What Is Ford Performance?
Last Updated: August 28, 2020
Ever since the inception of Ford Motor Company in 1903, the company has pushed the lengths, boundaries, and limits of technology. For more than one hundred years, Ford has taken the impossible and made it possible. Henry Ford always said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." Since then, Ford has been pushing the boundaries on performance in automobiles. Furthermore, racing and competition in American automotive have been there since the beginning. As soon the first and second car rolled out of the factory in Detroit, it was happening all over.
All of these variables and characteristics helped Ford Motor Company on the premise it was founded on competition, innovation, motorsports, and American ingenuity. Pushing forward into the 1930s, Ford was the first to develop a new innovative design that would have Chevrolet and Dodge following in the man who started the American automotive industry from scratch. What Henry and Ford's engineers came up with was an entirely new way to think about engines in the form of the legendary flathead eight cylinder engine. Unlike previously developed powertrains, engineers went to work to create more power and efficiency to help potential the 32 Ford coupe into the first original hod-rod. It was moving forward to the 1960s, which would start an era of performance, unlike any other manufacturer to come.
During this time, Ford charged forward with a decade of motorsports and performance written into the history books for all-time. The 1960s was a time of rebellion in which Ford would create a single time to create the Ford GT MKII, Mustang, Shelby GT350, Shelby GT500, Gran Torino, Falcon, and Galaxy it was unlike any other decade for Ford Motor Company. It all led to creating Ford Motorsport, where it would oversee the creation of racing programs, performance vehicles, and engine development. These steps were the predecessor in what would become the most exceptional performance department within an automotive manufacturer anywhere in the world in Ford Performance!
Throughout this article, Steeda will give you a complete breakdown of what Ford Performance is and how it has created some of the most significant performance vehicles in the world.
How Ford Performance Came To Be Ford Performance Is Born Shelby GT350: The Original Snake Ford GT: Ferrari Slayer Raptor: Baja King Focus ST: Hot Hatch Focus RS: Rally Racer Explorer ST: Family Racer 2020 Shelby GT500: Supercharged Venom
How Ford Performance Came To Be
During the 1960s, no company had more success in both performance and motorsports than Ford Motor Company. It is all dedicated to two factors. The first was the four consecutive wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the incredible Ford GT MKII from 1966-1969. The second was the inception of the original pony car in the Mustang. At the time, Ferrari was the juggernaut of the motorsports world where they had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a record five times from 1960-1965. This single event started a significant kickoff to help Ford become the motorsports and performance powerhouse throughout the entire automotive landscape. From that moment on, it surged Ford Motor Company to create performance models like the Mustang, where it started the pony car's movement single-handedly.
Before all of Fords' monumental achievements during the 1960s, Ford was still it amongst its competitors on the circuits of NASCAR. As always, Ford Motor Company does better when it is competing against its most fierce competition. This translates to real innovation, engineering, and prestige is the relentless pursuit to do better, think better, and come up with new solutions to everyday problems. These characteristics are what helped Ford initially create Ford Motorsport. For the next thirty years, Ford would continue that legacy through racing in many motorsport leagues and races, including the Baja 1000, World Rally Racing, and SCCA Pro Racing.
During the 1980s, Ford would introduce a division called SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) in which they would create a Mustang unlike any other, a mix of performance and efficiency to aid the original pony car to have the best of both worlds. It helped take off the innovation in which Ford would continue for decades to come. Fast forward to 1993, where the founding of what would be the base of all Ford Performance vehicles to follow. At the end of the Fox Body era of Mustangs came around, Ford put together an even greater coalition of engineers, designers, and innovators to recreate SVO into SVT (Special Vehicle Team).
