DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. originally proposed making its racing return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Mustang, not a GT.
Prior to the company's decision to secretly build the Ford GT supercar to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Blue Oval’s victory in the famed French race over Ferrari, Raj Nair, head of global product development at Ford, said company officials first conducted studies to develop a Mustang to compete in the race.
Nair, who also is Ford's chief technology officer, said the Mustang racer -- code-named “Project Silver,” after the Lone Ranger’s horse -- was rejected by company executives because of the price tag -- $250,000 or more in modifications for each racer, as well as aerodynamics and concerns Le Mans did not align with Mustang’s values and heritage, among other things.
“It was all good learning, but it turns out not to be the right fit. Ultimately, Mustang does not need Le Mans to be a global car,” Nair told hundreds of engineers and others in attendance at the SAE International's WCX conference on Wednesday in Detroit. “To be candid, I still wanted to do it. I was actually a little bit mad … in fact, I was really mad.”
Nair said he felt the company was “underestimating the importance of the 50th anniversary” of when Henry Ford II and Carroll Shelby created a team that beat vaunted rival Ferrari and finished 1-2-3.