There were rumours of a new Ford GT coming, but no one quite predicted the unveil of this striking new production model on the first press day of the North American Auto Show in Detroit. This is the new production-ready Ford GT, which will go on sale - in limited numbers - towards the end of 2016.

If you know the history of the Ford GT/GT40, you'll know it's got a history of kicking sand in Ferrari's face - and it seems unlikely that this new car will break with that tradition. Expect it to cost less, weigh less but have around the same amount of power as a Ferrari 458. The only controversial part is that it'll make that power from a twin-turbo V6 engine (not a V8), driven through a seven-speed auto gearbox. Such setups are quickly becoming the default for the new generation of supercar though. Over the hall, Honda (Acura) unveiled the NSX with a not dissimilar powertrain.

What is revolutionary is the way the Ford GT looks. It's recognisably a GT, but this time Ford stayed away from the wilfully retro feel. Instead it's reinvented the car around aerodynamics, lightweight build and the theme of "American Endeavour". Think NASA, rather than Dunkin' Donuts, in that last case.

So you get a dramatic looking car - one that has shades of the Lamborghini Asterion concept in its nose, and hints of Ferrari to its rear - that's unusual, because it features a central, dramatically inward tapering fuselage, which contains the two seat cabin.

This interior section is wrapped in a rear form that dramatically splits away and creates a set of "architectural flying buttresses", fully peeling away the two rear wheels – and the arches and deck that encase them – from the rest of the body volume. Think of its as Detroit's take on the BMW i8 but with a lot more chest hair.

But the GT won't feature the kind of battery and hybrid tech that's become de rigueur among other recent super cars like the i8. Instead the team behind it told us the goal was lightweight and super-efficient aero. Electric motors and batteries add pounds, so they were kept out. While it's sophisticated compared to before, the GT's ultimately going to be much less complex than many of its competitors, which could be a good thing when it comes to the drive. And with petrol prices in freefall, the timing couldn't be better.

The story behind the new GT's birth is interesting. The project started less than two years ago, and to produce a fully functioning, production ready car in that time is fairly incredible (most cars take four to six years from clean sheet of paper to being production ready). It was brought to life by a special "skunkworks" team within Ford – developed in a basement, which very few people in the company were even aware of. That Ford kept it under wraps and away from the internet leak machine until the first day of the show was a surprise too. And we like surprises.

Firm details are sketchy, but expect the GT to cost just below £200,000, hit 60mph from a standing start in under four seconds, and clock close to 200mph as a top speed. The best news for those of us on more modest budgets is that it's going to be the halo at the top of a vast new range of Ford performance models, which will include a new Focus RS, and the Mustang 350R, also unveiled here in Detroit. So fast Ford fans of all wallet sizes should be happy.

Sadly we didn't get inside the Ford GT one day one of the show, but will update this piece with interior shots and additional info this week.