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Monday, November 13, 2023

Ford GN34 was a strategic Ford's pawn to kick out Ferrari of the stage back in 1980's

Rivalry Continues - Have you ever been captivated by the on-screen rivalry between Ford and Ferrari in the "Ford vs Ferrari" movie? Well, that competition wasn't confined to the Le Mans racetrack; it extended into a secret chapter of automotive history. 
The Ford GN34 was a mid-engine prototype developed in partnership with Yamaha and built in Italy by Ghia in 1985. (Picture from: WeirdWheel)
As told by former Ford employee Steve Saxty, in his book "Secret Fords Volume Two," unveils the tale of the Ford GN34 project—a hidden endeavor to surpass Ferrari in the production car market. This covert initiative, born in 1985, aimed to create a mid-engine coupe for the masses, marking an intriguing episode in the world of automotive competition.
The Ford GN34 was a mid-engine prototype developed in partnership with Yamaha and built in Italy by Ghia in 1985. (Picture from: CarVaganza)
Steve Saxty, with experience in Ford's European design offices during the 1980s, provides insights into the inner workings of Ford's design and development programs from the 1970s and 1980s. Within his latest book, Saxty not only shares the GN34 narrative but also explores the development of iconic models like the first Focus, Escort Cosworth, and other discontinued Ford projects, such as the original Pontiac Fiero and Acura NSX.
The Ford GN34 featuring a mid-mounted 3.0L SHO V6 engine co-developed by Ford and Yamaha to power all-wheels. (Picture from: WeirdWheel)
The GN34 project, fueled by enthusiasts within Ford, sought to create a sports car challenging Ferrari. Despite initial resistance, the team, led by Ron Muccioli and Tom Scott, found support from Michael Kranefuss at Ford's motorsport division. The project targeted the lucrative G-segment market, competing with Corvette and Porsche.
Ghia's sleek, Ferrari-inspired proposal unsurprisingly gained widespread approval, ultimately becoming the chosen design for the Ford GN34 prototype. (Picture from: MotorTrend)
In the G-segment, Ford aimed at sports cars priced between $50,000 and $60,000, including models from Toyota MR2 to Lamborghini Countach. Overcoming challenges, the team gained the freedom to design and engineer the envisioned mid-engine coupe, setting Ferrari's 328 as their benchmark.
One of the Pantera-based Ford GN34s crafted by Jack Roush Engineering, employed as a 'test mule,' and powered by a Yamaha's 3-liter 'Super High Output' V6 drivetrain. (Picture from: WhichCar)
Initial attempts to partner with Lotus and Mazda fell through, leading Ford to develop an original mid-engine chassis. Bureaucratic hurdles and a shift from Ferrari to BMW as the benchmark paved the way for the Yamaha V6 SHO engine.
One of the Pantera-based Ford GN34s built by Jack Roush Engineering, employed as a 'test mule,' and powered by a tuned Windsor small-block V8 engine. (Picture from: ClassicAndSportsCar)
Collaboration with Italdesign became pivotal, with the presentation of the mid-engine concept car named Ford Maya Concept. This collaboration provided a European touch, alleviating potential negative perceptions. Ghia, Ford's Italian design studio, took over the styling, creating a sleek design.
1984 Ford Maya Concept by Italdesign intended to test the waters for a two-seater sports car with a targa top for the U.S. and debuted at the 1984 Turin Motor Show. (Picture from: Motor1)
The GN34 underwent evaluation in California, receiving praise from Ferrari and Porsche customers who couldn't believe it was a Ford. The GN34 appeared as luxurious as a Ferrari, challenging perceptions and expectations.
The 1985 Ford Maya II ES was Italdesign's second iteration featuring a Giugiaro’s Lotus Etna-inspired feel. (Picture from: Motor1)
The story extends to the use of a first-generation EXP as an early "test mule" for the 3.0 L SHO V6 engine, co-developed by Ford and Yamaha. These EXP-based test mules, with variations including RWD and AWD models, showcased the potential of the Yamaha V6, leading to the introduction of the Ford Taurus SHO sports sedan.
The 1985 Ford Maya II ES was Italdesign's second iteration before Ghia took over the styling, and creating a sleek design. (Picture from: Motor1)
Unfortunately, the GN34 project faced an abrupt end with Bob Lutz's arrival, shifting priorities towards the Ford Bronco. This decision halted the GN34, making way for the Ford Explorer. What a tragically end isn't..?
In retrospect, the Ford GN34 remains a fascinating, unrealized chapter in Ford's pursuit of automotive excellence and competition with Ferrari. While the project didn't materialize, its story reflects the dynamic nature of the automotive industry, where ambitious projects may yield to pragmatic considerations. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | STEVESAXTY | CLASSICANDSPORTSCAR | THEDRIVE | MOTORTREND | CARROZZIERI-ITALIANA | WHICHCAR | MOTOR1 ]
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