Ford Motor Co. will build the GT40 — a modern version of an historic two-seat supercar — and CEO William Clay Ford Jr., despite some initial reluctance, is appearing in a series of new ads.

Ford Div. President James O'Con-nor and a GT40 that shared the stage with him got a standing ovation from Ford employees and several dealers in the crowd as he announced that the car will be built to celebrate the automaker's 100th anniversary in 2003.

The production announcement at Ford world headquarters in Dearborn, MI — and broadcast by satellite to dealers nationwide — comes about a month after Ford unveiled the hopped-up car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Many doubted it would ever see production, given Ford's current financial woes.

The new GT40 will be 18-inches longer and four inches taller than the mid-1960s original.

“Our revitalization plan is centered on products,” says Ford Jr. “The company that builds and delivers the best cars and trucks wins, and we're going to win. I can't think of a better symbol of that winning attitude than GT40.”

Meanwhile, the namesake head of the struggling auto company is appearing in ads featuring him talking about the company's heritage. Prime time TV ads run first, print ads will follow in coming months.

In one such ad, Ford Jr. says, “I think the thing that is special about Ford is that we're not just another nameless, faceless company. We're a company that has a soul. There is a sense of family here.”

But it took some convincing to get him on camera.

He admits, “Last year they said, ‘Would you ever consider doing ads?’ I said, ‘No.’”

Referring to Lee Iacocca, the Chrysler CEO who appeared in several company ads in the 1980s and 1990s, Ford Jr. says, “I didn't want to sit there with a cigar saying, ‘If you can find a better car, buy it.’”

But he says Ford market researchers convinced him that the family heritage of the company is strong, yet under-used.

Another apprehension about doing the nationwide ads:

“I have young children at home, and I worried about the security aspect.”

Ford Jr. is sure that the company founded by his great-grandfather will return to profitability.

“We have a long way to go, but I have the utmost confidence we'll polish the Blue Oval again,” he says.