SVT would become a department within Ford Motor Company that would transform the performance vehicle world. Starting with the SVT Cobra & Cobra R, these two vehicles were unlike anything the American performance world hadn't indeed seen since the original 1960s era Mustang and Shelby GT350 & GT500. The 1993 Cobra & Cobra R Mustang would kick off an era of unprecedented prosperity and creation for Ford Motor Company building upon the legacy of innovation, engineering and strive to get better. The Cobra R was the first factory-built Mustang that you could purchase and have racecar capability right out of the showroom. It truly set off a trend for all other manufacturers to follow in the footsteps of Ford.
Ford Performance Is Born
After twenty long years of innovation, prestigious engineering, and sophistication, SVT's final farewell culminated into the most significant Shelby ever to hit the streets in the 2013 Shelby GT500. SVT made sure that this serpent was the most prolific snake to ever hit the streets at that time with 662 horsepower and 635 lb/ft of torque, making it the most powerful production Shelby ever to hit the roads of America. Due to this culmination of innovation and engineering, Ford had a breakthrough moment when they knew it was time to push the envelope even further. The result was the formation of the most exceptional performance and racing division anywhere in the automotive industry.
Launched in 2014, Ford Performance merged SVT, SVO, and Ford Racing all under one umbrella. Ford Performance launched to provide performance-based vehicles from the Ford lineup. The sophistication to create signature performance models like the S550 Shelby GT350, establish the oversight of all motorsports and racing operations, while also helping the company develop performance-based engineers to aid Ford Motor Company. As soon as the division was conceived, Ford Performance engineers went right to help start a new era of motorsports and performance. From there on Ford Performance would go on to create a era of performance unlike any other in the American automotive industry.
Shelby GT350: The Original Snake
Shortly after that, the conception of Ford Performance went hard to work with the Mustang engineering to help bring a legendary icon back to the market in the Shelby GT350. When the Mustang came to be in 1964, it did not have the sophistication and muscle it needed to take on the world of performance. That was until the legend himself came onto the scene, Carroll Shelby is single-handedly the reason why Ford has had the success in racing, performance vehicles, and motorsports as a whole. When in 1965, Shelby took action to take the pony from mule to racehorse to create the GT350 & GT350R, which was the initial factor in helping the Mustang become the performance vehicle we all know and love help the original pony car.
With the S550 Mustang launch in full effect in 2015, Ford knew it was time to bring back the original snake that helped start the performance legacy. Unveiled after the S550 debuted, the all-new 2016 Shelby GT350 was unlike anything Ford and Mustang enthusiasts had ever seen before when it comes to handling, power, performance, and braking. Equipped with the first-ever Flat Plane Crank 5.2L V8 aka "VooDoo," which you could only find in high-end exotics like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin turned the tide to aid the muscle car segment to go against rivals from Europe and Japan. Equipped with the capability of producing 526 horsepower and 429 lb/ft of torque while revving out to a mind-shattering 8,250 RPM.
The Ford Performance engineers had created the most track-worthy factory-built Shelby in all of Mustang history. While the GT350 was a Cobra not to be intimidated by its big brother, the GT350R injected more lethal venom to create a street-legal Shelby ready for any track, autocross, or canyon road. What makes the GT350R so vicious is superb aerodynamics, revised chassis tuning, carbon fiber wheels, larger brakes, and resonator delete, which create a lethal combination to conquer the competition.
Ford GT: Ferrari Slayer
Throughout the history of the entire automotive industry worldwide, there isn't a more fabled story than what happened in 1964. During the beginning of this year, Ford was at major crossroads to ensure they push forward to innovation, engineering, and technology. At this time, Ford focused on producing a quota of vehicles and not realizing how the world would flip on its heels towards performance. If you're a fan of Ford Motor Company and know its history well, then the story of how Ford tried to buy Ferrari will culminate you. At a meeting with Lee Iacocca, Leo Bebe, and Henry Ford II, they discussed the competitive analysis of how younger baby boomers are looking for a fun and energetic automobile.
