It’s too easy nowadays for carmakers to push out design studies with ludicrous imaginary specs and absolutely zero chance of production. The kid in me, who grew up mesmerized by the otherworldly concept cars of the ’90s, is kind of into this trend. Meanwhile, cynical me is fatigued by the hypocrisy of incessant wishcasting from corporations that you just know would never, ever undertake any project so risky, bold or progressive.
These two halves of my psyche are currently embroiled in a shouting match over the Fordzilla P1 — a “virtual racecar” the Blue Oval announced in August that is now a real, tangible model (sans running gear, of course).
I have every reason to roll my eyes at the Fordzilla P1, like I do when most automakers trot out their meaningless Vision Gran Turismo projects. Ford flatly isn’t racing it, even though it looks like the perfect Le Mans hypercar. Its design was reportedly crowdsourced with “more than 250,000 votes from gamers” — a statement with disastrous implications, as gamers ruin everything. Even the car’s name, which was actually lifted from the moniker for Ford’s esports squad, is kind of silly.
As it turns out, the “gaming and social media community” decided on parameters like engine placement and canopy design, before feeding the list of requirements to Ford designers Arturo Ariño and Robert Engelmann.
And yet, all my whining immediately ends when I look at the outcome. Ariño and Engelmann haven’t just imagined a fake racecar that might wind up in a video game someday; they’ve penned a spiritual successor to Ford’s most ambitious and inspired supercar prototypes of the late ’90s.
I see so many references in the P1’s design. The way the slab-sided white body just ends midway through the rear axle reminds me of the washing machine-like Chaparral 2J. The exposed portion immediately behind the engine, where we see a mass of black plastic vents and aerodynamic devices, gives me Ford Indigo vibes. The wedge front and continuously curved glass over the cockpit calls to mind the Peugeot Quasar. And while I’m not seeing a ton of GT90 influence in the way the P1 looks, the very soul of that legendary concept radiates from this one, 25 years on.
The result is an elegant ode to racecars past and future, even if there’s no information to suggest the Fordzilla P1 was intended as such. Some of my colleagues think it looks more like a Nissan than a Ford. They question the badge placement, which the X-wing style divided wings and diffusers obscures; they also lament the lack of outward visibility. I don’t disagree with any of that, but then I also don’t care. This is a design study that rejects the overly fussy, flashy nature of current sports car design. It makes you happy to just look at, even if we’ll never actually get to see it move in the flesh — and perhaps that’s been the whole point all along.