Well, the new Ford GT just got about a hundred times cooler. It turns out that the new mid-engine supercar was made to avenge the death of ‘Project Silver,’ a quarter-million dollar Mustang race car that was canceled before it saw the light of day.
This unbelievably vengeful origin story comes straight from the mouth of the guy who oversaw the new Ford GT program, Raj Nair. At the SAE International’s WCX conference in Detroit yesterday, Nair recounted how he initially supported the Mustang as the car Ford would use to take on Le Mans, but his superiors killed the program.
It was called Project Silver after the Lone Ranger’s horse, and would have had some $250,000 in mechanical and aerodynamic modifications for it to win the GT class at Le Mans. Even a homologation special—that is, a road-going version of the race car that you could buy—was in the cards, as Peter DeLorenzo of Auto Extremist wrote in June last year:
Ford’s product development chief, Raj Nair, identified and assembled the most talented engineers, designers, vehicle dynamic experts and aerodynamic specialists within the company and put them on the project. And outside racing partners, including Multimatic – the longtime Canadian company that had done engineering work and prepared racing Mustangs for Ford - were brought in to help evaluate the program.
This was a significant effort within the company, with many of the people involved adding the project to their normal workloads. But in the end, in order to make the Mustang competitive, it was determined that a wildly expensive “homologation special” would have to be created, and though it would have been by far the most radical and compelling Mustang ever built – complete with carbon fiber passenger cell – the project ground to a halt at the very last “go/no go” meeting in Mark Fields’ office. The bottom line? It was too expensive and some of the Ford regional executives weren’t keen on the financial contributions that would be required of them.
This did not sit well with Nair, as Automotive News reports:
“To be candid, I still wanted to do it. I was actually a little bit mad … in fact, I was really mad.”
So Nair started up the Ford GT program in secret, without approval of his bosses, in a basement warehouse at Ford’s Product Development Center. Nair and his team ultimately decided on the name ‘Project Phoenix.’ We knew that name before, but we didn’t know its backstory, that the GT very much rose from the ashes of its Mustang predecessor.
How Nair finally revealed the Ford GT to his superiors who killed Project Silver is, well, it’s delicious, as AN reports:
Nair eventually took each of the executives who had rejected the Mustang project down to the secret room, in the corner of Ford’s Dearborn product development center, where the car was being developed and convinced them that the company could not only build a new GT but create a racer that would win Le Mans.
I like to imagine that Nair whispered in each executive’s ear as they first saw the new GT, “yes....you thought you could destroy me....I welcome you.....to my masterpiece.”