While doing this, Lee Iacocca notioned to how Ferrari could help them enter in motorsports worldwide and, on the other hand, how Enzo Ferrari was running out of the capital to keep his motorsports and build sports cars. What came next is the opportunity hidden under rage from Ferrari himself, in the contract that was drafted for Ford Motor Company to buy Ferrari. Upon completing the deal, there was a clause in which Enzo was furious because Ford would be in control of the racing team; after that, the agreement was null and or voided. Henry Ford II was furious. So what does Ford do best? Like any American - get to work and find the best engineers, designers, fabricators, and engine builders within the company to destroy Ferrari on the world stage at the 24 Hours Of Le Mans.
Shortly after, Ford began searching to bring the best minds throughout Ford Motor Company in The United States and Great Britain. Calling upon the legendary racecar turned performance car builder Carroll Shelby, Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca knew that to become successful in winning at Le Mans, they would have to let a man who was the only American to do so. By doing so, Shelby would help create it is known as the Ford GT40. It was no easy task to take on what some called to be impossible because of Ferrari's total dominance for the last five years at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But, Carroll Shelby knew anything can be accomplished with determination and American ingenuity.
For months and months, both the teams at Shelby American and Ford Motor Company deliberated on how they would design the GT40. Luckily the British division at Ford came in clutch to provide the design of what would help the GT take advantage of its competition at every corner. The reason why the GT40 was called this is due to the height of the GT was forty inches tall. The Ford GT40 is unlike anything had ever produced in company history, the GT is the culmination of American innovation at its finest. Entering into the 1965 racing season, Ford and Shelby knew that it would be a monumental task to win in their first season at Le Mans.
Unfortunately, after a very hard-fought first attempt, the Ford GT40 did not finish the race at all due to overheating issues and many other component failures. The entire team had to rethink how they were going to attack Ferrari and Le Mans altogether. So in 1966, they came back with a revised GT40 called the MKII "Mark II." It was equipped with a more powerful 427 Cubic Inch V8 pulled out from the NASCAR equipped racecars stuffed into the lightweight chassis of the GT40 that occurred was the fastest racecar that has ever been seen on the racetrack at Le Mans at this time.
What had happened is something unlike any other in motorsports history, when all things were said and done the Ford GT40 all three came out on top in a one, two, and three finish. This single win ignited a trend for Ford Motor Company that continues to this day. After the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ford would win the next three races in a row while Ferrari would never win another race at Le Mans. Fast forward to 2016; Ford would shock the world at the Detroit International Autoshow by debuting the third generation Ford GT.
The third generation Ford GT would be the most advanced, aerodynamic efficiencies, the evolution of powertrain, and technologically capable ever in the history of the halo car of Ford Motor Company. It is equipped with an expansion of the legendary 3.5L EcoBoost Turbocharged V6, producing 647 horsepower and 550 lb/ft of torque, phasing out the legendary 427 Cubic Inch V8 and the 5.4L 32V Supercharged V8. Like the Shelby GT350 & GT350R, The 2016-2021 Ford GT displayed how capable Ford Performance is with only less than a decade of being around they continued the legacy of what started in 1966 including the 2016 Le Man winning #67 Ford GT racecar which landed on the 50th anniversary of the legendary win.
2020 Shelby GT500: Supercharged Venom
Throughout Ford history, there isn't a more potent performance vehicle than the Shelby GT500. This serpent from hell was the brainchild of no other than the infamous Carroll Shelby. Shelby understood that to bring the Mustang to new heights; he would have to inject even more venom than his first attempt to turn the Mustang into a racehorse. Shelby always said the 1967 GT500 was the first vehicle he was genuinely proud to build. Since then, Ford has been pushing the envelope of performance, engineering, and technology to give enthusiasts the edge over the competition.
