Home » A Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Mercury Version Of The Ford GT40 That Never Existed

A Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Mercury Version Of The Ford GT40 That Never Existed

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You would think that the long-dead Mercury nameplate would not deserve a (sort of) weekly deep dive, but we’ve made it our job here at the Autopian to find the most intriguing and strange offerings from what was Ford’s typically superfluous brand. Today, we’re going to explore what was arguably the ultimate Mercury- a high performance luxury touring coupe called the 4900GT. Before the Jaguar XJ220 and Bugatti Veyron, this was pioneer in the world of iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove sports machines for the street, even if was never given a chance to succeed.

(Word of note: just as there are no Volkswagen Karmann Ghia radiators or gallon containers of blinker fluid, there is no such thing as a Mercury 4900GT. It exists only in my sleep-deprived mind and in the coming paragraphs for you to hopefully enjoy).

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Some great things were born of conflict. Whether it be the paintings made by Van Gogh fighting his personal demons or the four albums recorded by The Police while the band members were trying to kill each other, the visual and musical masterpieces that artists can make during troubled times are often outstanding. In the automotive world, it’s the same situation, and strife helped to create arguably the greatest racing car of all time.

Race

source: Wikimedia/edvvc and Ford

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You’ve likely all heard the story of how Ford tried to purchase Ferrari in the early 1960s with the intent of gaining victories at races like LeMans. Ultimately, after Ford had spent millions auditing the Italian car maker, Enzo Ferrari refused to give up control of the racing team in a Ford deal, walked away, and used the exercise to leverage a deal with FIAT (who gave him autonomy with his Scuderia Ferrari). Henry Ford II (“The Deuce”) was less than pleased, and he was not one to piss off. There are likely apocryphal but believable stories of a meeting in Ford’s office where he held up a sports page from a newspaper and declared “this will say FORD WINS AT LEMANS.” When asked about budget and company resources, he supposedly stated once again that “this will read FORD WINS AT LEMANS.” You know, when you run the second or third biggest automobile company in the world at the time, and the title of this firm is your last name, you can do this kind of shit and nobody can stop you.  I’m quite glad that nobody did stop Henry II from throwing money down the toilet on a grudge, since the result was the legendary GT40.

People

credits: wikipedia/Hugo van Gelderen / Anefo  and wikipedia/Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

Of course, the GT40 went on to be victorious and kick Ferrari’s ass, but for such a purpose built racing machine this Ford seemed to have the makings of a fabulous road car as well. Ford engineers created the Mark III version of the GT40 to a street-legal and more user-friendly animal to hit Enzo’s consumer car business as well.

Ford Gt40 Mkiii 1967

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source: wikimedia/signac

Unfortunately, the Big Guy was not moved. At one point, Henry II looked at the Mark III and questioned how Ford could ask such I high price for a rather stripped-down car and sell it alongside Falcons and F-150s. The Deuce’s suggestion was to ‘upcontent’ the car and move it to a higher brand, meaning Mercury. The poor GT40 was about to get a makeover that would cause designers and race fans to weep, but what Henry II wanted, Henry II got.

First, the wheelbase received a stretch to move the motor further back and enlarge the interior space; The Deuce demanded that the car be more useable than other exotic GTs even at the expense of, well, everything else.

Ford Gt40 Mk3 2

source: Chrome Cars via Classic Driver (recreation for sale)

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‘Bling’ was not a term that existed in 1967 but Ford certainly added it to the austere GT40’s exterior. The race car’s nose gained pop-up lights and an electric-razor looking grille as seen on a Cougar. Chrome accents to the rocker panels and Cougar taillights gilded up the formerly clean shape.

Ford Gt40 Mk3 2

source: Chrome Cars via Classic Driver (recreation for sale)

Like the GT40, the entire rear body section of the car tipped backwards for engine access, but the Mercury added a standard trunk lid to make access to the little cargo box in back easier.

