Deep in the bowels of Ford’s Product and Development Center in Dearborn, Michigan, there’s a room that no security pass will grant you access to.
Not that you’d ever know to try. The room is at the end of a corridor about four flights of stairs underground. It’s the kind of room that only caretakers and security guards would ever walk past: unused and almost forgotten for years.
For the past two years, though, that room has been home to one of the most top-secret projects in Ford’s history: the new GT. Created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the GT40’s first Le Mans victory, the new supercar’s launch at the 2015 Detroit motor show was so secret that it came as a surprise even to most of Ford’s staff, including some top executives.
At the time, those involved in the project spoke about the secret room in which they created the car. Now, a year on, its secrets are about to be revealed.
The room may sound like the creation of something for an Ian Fleming novel, but in this instance life really does imitate art. The access corridor is lined with dusty storage racks for foam blocks that will be milled into prototype parts.
“There would be no reason to go down there,” says Ford’s Chris Svensson, design director for the Americas, “and it would be out of bounds for most people anyway.”
The room is accessible only by an old-school key, the digital touchpad beside it having been disabled. “It was very top secret,” adds Svensson, who has the key hanging around his neck. “Very few had access to the project, and no one was allowed to talk about it. Out of 600 or so designers here, 12 had access to the room. It’s not a beautiful place; it’s a grafting place. It’s a real basement studio: no windows, dirty, uncomfortable, floods when it rains… but it’s beautifully functional.”
Svensson was one of the few involved in the early stages of the project, which kicked off around 15 months before the GT’s 2015 Detroit debut. According to Jamal Hameedi, Ford Performance’s chief engineer, the goal was, in essence, the same as that of the 1960s GT40: to be a tour de force of the very best Ford design and technology in order to beat Ferrari at their own game. “And to take Ford back to Le Mans,” adds Hameedi.