You won't find Ford in a major open-wheel racing series in America today, but the company's support for Indy-style racing has a provenance as impressive as any manufacturer. Jim Clark's Indianapolis 500 win in 1965 (the first for a car with an engine behind the driver) might be Ford's most famous open-wheeled win, but even as recently as a few years ago the company was supporting CART (aka Champ Car, which is now defunct) and telling the world about it. Back in the 1990s, the company had engineers working night and day to make go-fast stuff for high-speed ovals and road courses, so it wasn't too much of a surprise when Ford debuted the Indigo concept in 1996, a two-seater dripping with bits from the company's Indy racing parts bin. But it was no less startling. Ford fans and foes alike wondered if the company would begin to sell a street-legal version for public consumption.

Perhaps most exciting was that the Indigo ("Indy, go!" -- yeah, it's okay to wince a little bit) was more than just an exotic shell made for the auto show stage. The carbon-fiber tub and classic race car architecture -- the engine, in the rear, was an integrated part of the chassis structure as opposed to simply sitting inside of it -- had similarly authentic numbers to boot.

The 48-valve, 6.0-liter V12 (two Ford Duratec V6 engines from the Ford Taurus joined together) outputted 435 hp, giving Ford's public relations department the opportunity to espouse 170 mph top speeds and sub-four-second 0-60 times in the 2300-lbs concept's press materials. A six-speed racing gearbox and pizza-sized Brembo discs at all four corners completed the assignment: this was a real, honest race car for the street.

The mirror- and bumper-mounted lights (real Indy cars don't have onboard lights) were a carefully constructed design solution to maintain the racing theme, while the full LCD display and scissor doors levied an unfortunate dose of mid 90s sleazetech upon the whole operation. This was a concept from the Lewinsky era.

Two Indigos were built -- one pure design exercise and another drivable demonstration unit -- but the program did not come to fruition despite hints to the contrary. Motor Trend wrote at the time that "high-level insiders at Ford looked [us] in the eye and told [us that] the company may produce a very limited number (200-300 per year) of these low-slung blacktop blasters." While Indigo never went into production, some of the thinking that went into the V12 engine produced for the concept ended up in various Aston Martin production vehicles (which Ford owned until 2007).

Like the GT90 we covered last week, these hot V12 concepts from Ford simply kept the embers warm until the company prepared the introduction of the GT supercar in 2003.

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