Concept Cars that time forgot: Ford GT90

Ford GT90 Concept

In 1995, at the Detroit Motor Show Ford revealed the quad-turbocharged V12-engined GT90 and the plan was it would be built as the spiritual successor to the GT40. It wasn’t.

The Ford GT90 was bonkers. And still is. Built in secret by a team of Ford engineers it took just six months to go from thought bubble one afternoon at the pub to working prototype.

To get the thing up and running so quick required some lateral thinking on Ford’s behalf (read: parts bin rummaging). Given Ford was running Jaguar Land Rover at the time and Jaguar had the stunning XJ220, Ford’s engineers borrowed bits of that thing to get started with the GT90.

Indeed, the monocoque chassis was a lengthened version of the one in the Jag, the suspension was used too, as was the gearbox. But the engine, well, that deserves a story all to itself.

See, the V12 in the GT90 wasn’t developed with that car in mind at all. Rather it was built again, in secret, to see how far Ford’s modular engine series could be pushed. So, engineers grabbed two V8s and turned them into V6s and then welded them together to make a V12. It was dropped into a Lincoln Town Car to prove the concept would run. It did.

The man in charge of the GT90 project heard about this Franken-engine and reckoned it would be perfect for the GT90 only there was a catch. It wasn’t powerful enough making around 400hp on the dyno.

Given the engine was already a bonkers engineering job, someone suggested turbocharging the thing, but one turbo would never do…so the engineers bolted four onto the thing to achieve a suggested 720hp (537kW and 895Nm) although engineers at the time reckoned 900hp would have been easily achieved.

To keep the exhaust from melting the car, Ford grabbed a bunch of ceramic tiles (the same type used on space shuttles) as insulation. The body was carbon fibre and while the interior was fitted with bits and bobs like air-conditioning, it was all just for show.

Boasting Ford’s ‘New Edge’ design language, the GT90 was both homage to the Le Mans winning GT40 but also its own vehicle rooted in the 1990s. Like the GT40, the GT90 boasted a cab-forward stance, large windscreen, doors that cut into the roofline and slim-line modern looking headlights. And the central-mounted tailpipes borrowed from the GT40 too. The best example of the New Edge design language was the Ford Puma.

So, all in all, the GT90, which took six months to develop and cost USD$3 million was looking promising as a potential Ford hypercar. It received rave reviews as it did the motor show circuit in 1995 but Ford decided against further development. And it wouldn’t be until 2002 when the Blue Oval trundled out its GT40 Concept in 2002 which resulted in the Ford GT production car in 2005.

But wait, there’s more…see, Ford let Mr Motormouth, Jeremy Clarkson get behind the wheel of the GT90 and we’ve dug up the clip from the bowels of the Interweb. He raved about it in the segment, even though the turbos weren’t connected. But he later went on to say that it was one of the worst cars he’d ever driven, although that was all build-up the announcement that he’d bought a Ford GT. Anyway, watch the clip below and revel in Jezzer’s big hair.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.