Vellum Venom: 2019 Ford GT Carbon Series
Breathless moments are par for the course with any Ford GT from the ’60s forward but this latest iteration upped the design game. The impossible amounts of negative area carved out of that sleek body, and those radical flying buttresses, deserve a closer look. So let’s run the vellum over Ford’s latest answer to Ferrari.
It has the proportioning, low ground clearance, and extensive ductwork of a modern hypercar. Even without the blue oval emblem, however, the Ford GT (FGT) clearly traces its roots back to the original GT-40 race car.
They nailed the DNA thing: rounded face (check the leading edge of the bumper), teardrop radiator grilles, and the mid-engine architecture are all correct. Even the headlight buckets look right—and they look like they could hold a Jeep-like, round-LED eyeball lamp.
But there’s something off with the racing stripes: they inflict blunt-force trauma to subtle curves underneath.
Seeking an FGT without them proves the point: note the not-so-subtle “spine” that’s easier to see without those stripes killing the flow.
That said, the exposed weave reflects the spine in the right light. But it fights the body, as it does not share the same vanishing point (where lines converge, usually at a point extending beyond the body) as the spine.
The FGT’s design DNA purity comes into focus when cropping out the LED headlights.
The robotic LED headlight “eyes” with claw-like marker lights have little correlation to other design elements. Well, the outermost claw matches the bumper’s curvature and it does begin at the same point as the bumper’s lower cooling duct.
It still kinda takes away from the FGT’s nicest front-end element: the strong bumper crease that makes a single curve from corner to corner. It’s a wonderful contrast to the busy and cetacean curves on a McLaren or the jarring creases/angles of any Lambo—or it coulda been, had the lighting pods cleaned up their act.
More proof the headlights are over-styled: perhaps those are functional heat sinks around the GT logo, but how well does heat dissipate in a sealed assembly? And do you really need a logo in such a clearly bespoke design?
Down low, the quad LED setup makes far more visual sense.
If only the cases were toned down to let the whole package speak from every angle.
Multimatic, the folks that assemble FGTs, did a fantastic job laying down the carbon-fiber weave at appealing angles, ensuring a harmonious design even with gargantuan openings for all that aerodynamic trickery.
Even better, the honeycomb grille has no block-off plates, although one could have forgiven adding one around that tow hook.
Contrary to the front grille, the side vent is shockingly minimalistic: the flat-faced leading edge is the only bit that differentiates it from the rest of the bumper.
It’s a safe bet that the larger aperture on the exit side manages hot air from the brakes (and possibly downforce) in ways I am not qualified to discuss.
While the incongruous headlight contouring (only from this angle!) and fender’s hard edge give a slight nod to the C6 Corvette, it’s clear the mid-engine architecture make the FGT’s shorter schnoz a unique styling proposition.
The same cannot be said for the fender’s ubiquitous flat edge (with integral light) around the wheel arch: this is modern vehicle proportioning de rigueur in our era of huge wheels and taller waistlines, even if the FGT doesn’t need or deserve it.
To be fair, there could be an aero advantage with that hard crease.
While the carbon-fiber wheels exist for all eyeballs, the titanium lug nuts are deceptively mundane. No “GT” logo, no silly easter egg. Just expensive function and form.
From here the C6 Corvette wisecrack dissolves, as headlight contours share a vanishing point with the bumper, the side scoop gives a catamaran boat effect, the door’s drastic cutline apes the A-pillar, and the exit ducting complements said cutline in dramatic fashion.
Combined with the negative area beneath the door, this would be the “fastest” area for just about any other vehicle.
The windscreen’s radical slope lets onlookers behold more carbon fiber, while the wiper arms “park” themselves in a perfect “V”, making the package even more visually exciting.
The door cutline cuts a bold path across the roof, naturally landing at the engine cooling vents.
The blackout A-pillar is an excellent touch, integrating the sides and the front for a single curve of glass. It also makes the roof appear rounder than is truly possible.
