A Sketch Comes to Life at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show: 2017 Ford GT Supercar

01.27.16 | By
A Sketch Comes to Life at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show: 2017 Ford GT Supercar

If one was to use a cinematic comparison, Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be a fair analogue for the newly unveiled 2017 Ford GT – a sort of sequel, but more of a highly anticipated reenvisioning of a storied franchise, one that erupted forth in one of automotive’s greatest and most fruitful of feuds beginning in 1963 between Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II.

Iconic and illustrative of the competitive Dearborn-based company’s spirit, the GT has always been about the ego and id manifested beautifully into race-worthy performance. And in demonstrating the most progressive edges of Ford’s design, technology, and performance research with this latest 600 horsepower iteration debuted at the 2015 Detroit auto show, Ford’s carbon-fiber clad “hypercar” exudes a ferocious sleekness of a Le Mans-ready racecar worthy of its historical moniker (and possibly of Poe Dameron’s attention in a galaxy far, far away). Performance and specs aside, we were curious about investigating details – great and small, interior and exterior – that had to all coalesce to communicate a progressive design that could harken back to the Ford GT’s storied history, while making evident Ford’s plans for a history-making future…one that could evolve beyond homage and establish a unique identity onto itself.


Who better to expound on these details than Ford’s Interior Design Manager Bill Mangan and Exterior Design Manager Garen Nicoghosian. Both designers – alongside Ford VP of Design, Moray Callum – talked with Design Milk about the new 2017 Ford GT in detail from the floor of Ford’s expansive presence at this year’s North American International Auto Show, offering further insight, renders, and sketches to illustrate the journey their design team traveled in realizing a sketch into a final concept show car.

Bill Magnan of Ford

Interior Design Manager of the Ford GT, Bill Mangan, gave us a complete walk through the vehicle’s interior features and functions at this year’s NAIAS.

How much were you able to translate (and keep) in the process from initial ideation sketches to the eventual car we’ve seen at the show?

Bill Magnan: The interior has not only captured, but actually improved upon the ideation sketches and final theme proposal. Rarely if ever have I experienced this.



Two early sketches of the Ford GT interior.

Garen Nicoghosian: On the exterior, we explored design volumes that incorporated the fuselage theme, as well as more traditional body styles. We knew that simply picking the best single sketch would not allow us to take full advantage of the aero and package possibilities. The initial sketches were geared to fit into one of three pillars: New Generation GT (a modern Ford GT, complete with visual cues to the earlier versions of the car), Performance Efficiency (influenced by prototype-class race cars, sporting brutally obvious aero features), and Modern Seduction (the romance and sex-appeal of a supercar, rendered in modern surface language).


From Bill Mangan, Interior Design Manager:

When you have a strong, unified vision that everyone is aligned to, it’s very simple to know what to pursue or leave alone.


How does the process of elimination/addition when designing a vehicle work?

BM (Interiors): You need what we refer to as, “Clarity of Intent”.  When you have a strong, unified vision that everyone is aligned to, it’s very simple to know what to pursue or leave alone.


GN (Exteriors): We started to explore the influence of developing the individual themes to reflect the proportions of the full scale model. We recognized design features such as the buttresses, the interlocking side view shapes, as well as iconic GT DNA details early-on, and worked to seamlessly incorporate them into our chosen proportion. As one would expect, there were many feasibility checkpoints and aero verification runs along the way, as the rest of the team matured the mechanicals of the car. The iterative process was well in play here, where we had a healthy exchange of ideas between the engineering and aero communities in the development of the body shape.



As designers now seeing the fruits of your labor, is there a favorite element(s) that you’d like the public to note and appreciate…those finer details sometimes lost in the grandeur of a supercar?

BM (Interiors): Utilizing the carbon fiber structural tub as a design element. The upper tub actually forms the upper IP and wraps around the instrument cluster.  Most every part of carbon fiber is structural, resulting in a very new Design. This is highlighted by the floating upper wing, which allows light to pass beneath it, but also carries 4 electrical modules that cannot transmit through the carbon fiber IP.


Bill Mangan showing us the interior detailing of the Ford GT using a scale model, noting the sculptural “floating wing” shape of the upper instrument panel were an extension of functional requirements to maximize visibility and allowing additional light to pass into the cabin.

GN (Exteriors): When you look at the GT on its own, you see a very modern supercar. There really is nothing like it. When you see it in the company of its ancestors, you really start understanding that its visual volumes, tension in its body lines and creases, and its iconic graphics place the car firmly in the GT family tree.

We were assured by Ford the GT's resemblance to a stormtrooper was completely incidental and attributed to the armor-white finish.

We were assured by Ford the GT’s resemblance to a stormtrooper was completely incidental and attributed to the armor-white finish. Showgoers and press still whispered a fond nickname: TR-8R.


From Garen Nicoghosian, Exterior Design Manager:

As cliché as it sounds, I don’t really have a singular favorite element on the GT. The best feature on the car is the cohesiveness of its design. The volumes complement each other, the details add character and heritage, and the overall car feels solid as a result.


Features like the buttress [shown above] sure do stand out, as do the deep voids between the fuselage and the rear fender pods. However, I would have to say that neither of these features would be able to carry the car on their own. The synergy created by the brow line (connecting the top of the windshield to the buttress, fender pod, and ultimately defining the horizontal lower deck feature) can be enjoyed in multiple views of the car. It helps define the plan view, side view, as well as the ¾ views.

Ford-GT-sketch-Nicoghosian-01 Ford-GT-exterior-sketch

I also like the complete exploitation of the genetic make-up of the car: The carbon fiber body work allowed for very intricate and complex surfaces, the V6 EcoBoost allowed for a more compact fuselage, and our total control of the airflow over, though, and under the car helped define the numerous vents and outlets. This harmony extends to various mechanical features of the car also, such as the intercooler discharge pipes running through the buttresses.


Typically how much of a show car’s DNA actually gets transferred into a street-worthy vehicle?

BM (Interiors): It depends, in the case of the GT, everything. The clarity of purpose and intent from the start sharpened our vision, resulting in an authentic and very real show car. I would hesitate to call it a show car as it was a point in time in development of the real car.

Interior-FordGT-3 Interior-FordGT-1

GN (Exteriors):  By now, it should be clear to the audience that we did not unveil a traditional “show car” at NAIAS 2015. We did, in fact, reveal the most production-ready model at the time. In some cases, a traditional show car illustrates what should have been vs. what has to be compared to the production version. In our case, we had clear targets, well-defined goals, and were able to simply show two stages of the ultimate product. This is perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the overall program, as the continuous progress really validated the work we were able to complete in a very short amount of time.


A special thanks to Bill Mangan, Garen Nicoghosian, Moray Callum, and the Ford team for this invitation and close-up look at the new Ford GT.

Gregory Han is Tech Editor of Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at