THE star of the 2015 Detroit motor show – the Ford GT concept that has already been slated for production – was designed by an Australian as part of a top-secret project held back from all but those close to the 12-month project.
The look of the radical two-seater, V6-powered supercar – designed to take on Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini, and a direct rival to the next-gen, Holden Ute-skinned Chevrolet Corvette already under development – was created by Ford’s Australian-based Asia-Pacific design boss Todd Willing.
The Ford GT, a modern day interpretation of the GT40 made famous at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, was completed by a skunkworks team working in a dedicated studio at the company’s Dearborn head office in Detroit.
“We decided to do it quickly, decided to do it quietly and decided to do it without interference,” said Ford’s global design head Moray Callum, who praised the Australian-based design team.
Callum said the GT was sketched by Willing, a native Tasmanian who was based in Detroit for two years before moving back to Australia in July 2014.
“He initiated it; he was one of the managers that started it. Todd was the chief designer on it before he went to Australia,” Callum said.
Willing said he could not even tell Ford Australia president Bob Graziano of the GT project, such was the secrecy surrounding the car that is now the star of the Detroit show.
“Because it was a very secretive program, we had a very select group of designers; it wasn’t an open exercise and we did it in a studio removed from the main activity,” Willing said.
“We had teams from design, engineering, from marketing that knew, but a very small number of people, a very nimble team. Certainly we were reminded regularly of the importance of maintaining security.”
Unlike previous GTs, which were powered by V8 engines, the new one – – which will be more expensive and exclusive than previous iterations when it arrives US and European dealerships – uses a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 producing about 450kW.
“It’s a dream; it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to be involved on such a project,” Willing told Wheels.
“It’s easy to make something like this look dramatic and exciting… it’s like a shooting a penalty without a keeper, you can make it look pretty good.”
He said the experience gleaned from the Ford GT project would help him in his current role, focusing on the Asia-Pacific region but designing global cars for the Ford world.
“Working on a project like this, it’s so advanced, the concept, the materials, it really allows a lot of flexibility and what you can do with the design when it’s constructed in this way, so that was a very new experience.”
The Ford GT prototype on display in Detroit is said to be “95 per cent” production ready.
Australians shaped at least three of the key show cars at the Detroit show; General Motors showed its Buick Avenir and Chevrolet Bolt concepts, each of which was a product of Holden’s Melbourne-based design studio.