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Do you know about the Mustang GTP?

Unfortunately, it's one of the saddest and most unsuccessful race cars the Ford Motor Company has ever built.

Designed by the legendary Bob Riley and packing a 1.7-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder pumping out an astonishing 600 horsepower, the Mustang GTP aimed to change conventional thinking about how tin top race cars were designed.

At a time when the IMSA GTP class was being dominated by the mid-engined Jaguars, Porsches, and Marches; Riley, along with Zakspeed and Roush decided to instead mount the motor in front of the driver. Making use of the small engine, huge ground effect aero tunnels running the length of the car suctioned the car to the track-- allegedly the car produced more downforce than an IndyCar in wind tunnel testing.

The concept was absurd until it worked.

Ford brought two cars to Road America late in the 1983 season and utterly dominated, with one car taking overall victory by two laps, and the other coming in third, earning the team a 1-2 class finish.

But all that glitters isn't gold. The car wouldn't finish either of the two remaining races due to engine problems which led to Roush pulling out of the program. Roush wanted to use a V8 but Ford wouldn't allow the switch to a more conventional race engine because it didn't fit the new SVO division's marketing message.

As a result, 1984 would turn out to be even worse. The car got a new 2.1-liter inline-four cylinder, but the reliability issues still persisted. The car would only finish two races the entire season--a pair of fifths--and was plagued by poor handling and unstable aerodynamics. In dark Michigan bars, Ford executives wept in disillusionment.

But this short feature put together by the Riley family was filmed during the car's rainy debut weekend in late 1983. A time before the broken crankshafts, driver fatigue, and heat soak issues, during a brief period of euphoria as the new creation conquers the crucible of competition its been born into.

Little do they know...


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