover that in another post). John told me to write him a letter explaining why I wanted the car and what I planned to do if I got one. I really wish I could find that letter, but it was over 14 years ago, and even my pack-rat ways apparently didn’t save it (trust me, I looked). I faintly remember referencing my history of driving muscle cars, and having two older brothers that were grease monkeys, giving me the car bug long before I was old enough to drive.

Ford GT40 Concept & original GT40

Ford GT40 concept & original GT40 (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company)

I can’t really use suspense to hook you on whether or not I was able to get a 2005 Ford GT, but the journey was just beginning in March of 2002, with plenty of twists and turns ahead…