Not as iconic as the “flying mirror” Ferrari Testarossa, but these seem impossibly light and wispy on precarious carbon-fiber perches.
The shoulder line seems to push upward into the space normally reserved for the greenhouse (a.k.a the cabin), but that’s a trick: note the a huge cutout (negative space) in the hood which creates the visual magic.
That broad shoulder makes for a taller door profile, leaving room for that pointed, upward “spear” (after the cooling duct exit). That point translates into the FGT’s most impressive design element.
And yes, it’s a broad shoulder: not many doors need a horizontal cutline this long to meet the A-pillar.
Here’s why wideness matters: for the top-heavy bit at the front, there’s an equally heavy element in the lower rear door quarter.
Put another way: as the door top thins out, the spear gets stronger.
The front of the door is almost chubby, but that adds to the elongated effect across the body, and allows the beginning of something very special.
And on the way to that very special design element? The obligatory cooling duct!
But that cooling duct is accompanied by… blue skies?
That’s when you know the FGT’s design is more than “mere” hyper car.
Again, no blocked-off panels. Would be nice if passenger cars that normal people can buy and afford were designed in such a manner as to pull this off.
Let’s step back. The point at the bottom of the door’s forward edge translates into the bottom container of the negative area: a tunnel in which airflow is managed.
The tall door top lowers itself, bowing down to that superior force beneath…
… and dissolving into nothingness, after logically clearing the flush door handle.
Longtime readers of Vellum Venom know my issues with pointless black plastic triangles to visually extend the greenhouse (also known as daylight opening, DLO) and my name for such silliness rings true on a top-tier, high-dollar hypercar: DLO FAIL.
The DLO FAIL serves a purpose here (there’s a door unlock/lock idiot light behind it) but Ford should have gone ahead and chopped off the greenhouse’s rearward trajectory: such abrupt greenhouse codas never hurt the previous generation.
There’s a friend for the driver’s side DLO FAIL: a filler door that looks obstructed from many angles but opens freely when needed.
The roof pillar is a flying buttress: almost worthy of a pre-war running board!
The shocking contrast of a silver body sliding inside a shimmering, flying roof panel has no peer. It completely overshadows the racing stripes.
Digesting all the “big picture” visual elements from bumper-to-bumper is tough. So here’s what I propose is happening:
- The pointy, raked nose is replicated by the steep front door cutline (and the A-pillar).
- The thickness of the door’s leading edge thins (top to bottom) to sneak in the front duct’s exhaust, thinning further to let the flying buttress take visual flight.
- The rear dovetail/spoiler connects the door to the body: note how the dovetail turns into a crease in the quarter panel, which has the same vanishing point as the “spear” that starts at the conclusion of the first cooling duct.
The dovetail’s crease is marred by a stronger crease above the wheels. Making this a more rounded transition would allow the more relevant(?) crease to remain in focus.
That hard crease also takes away from the minimalist beauty of the FGT’s negative area between the engine compartment and the fender. Hope it has an aerodynamic benefit!
The FGT has wonderful hard transitions, integrated vents and bold racing stripes. A rounded fender top adds more visual balance.
That said, the crease adds an element of Mako Shark Corvette to the whole package.
But things can’t exist in a vacuum. Above that hard crease is another one: a gentle bend in the flying buttress.
Are all of these needed for aerodynamic superiority?
But wait, there are more hard edges! Much like its counterpart to the front, the rear arch takes away from the subtle interplay between the dovetail and the (bottom portion of) the flying buttress’ shared vanishing point.
Let’s enjoy that thin side-view mirror looking down on that flying buttress, as the front fender does its best imitation of a prop-engine plane’s forward fuselage.
Given the radical inward taper of the body, perhaps a six-cylinder EcoBoost motor was the only way to make this shape perform like a hypercar.
Combined with the rear spoiler’s curvature, it seems like decades of aircraft design trickled into Ford’s styling studio.
Kudos on two elements sharing a common starting line: the engine cover’s cutline and this small cooling duct were designed with integration in mind.