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source: Peterson Automotive Museum

Mechanically, the Mercury 4900GT diverged further from the GT40 Mark III with the most controversial changes. Driveability was given precedence over finicky race car traits, but the chosen K-Code ‘Hi-Po’ 289 V8 still had a respectable 288 horespower with the low restriction exhaust (in a car smaller and lighter than a ‘Stang). The ride was softened up considerably from the street version of the race car, but the crowning glory was that the only transmission available was to be the three speed Cruise-O-Matic. While Henry II could certainly drive stick, he likely didn’t want to, and surmised that much of his target audience probably didn’t either. Sad but true.

Inside, Mr. Ford wanted to take the truly clean and European-looking GT40 interior and add splashes of chrome, fake wood, and toggle switches to make it look like an American’s unrealistic idea of European-looking. Removing vestiges of race car, the once-hollow doors were now upholstered and flaunted power roll down windows and door locks, while dead center on the console was a T-stick automatic transmission selector from a Mustang.

Interior

source: Mecum (car for sale)

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The back seats for individuals without legs were flanked by big box structures housing enormous air conditioning components and a giant ‘reverb’ speaker (an early attempt at stereo sound) for the 8 track tape player.

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As cheesy as the 4900GT seemed, it could have even been worse. Henry II even tried to have the team mock up a Lincoln version of the GT40 as well, complete with squatty chrome grille and tiny spare tire hump in back. Note the mechanically interesting ‘elevator’ headlamps that sit low to the ground but raise up to legal height when they are turned on:

Nose

source: Peterson Automotive Museum

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Blessedly, the project eventually died, but how? Well, a little thing called reverse psychology. Ford second-in-command Lee Iacocca rightly hated this thing, not to mention that he was planning on importing cars from his friend Alejandro DeTomaso to sell at Lincoln-Mercury stores instead. His ploy was to pretend to champion the Mercury 4900GT project, which he knew would get Henry II’s goat; The Deuce couldn’t possibly agree with Lido and make him happy.

Such was beginnings of the animosity between the two men that ultimately led to the firing of the one who’s last name was NOT on the logo of the company. Ironically enough, Lee went on to make a car nearly as embarrassing with DeTomaso during his time at Chrysler (the Maserati TC).

Only three 4900GTs were actually built. One was reported ‘stolen’ but in reality was wrecked by a Ford employee racing a foreign exotic on Telegraph Road. A second car was semi-converted back to more tasteful GT40 specifications. The third car? To this day, we don’t know if it’s in a landfill or sitting in some Saudi Arabian car collector’s basement. Is an example of the greatest Mercury ever built still out there?

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Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago

Sequential turn signals?

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 year ago

While I’m with you on a lot of the creature comforts and styling, not really on the 289 and the automatic trans, don’t forget around this time Mercury was putting Cobra and Super Cobra jet monsters into their cars, and Hurst shifter manuals. The Mk3 GT40 was a 4.7 liter, but no reason why the “higher class” or higher tax bracket, Mercury wouldn’t have the 7 liter option..

Adam Rice
Adam Rice
1 year ago

This just makes me sad.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 year ago

I don’t hate this! Give it a stick as an option, and I could see this actually working. The rear end treatment really sells it!

Two thumbs up!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago

First y’all instituted a CotD. Now a what-if Mercury version of the GT40. You guys are really trying hard to lure $kaycog over from the gelatinous outdoor meal site, aren’t you?

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

Star for “gelatinous outdoor meal site”.

Scottingham
Scottingham
1 year ago

aw… I miss them. Are they still over there? I dumped that site like a crusty toenail once this place got going.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago
Reply to  Scottingham

I haven’t been back since Mercedes came over here, so I don’t really know if $kay still comments over there or not.

Dan Mahler
Dan Mahler
1 year ago

I visit the site almost daily. I rarely comment.

This post is absolute gold.

