A Ford supercar may be a rare sight, but in the Nineties and Noughties they were all over the motor show circuit.
While GM has the Corvette and Chrysler the Viper, Ford’s sportscar lineup starts and ends with the Mustang in its many iterations. That doesn’t mean that the Blue Oval hasn’t toyed with the idea of making a higher-end sportscar, though. In fact it even made one not so long ago with the Ford GT, and it was quite the stunner, too. But in the years before that retro supercar hit the market, Ford designed a number of sportscar concepts. Here are five of our favorites.
Our journey starts with the Mach III concept that debuted at the 1993 Detroit Auto Show. Technically it was a Mustang concept, and its styling foreshadowed the jellybean Mustang that followed. But its design was something else. Though the Mach III shared its 4.6-liter V8 (albeit supercharged) with the production Mustang that followed, and its essential front-engine/rear-drive configuration, the shape was that of a speedster. It had a chopped-down windscreen and a waterfall rear cowling that made it stand out, but never made it off the show stand. At least not as it appeared.
Ford made an even bigger splash at the same show a couple of years later with the GT90 concept. Envisioned as a space-age successor to the original GT40, the GT90 packed a quad-turbo V12 with 720 horsepower that was said to be capable of propelling the aluminum monocoque, carbon-bodied show car up to 235 mph. To build it, Ford cannibalized components from the Jaguar XJ220 and Frankensteined the engine from a pair of V8s. The result would have rivaled the Bugatti EB110 and McLaren F1 of its day, if only Dearborn had produced it. Instead it waited almost a decade and went retro with the Ford GT.
If the GT90 looked radical, the Indigo that followed was even more so. While other automakers were preoccupied trying to make an F1 car for the road, the Indigo was designed as roadgoing interpretation of an Indy racer. The radical roadster body (developed with Reynard) packed a 6.0-liter V12 made by Cosworth from two Duratec V6s you might find in a Taurus, and would form the basis of the engine that powers most Aston Martins still today. Of course the design was far too extreme to be built – especially by a mainstream automaker like Ford – but goes down in history as one of the most tempting concepts the Blue Oval has ever created.
With Carroll Shelby back at Ford, the team reinterpreted the legendary Cobra with a roadster concept. But instead of a big-block V8, the 2004 Ford Shelby Cobra took inspiration from another modern Cobra successor – the Dodge Viper – and packed a 6.4-liter V10 with 645 horsepower. The chassis was borrowed from the Ford GT, which by that time was already in (limited) production, but obviously heavily modified for a front-engine/rear-drive layout and smaller proportions. The concept appeared at the 2004 Detroit show, but of course never made production.
Ford wasn’t done playing retro though, and the following year unveiled the Shelby GR-1 concept. This time the inspiration was drawn from the Shelby Daytona, based on the same chassis and 6.4-liter V10 as the previous year’s Cobra concept. It debuted at the 2005 Detroit show in a matte brushed metal finish, but was later chromed to reappear at other shows like Chicago. An interesting bit of trivia is that the design was lead by Henrik Fisker, the same designer who penned the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and DB9, BMW Z8 roadster and of course the Fisker Karma.