We were at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show when it was unveiled and alongside the new Raptor and Shelby and then they dropped this supercar on us. My question is this: How do you build and design a car as iconic as the 2017 Ford GT inside a company with hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide and no one knows about it?
We’re going to try to answer that question as well as what inspired the design.
Nick Nicoghosian, Exterior Design Manager for the 2017 Ford GT production car was asked how he and his team of designers at Ford Motor Company were able to keep the secret so long and sneak it in to Detroit.
“We’re a small team of hard-working individuals in a skunkworks-type professional environment and we were very dedicated to keeping the secret. We definitely felt the need to suppress any desire to talk about it. It wasn’t easy but the team got the message early on and stuck with it.” said Nick Nicoghosian.
Q. Regarding the design, the first thing you notice is it’s longer, feels like it’s been stretched and is now more sleek. Was that done on purpose?
A. The car is driven heavily by three things: Aerodynamic efficiency, its light weight, and the packaging of the Ford EcoBoost engine. The length you mention is as a direct result of us optimizing the aerodynamics. It needed more length in the back especially. Believe it or not, dimensionally the car is very close to the 200 Ford GT but we did make the back just a bit longer, making it more efficient from an aerodynamic perspective. And what’s amazing is that instead of hurting the design, we embraced it and worked well with it. A host of other things happened as a result of the aero as well. For instance, we designed the entire car around what we considered a very organized shape within the wind tunnel, with both CFD (Computational fluid dynamics) as well as a scale tunnel test.
Q. Automotive designers are known for having inspiration while designing cars. What did you have hanging on the wall when you were designing the 2017 Ford GT?
A. Well, we were taking care of the Ford GT so motivation and inspiration came easily. There was an overwhelming push to make sure that the final car was worthy of that badge. We realize that we’re just the caretakers of it for now, in this current generation. But the brand, the icon, that’ll live past our careers as designers. We just really wanted to treat it with the respect it deserved and leave something worthwhile to those who come next so that it’s looked up with the same admiration as the other two cars and that’s a pretty tall order to fill!
Q. One of the hallmarks of the 2017 Ford GT are the two flying buttresses. Are those air intakes actually functional?
A. Absolutely. Those intakes are not just something that visually ties the design together. The line on the flying buttress is actually a pretty traditional GT line. It starts at the windshield header and as it makes its way around the side glass it turns into the buttress and eventually defines the side scoops. Mechanically, it houses the compressor’s cooled, charged air. It’s the shortest path to the intake manifold. It’s not just pretty; its definitely a feature that was aerodynamically designed very well and has a critical mechanical function too.
Q. In this generation of the Ford GT you’re using all sorts of lightweight materials. Did that affect the shape and design of the car as well.
A. Certainly, it did! The car’s carbon fiber throughout; it’s got a carbon fiber tub and bodywork and that afforded us some very interesting opportunities. As you know, you can bend and shape carbon fiber in a much more forgiving manner than standard stamped metal parts. So if you look at some of the sculpture and sections of the car, much of it is only possible because we’re using carbon fiber materials.
Q. Personally, what’s your favorite part of the design of the 2017 Ford GT?
A. I’d have to say the cohesiveness of it; that it came together so well as a bunch of different ideas and yet in the end manages so well to look like the iconic GT, delivered so well on performing exceptionally well aerodynamically and is so easy on the eyes!
Q. You realize this design is going to be on a lot of car posters on walls, don’t you?
A. Yes and that was a big inspiration and motivating force for us to reflect on the passion and that this will inspire a bunch of kids to love Ford sports cars.
Q. At the 2016 Detroit Auto Show unveiling you had the Ford Blue. Which color do we see here today?
A. This is Liquid Silver. It possesses a very velvety feel, it reacts differently to the light and it virtually sings in the natural outside ambient light.
Q. We were talking to Kia Lead Designer Peter Schreyer and asked him what his favorite car was at the show and he said it’s impossible to say until you see these cars on the street in their natural environment. Do you agree?
A. He certainly has a point. Many times certain brands of cars aren’t done justice by the press shots and I’d have to say the same is true of the 2017 Ford GT. You have to see it in person to embrace the overall volume and the body sections. But that said, we think we might win a few people over with photos and pictures as well.
Q. So, have you driven this car yet?
A. No, actually I haven’t! The car is still in the development process and eventually that sort of thing gets trickled down to guys like me in the Ford Design Department but for now the initial stages of driving the car are reserved for professional drivers and their high-level input from executives. Not to mention that it’s still wet and cold and snowy outside. So, more to come in the future in regards to actually driving this new car!
Q. Are you still playing with available color options of the 2017 Ford GT?
A. Yes, we are. The car will be available in a host of color options and we’re finding it very interesting to play with stripes and color schemes and try out a bunch of different combinations.
Q. And no Gurney bubble?
A. No, no Gurney bump. I’m not sure the automotive safety stewards would be appreciative of the driver’s head being higher than the bodywork but that’s simply speculation on my part. In all seriousness, everything on this car is necessary and as much as we’d like to pay homage to that feature, it would simply have been gimmicky to do it this time around. We didn’t add a single thing just because it looked cool. Nothing is forced onto the car for styling alone.
Q. How much did the six-cylinder engine have on the design of the car?
A. It did allow us to shrink the bodywork around the engine. It’s a tight little engine and if you look at the fuselage of the car, the main body shape, you’ll realize that it hugs what it needs to, just barely. It hugs the cabin and right behind that it hugs the engine and as it tapers back toward the tailpipes its hugging the transmission. So ultimately that allows us to have the crazy shapes we have on this car. By comparison the Ford EcoBoost engine is tiny and it offered us a significant aerodynamic advantage.
Q. Now, how does the seat work? It’s fixed?
A. Yes, it is. The seat is fixed and the steering well and peddles come to the driver. It allowed us to accommodate as many shapes and sizes of drivers as possible.
Q. I’ve heard from drivers of previous-generation Ford GT models that the tires required “warming up” or it was like driving on ice. Does that remain true with the 2017 model?
A. We offer stability control and traction control in this car, which can be disabled by the driver. One of the great things about the 2005 model was that it was an analog supercar.
Q. Ford doesn’t build hypercars like Lamborghini Reventon, Ferrari FXX Enzo, Koenigsegg or Pagani Huayra or McLaren P1. Could the 2017 Ford GT hold its own going head-to-head against something like a Porsche 918?
A. While it’s difficult to speculate on performance versus the landscape of the modern hypercar, we certainly didn’t build this car to come in last. We feel strongly that this car embodies the spirit of innovation at Ford and we’re very proud of the 2017 Ford GT.