What fun to imagine this.

Thank you.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 year ago

Yeah… it really irks me that I can only get blinker fluid in quarts.

Philip Dunlop
Philip Dunlop
1 year ago

Yeahhh… I prefer this to the actual Mk III (interior notwithstanding). Also, being that I’m a driver of limited talent, I actually appreciate the efforts to not kill me.

Camp Fire
Camp Fire
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

That was my biggest surprise from this article. I guess I never looked at the GT40 shifter arrangement. Probably because I’ll never get the chance to drive one…

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Imagine having to call the paramedics to have a shifter removed from your ass.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

That faux lincoln is one ugly sob

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
1 year ago

There was a Cougar II concept car, that, although called a Ford, could and probably would have been produced as a Mercury. https://www.motorcities.org/story-of-the-week/2020/mckinley-thompson-jr-helped-design-a-1963-cougar-ii-concept It was beautiful. There was also a model kit of same that I think they made in huge numbers. I remember the car because I built the kit, a fully detailed snap together deal as I recall.

Marc Miller
Marc Miller
1 year ago
Reply to  The Bishop

The kit was originally sold by IMC. It was a glue kit marketed to advanced modelers. The body was molded in red metal flake. It was later marketed as a Testor’s kit. The body was molded in red minus the metal flakes. You could open and close the headlights with your fingers. It was a very nice kit. I still have that assembled Testor’s kit.

Dennis Frederickson
Dennis Frederickson
1 year ago

Sacrilege!
Blasphemy!
Don’t Stop!

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 year ago

The front is a bit rough but the Cougar tail lights and bumper look way better than the actual GT40’s rear end

Sgtyukon
Sgtyukon
1 year ago

Spare us the feline on the roof and bring out a pic of Catherine Deneuve in her prime.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
1 year ago

That is quite the fever dream. I must say I rather like your version better than the MkIII

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
1 year ago

No Merkur variant? With an XR4Ti-style double rear spoiler?

Sad now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Hendry
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

I myself would love to see The Bishop’s take on 21st century Merkurs, possibly reimagined as Ford’s transitional EV brand, a way to test out designs to see if they’d be worth migrating to Ford (e.g. Ford decides to compete with Tesla and considers reviving the Galaxie 500 name for a sleek sedan, but wants to see what actual buyers think first, so we get the Merkur Electron first)

Maymar
Maymar
1 year ago

The timing doesn’t quite work out perfectly, but that feels like something to the effect of Ford trying to salvage the investment in the XJ220 project they inherited with the purchase of Jaguar by spinning off a mass-market variant or something like that.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

The Mercury 4900 GT might not be out there, but The Bishop sure is.

Rahul Mandala
Rahul Mandala
1 year ago

Now this looks good! Had this been legit, a Cougar Eliminator Boss 429 and this Mercury GT40 would’ve made for a sweet, sweet garage.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 year ago

Well, if I can have the kitty perched on the top, I’m all for it…

Gee See
Gee See
1 year ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

As always pspspspsps

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

The Cougar back looks great on this!

Brent Ozar
Brent Ozar
1 year ago

More work was put into this than the design of the entire 2023 Acura lineup.

Also, I am more likely to buy this car than anything in the Acura lineup.

Gee See
Gee See
1 year ago
Reply to  Brent Ozar

The only car that is remotely feline esque these days is a white miata that looks like smudge the cat

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

Just love this. The dash is totally believable even for a Ford version; if the real GT40 one weren’t so well-known already, most of us would have accepted that’s what a late ’60s Ford street-going race car would have offered. The Bullitt Mustang is slathered in fake wood trim.

Glad you kept the Mk III wire wheels though; there’s no improving on those for my money (I got up close to an actual one a few years back and their presence is even more striking in real life)

Data
Data
1 year ago

I’m kind of digging the Cougar grille and rear lighting. The pop-up headlights also work really well with the overall design.

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