How the Ford Shelby GR-1 Works


Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

It was 1962 when former race car driver Carroll Shelby first dropped an American Ford V8 engine into a lightweight European car, creating the first Shelby Cobra. More than 40 years later, Shelby and Ford have joined forces once again to create the Ford Shelby GR-1.

Based on the chassis and suspension of the production Ford GT, the GR-1 (Group Racing 1) is a visual throwback to the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, but it packs a modern punch with more than 600 horsepower.

In this article, we'll look beneath the GR-1's gleaming aluminum body, learn why Carroll Shelby makes some of the best cars in the world and find out if Ford could actually make a production GR-1 available to the public.

A Nod to the Past

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

In 2004, Ford unveiled the Ford Shelby Cobra concept car, a futuristic, minimalist roadster that followed the Shelby formula -- put a big engine in a small, lightweight car. A year later, Ford unveiled the Shelby GR-1.

A distinctive aluminum body covers the GR-1's smooth, aggressive shape. The design is very reminiscent of the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, a car Shelby designed as a faster, more aerodynamic version of his already successful Cobra roadsters.

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

Ford was able to create a working prototype of the GR-1 in a short amount of time because it is based on the chassis of the Ford GT. The suspension, steering and braking systems also come straight from the GT. In fact, it took only six months from the initial design sketch to the unveiling of a mockup with a fiberglass body, and it was just a few more months until they had a fully operational prototype. That commonality of parts also means there's a decent chance the GR-1 could become a production model.

Next, we'll see how the GR-1 was designed and created.

Under the Hood

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

The GR-1 has much more than nostalgia and a pretty face going for it. An aluminum-block, 6.4-liter V10 engine is under the hood, cranking out 605 horsepower at 6,750 rpm and 501 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm. That's enough power to hit 60 mph in under four seconds. Plus, the GR-1 accomplishes all this without turbocharging or supercharging.

The engine isn't mounted behind the driver's head the way it is in many high-performance cars. This is a more traditional front-engine design, created in part to fit the designer's idea for the car's shape. The transmission, a six-speed transaxle, is mounted in the rear to provide better weight distribution. This is another piece lifted directly from the GT.

Six-speed manual transmission Six-speed manual transmission
Six-speed manual transmission
Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

The GR-1 also features a limited-slip differential and rear-wheel drive. An electronic limiter keeps the vehicle's top speed well under 200 mph -- a speed it could easily top if left unrestrained.

Specifications

  • Engine: 6.4-liter V10 aluminum block engine w/ dry sump
  • Horsepower: 605 hp at 6,750 rpm
  • Torque: 501 ft-lbs torque at 5,550 rpm
  • Transmission: Ricardo six-speed manual transaxle
  • Brakes: Brembo discs with four-piston monoblock calipers (14-inch front, 13.2-inch rear)
  • Tires: Front: 275/40R-19 Goodyear Tire IQ; Rear: 345/35R-19 Goodyear Tire IQ
  • Suspension, front and rear: Unequal A-Arms, control arms, coil springs, monotube dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Curb weight: 3,900 pounds (1,770 kg)
  • Length: 173.7 inches (441.3 cm)
  • Width: 74.6 inches (183.4 cm)
  • Height: 46.0 inches (116.8 cm)
  • Wheelbase: 100 inches (254 cm)

Interior Design

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company
Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

Climbing into the GR-1 through the forward-and-upward swinging butterfly doors, the interior reveals a race-ready design.

The seats are carbon shells equipped with racing-style harnesses. All the instruments in the panel behind the steering wheel are analogue, a sign of the GR-1's 1960s heritage.

A digital speedometer reveals the car's modern pedigree, however, and a closer look shows there is plenty of gadgetry in the dash. The stereo can play MP3s and can record and playback, ostensibly so drivers can record notes about the track while they take practice laps. Noise-dampening frequencies give the GR-1 a quiet street ride.

Mounted in the center of the dash is the Tire IQ display. Sensors in the tires and a built-in accelerometer measure tire temperature and pressure, as well as cornering and braking g-forces, all of which is relayed to the driver and passenger in real-time.

Creating the GR-1

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

In many cases, cars are designed starting with the frame or the engine, and once the internal components are completed, the body is shaped around it. This is one reason so many of today's supercars look similar -- they tend to conform to the body shape required of a mid-engine-design, aerodynamically stable vehicle.

The Ford Shelby GR-1 is a supercar in a league of its own. The design for the car started with a single sketch by Ford designer George Saridakis. "George produced this completely resolved sketch, the best I've seen in 10 years," said J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice president of design. "This is a designer so masterful at visualizing every aspect of the car and its story that it literally flowed out of his pen." Ford also sidestepped another common aspect of supercar design -- high-technology. Yes, the GR-1 is modern, but it doesn't incorporate any experimental technologies in the mechanical systems. Instead, the car relies on Shelby's simpler vision of high-performance: putting a lot of high-quality parts in a well-designed car. It's still incredibly sophisticated and advanced, but with so much of the car coming from the Ford GT, the designers didn't have to go out on any limbs for the GR-1.

Like all concept cars, the GR-1's main goal in life is to lend prestige to the manufacturer. However, if the GR-1 goes into production, it could have a much livelier future. GR-1 stands for Group Racing 1, and that harkens back to the great Shelby cars of the 1960s, which dominated the American road racing circuit and gave Ferrari a serious challenge in the European series. It's possible we could see a GR-1 tearing up the Daytona track in the next few years.

Production Possibilities

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company

Will the people at Ford produce the GR-1? There are signs that they might. First, they created a working car, not just a showroom mockup. Second, with so much of the GR-1 built around parts from the GT, a large percentage of the car is already what the engineers call "production feasible." When the GT concept was given the go-ahead in 2002 to go into production, only five percent of it was production feasible. There could be some changes in a production model GR-1, such as the V10 giving way to a V8, which would be cheaper and easier to produce. Ford hasn't offered a narrow price range, but it's estimated that the cost would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Finally, there are rumors that the GT, currently the jewel in Ford's high-performance crown, could be taken out of production in 2007. As Autoweek points out, that gives Ford plenty of time to bring the GR-1 down the production pipeline, thus maintaining their presence in the world of high-performance cars.

For more information on the Ford GR-1 and other concept cars, check out the links on the next page.

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