And there’s another cooling duct! Far from symmetrical, they still have an enlightened yin-yang demeanor: certainly not hyperbole, because the right one is intake and the left is exhaust.
With functionality taking precedence over form, it’s unfortunate that a thin carbon-fiber engine cover (with the hallmark “Powered By Ford” moniker) is chosen for engine-bay visuals instead of the stunning induction systems found in Italian exotics.
At least the cover complements the finned spine of the FGT’s center section, which looks even thinner with the body’s taper as it moves rearward.
The racing stripes bring extra drama to the spine, shooting out of the engine’s glass cover, and taking eyes away from the two hard creases on each side of the hood. A good thing, as those creases end far too close—and with no correlation—to the spoiler behind it.
It makes the non-striped FGT somewhat boring.
The spoiler’s gentle crease and the hood’s harder crease do at least point in the same general direction.
The spoiler’s contouring has no logical connection to anything else, but this is a functional curve that most people have seen via “wingside” seating on commercial airplanes.
And much like with your average commercial airplane, the FGT’s wing has a strong frontal curve that drastically tones down to a relatively flat posterior.
The racing stripes end unceremoniously at the bottom of the wing, while the rear fascia curves up to give ’em a little love.
The CHMSL (center high mount stop light) almost shares the same endpoint as the racing stripe and looks smart in a smoked lens.
Woulda been neat if the CHMSL covered the length of the spoiler instead of having this body-color trim panel.
Below the spoiler is one of the few external “GT” emblems. It should be the only one; no further introduction is necessary.
The Akrapovic exhaust, much like Brembo calipers on entry-level performance cars, is appropriate marketing from a performance vendor.
The exhaust’s location leads to a few visual issues. Just not from this angle: the racing stripes give an added 3D effect to the exhaust’s isosceles trapezoid face.
Step back and the taillight eyeballs turn the exhaust into a pig snout.
Less conventional exhaust tips (à la McLaren Senna’s spooky ghost pipes) are not out of the question at this price point.
Go back and notice how the negative area has a narrowing footprint, creating what must be a Venturi effect.
The space slowly increases after the Venturi’s constriction. It’s stunning because sunlight adores this space, bathing it in unique reflections. This is truly an architectural achievement on wheels.
Aerodynamics are crucial in every vehicle, but the FGT’s implementation adds a stunning number of aviation and architectural influences.
Turn away from the pig snout and the FGT’s rear ensures the taillights multi-task, in a binnacle emulating the negative area next door.
Even better, these “neighbors” live within the curve of the rear spoiler and the shelf of what normally is the top of the rear bumper.
It’s a logical carve-out, with a host of complementary lines. With such a clean space, the light has room to truly shine.
Those fins look like they’d dissipate heat nicely, were they rendered in metal rather than in plastic.
Those are fake vents in the honeycomb that echo the shape of real ones elsewhere. How disappointing!
At least the part that matters does a fine job exiting hot air from the FGT’s exotic chassis, sans block off plates.
Another (block-off-panel-free) duct is found at each corner of the rear bumper.
The duct and its correlation to the bumper’s carbon fiber do a fine job mimicking the front.
It’s a fantastic start to the lower valence’s rear diffuser: a mandatory element for a high-speed, high-downforce hypercar.
Ford did a brilliant job integrating the red reflectors into a static portion of the rear bumper, and the honeycomb never looked better than above the diffuser’s deep fins.
And in the center? An absolutely wonderful integration for the rear-view camera.
While these eyeballs are now mandatory, making them invisible to anyone existing outside of a dog’s-eye-view is a great touch.
I’ve never bought a scale model to complete a Vellum Venom, but beholding every gorgeous architectural element and aircraft worthy design implementation required a hand-held example.
It’s a breathtaking design, no matter how silly the DLO FAIL, the pig-snout exhaust, the taillight’s unnecessary fake cooling edges, or the (visually) conflicting fender bends.
The FGT could be the only vehicle that appeals to every genre of car enthusiast, while advancing each genre with such a radical design. Which begs the question: How does Ford top this one?