In between Ford's 2003-2006 GT supercar and the original 1964-1969 GT40 race car upon which it was based, one rude, asynchronous concept car stands out from the historical record like a pop-up dragon misplaced in the middle of a child's book of bedtime stories. The GT90 concept car, launched at the Detroit auto show in January 1995, was an angular departure from the flowing, Italian-girlfriend lines of the original GT40, creating instead a look that Ford unimaginatively described as "New Edge." The original 1960s GT40 -- duly named for its low height of just 40 inches -- was an icon and a star. Ford created the car with one purpose: To beat Ferrari in long-distance sports car racing. A bold mission, but it worked, and the GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four years in a row from 1966-1969. Featuring big V8s instead of the high-revving Ferrari V12s of the time, the GT40 created a stir back home where a street-legal production model was released in limited numbers to cover homologation rules saying cars that raced in the GT class had to be sold to the public.
In keeping with the original's prowess, engine power was, to put it mildly, significant. A 48-valve V12, aided in no small part by four Garrett turbochargers, meant a claimed output of 720 horsepower. Top speed was breathlessly reported as 253 mph, exactly the same as today's million-dollar Bugatti Veyron. Engineers mined much from the corporate cousin Jaguar XJ220 supercar, including the five-speed gearbox and suspension architecture. Upon its debut, Ford called the GT90 the "mightiest supercar."
With a rumored $3 million budget and the knowledge that the GT90's high-speed claims would never really be tested, designers peppered the concept with auto-show-only features. Tires featured custom treads with GT90 carved into a repeating pattern (think: Louis Vuitton). A rather large remote control operated not only the locks, but the windows, lights and doors as well. Surely, it was a futuristic "carpet queen," the kind of car that automakers use to test reactions to technologies as opposed giving notice of their availability.
Fans were patiently rewarded some seven years later when the new Ford GT launched as a concept in 2002, though it looked nothing like the GT90. The new car was conceived in the image of the original, with a flowing, retro design and a supercharged V8. Another public outcry of support brought the concept to production, with Ford putting the GT on sale in 2003 for four model years.
While elements of the GT90 concept were nowhere to be found on the GT, it's likely the production model wouldn't have been possible without the support, both internal and among consumers, that was reignited in the 1990s and carried through into the new millennium.