Fast forward to 2007, where after forty years, Shelby and Ford finally came back together to put together the most potent serpent to hit the streets. What this did is set the prestige for the most powerful, vicious, and tire-shredding GT500 ever. The 2020 Shelby GT500 is the most potent cobra to ever hit the streets among all GT500 models continuing the prestige of power, performance, and heritage.Equipped with the most technologically advanced V8 that Ford Performance has ever produced in the "Predator" engine. A 5.2L Supercharged 32V V8 producing 760 horsepower and 640 lb/ft of torque made it the most powerful production Shelby ever to hit the streets.
Raptor: Baja King
Throughout the long and storied history of Ford Motor Company, trucks have been at the cornerstone to make what the legendary American automotive manufacturer has been. During the late 1960s, Ford positioned themselves to create trucks that could go over any terrain and haul anything. Well, thanks to Ford Performance engineers that started in SVT (Special Vehicle Team), they were able to create the most incredible purpose-built Baja ready factory pickup. After Ford Performance conditioned together among all the Ford departs to build exceptional vehicles.
Leading up to 2017, the Ford Performance put all their best assets together; they were able to create the second-generation F-150 Raptor, which would continue the legacy of the original Raptor to help make the most Baja ready factory truck in history. Featuring triple-bypass Fox Racing shocks, beefier leaf springs, an all-new high output EcoBoost 3.5L Twin Turbo engine producing 450 horsepower and 510 lb/ft of torque. All combined with an aluminum body, Ford Performance took charge of aiming to aid customers in the pursuit of go anywhere and do anything.
Focus ST: Hot Hatch
In the last thirty years or so, Ford has been known to create economic vehicles to help customers get to point a to point b while saving fuel along the way. At times, enthusiasts have had to sacrifice performance for the economy, well thanks to Ford Performance enthusiasts no longer having to do it anymore. Turn to the Focus ST, this vehicle is the premise of years of progression from cars like the Taurus SHO from the 1990s and the Focus SVT.
With the notion of giving enthusiasts the best of handling, power, functionality, and efficiency, the Focus ST came to life. Launched in 2013, it was the first to give Ford enthusiasts the best ability to have a turbocharged hot hatch sedan that could do it all from carving out a canyon road, take on the autocross, and even a local road course. Equipped with a 2.0L EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine that combines power and efficiency. Altogether it allows the Focus ST to give everything an enthusiast needs in terms of a driver's car, economy, and practicality.
Focus RS: Rally Racer
Throughout the rally racing world, there isn't a more prestigious name than RS. Rally Sport is more than just a name on the legendary lineups that have conquered the racing trails. For the time ever, you finally had an RS come to the United States, which excited every hot hatch enthusiast. The 2016 Focus RS is the most capable five-door sedan that has ever been built. Equipped with a 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 350 horsepower and 350 lb/ft of torque, making it one of the most potent hot hatches on the planet. Combine this with engineering marveled four-wheel-drive system that allows torque vectoring to have power distributed equally to all four wheels.
With Ford Performance engineers at the helm, they took the fabled RS name and delivered a rally-inspired Focus for the streets that came with world-class performance, styling, functionality, and heritage. The Focus RS is still revered as one of the great success stories within Ford Performance to this day.
Explorer ST: Family Racer
For more than twenty-five years, the Ford Explorer has been aiding every adventurer, family, and individual to achieve a practical purpose. Over the years, Ford has continued to give consumers a vehicle that ultimately serves what an SUV is supposed to be, as it says in the namesake. As each generation of Explorer became equipped with the best technology, drivetrains, and capability, so did the desire for consumers' needs. Recently within the last couple of years, Ford has been making strides to give customers capability in every fascet that consumers need and provide them with the performance enthusiasts desire.
Turn to the 2020 Explorer ST. This wholly redesigned, engineered, and capable SUV has changed the market landscape. Using lessons learned from past ST models like the Edge ST and Focus ST, Ford delivered a capable Explorer that consumers are accustomed to while giving them a sporty drivetrain to have fun on any road while maintaining the mission of what an Explorer has always been.
Image Credit: Ford, Ford Performance, Ford Media