19 August 2004

Ford has unveiled a 650bhp V10 retro supercar concept, tipped to replace the Ford GT when production ends in 2006. The Ford Shelby GR-1 – short for Group Racer 1 – is a re-bodied, fastback version of the brutish Shelby Cobra concept roadster that made its debut at last January’s Detroit Motor Show (right).

Like the Cobra, the GR-1 uses an alloy spaceframe, with components from the mid-engined GT adapted to a front-engine, rear-drive layout. Instead of adapting the GT’s supercharged 5.4-litre V8, however, the GR-1 shares the Shelby Cobra’s thundering 6.4-litre modular V10.

The low-slung GR-1 was designed by Greek-born George Saridakis, a former London Royal College of Art student who now works at Ford’s Advanced Design studio in Irvine, California.

Unlike the Cobra concept, which gave a modern interpretation of the classic ’60s Cobra muscle car, the GR-1 takes its cues from ’70s Italian supercars. It features a long, sculpted bonnet, low, teardrop-shaped cabin and cut-off tail. Gullwing doors set well into the roof ease entry to the two-seat cockpit.

The front is dominated by a gaping aperture and air-flow splitter that directs cooling air into the engine bay and wheelarches. The bonnet vents act as an exhaust for hot air from the radiator.

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According to J Mays, Ford’s global design chief, work started on the GR-1 by developing a second chassis before the Shelby Cobra concept was unveiled in January. While Ford execs hinted strongly at Detroit that the Cobra would get the green light for low-volume production, it’s believed they’ve now dropped any plans after the unenthusiastic response the concept received from showgoers.

Mays hinted at that decision when he downplayed the Cobra by calling it a ‘small step’ in Ford’s new-model plans. ‘The Ford Shelby Cobra concept was a small step in our plans for the Ford GT supercar architecture,’ said Mays. ‘The Ford Shelby GR-1 is a giant leap towards the future.’

Ford will be eager to get feedback on the GR-1 – which was one of the reasons Mays chose to unveil the car at last weekend’s heavily attended Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California.

With the first Ford GTs being delivered to customers this month, Ford is already looking ahead to a possible replacement when the last of the 4500 GTs is completed in 2006. The sleek GR-1 could be that car.

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