- Name: Ford GT90
- Debut: 1995 Detroit Auto Show
- Engine: Quad-Turbocharged 6.0-litre V12
- Output: 720 bhp / 660 lb-ft
- Top Speed: 235 mph
As someone pushing 40, I will forever remember the Ford GT90 from the good old days of playing Need For Speed 2 SE. It is hands down one of the most captivating concept cars to ever carry the Blue Oval. Nearly 30 years later, the angular supercar still manages to capture the imagination of car lovers everywhere.
But why did this beautiful beast never make it to production? For that, we need to go back to the beginning.
Designed In Dearborn, Engineered In Coventry
The GT90 concept debuted at the 1995 Detroit Auto Show alongside another iconic Ford: the third-generation "jellybean" Taurus. But unlike the Taurus, the GT90 wasn’t an all-American effort.
Coming from an era when the Dearborn automaker owned Jaguar, the GT90 concept used the same chassis, double wishbone suspension, and Ricardo five-speed gearbox as the XJ220. All of that British engineering was packaged beneath a lightweight carbon fibre body that kept the final curb weight to just 1,451 kg.
The design, though, was all Dearborn. Although still inspired by the original GT40, designer James Hope had a different vision for the iconic sports car. The GT90 was one of the first examples of Ford’s "New Edge" design philosophy, which made its way to cars like the Mustang and the Focus in America. Ushering in the "New Edge" design language, the GT90 was described by Ford as "the world's mightiest supercar."
"[Ford] basically said we want a new direction, we want something fresh, new, and exciting,” Hope said on an episode of the Crown Unfiltered Car Design Podcast. “So I was doing all these stealth cars, and that was adapted as the direction. It all came together with this exciting push to do this new design language, this kind of stealthy, angular design language that no one was doing. It was completely alien."
The interior was even more aggressively angular. A violet-like blue covered the door panels, seats, and dash while an exposed manual gear linkage with two aluminium struts separated the driver and passenger. The centre console had a diamond design with a bevy of silver buttons. It looked a lot like a sci-fi novel writer’s vision of the future.
Even the engine was a bit of an alien concept. A mishmash of two modular V8 engines with four Garrett turbochargers slapped on, Ford developed the motor in secret under the bonnet of a Lincoln Town Car prototype. The end result was a ridiculous mid-mounted, quad-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12 with 720 bhp and 660 lb-ft of torque. And even Ford admits that it could have been more powerful; turning up the boost would've taken the twelve-cylinder mill to a whopping 900 bhp.
Revved up to 6,300 rpm, the GT90 could reach a theoretical top speed of 235 miles per hour, which would make it one of the fastest cars in the world at the time. Although, it was never officially tested by Ford. But that’s not to say that the GT90 was just an exceptionally pretty showpiece.
It Actually Drove (Slowly)
Ford actually built a semi-functional prototype of the GT90 and let a handful of very lucky journalists take it for a spin. Motor Trend's John McCormick and then-Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson were among the few who got to experience the thrill of the V12 beast. Being a concept, though, Ford didn’t fully unlock the 720 bhp on offer – instead, Clarkson and McCormick puttered around Michigan roads in a 400-bhp version with a top speed of around 40 mph. And neither journalist had great things to say.
"I actually drove this and it was horrid,” Clarkson remarked some years later. “It had a top speed of 40 and it handled like it was in a cartoon."
“The GT90 is anything but inviting,” McCormick noted in his review. “It disturbs your eyes with its charmless, hunchbacked stance and weird design mix of flat planes and triangular shapes.
When Motor Trend drove that one-off back in 1995, the GT90 was valued at $3 million, which would've been crazy money for any Ford. Even the most expensive Ford GT these days – the track-only Mk IV model – costs $1.4 million.
But then again, this wasn't just any Ford.
Where Is It Now?
Even though it was developed in just six months, the outcome will forever be stamped on our memory. The GT90 still looks spectacular to this day, and collectors everywhere would line up to get one. If you want to catch a glimpse of the lone GT90 concept, it’s currently on display at the Hajek Motorsports Museum in Ames, Oklahoma.