Though only 40 inches, the Ford GT40 would be packed with everything that would make it great and iconic. But, it would take time. Therefore, those within the program believed in what they were doing, but they thought they could do even better. What was the thought? What if the extreme performance of Ford's Ferrari-killer could be combined with an aesthetically pleasing design making it available for production and the road?
Ford would begin its relationship with Eric Broadley with Lola to take its Mk 6 car and turn it into the miniscule GT40. But to take on Ferrari, Ford would have to invest heavy sums. The campaign would practically change the face of motorsport overnight and would leave those at Ford reeling somewhat. As a result, there would be a good deal of interest to build another example of the GT40, this one a roadster.
At just 40 inches tall, a roadster version was a bright idea to offer and entice potential customers. Broadley would find the interest in a production car rather disappointing and distracting and, as a result, would pull Lola out of the picture. Development of the GT40 would continue under Ford Advanced Vehicles (FAV).
In spite of Broadley's departure from the program the basis had been set, the mid-engined GT40 was progressing. There were still some teething issues hampering the potential of the car but it was clear the car would become a force to be reckoned with in the very near future.
Five GT40 prototypes would be produced at the time production came under the FAV banner. Not long afterward, work would begin on the first roadster prototype. Chassis GT108 would be the very first one, that physical expression of a production GT40. The first of only four roadsters ever to be built, GT108 would feature the steel chassis and Ford's 289 cubic-inch V8, the same specified for the Cobra.
There would be some subtle differences that would mark the roadster from other GT40 prototypes. From its redesigned nose to its slightly-higher intakes at the rear, it was clear the roadster was to cross the line between the track and the road. However, finished in an overall white with wide blue striping, the Roadster Prototype was by no means a dull piece of kit. Completed in March of 1965 and then tested at Silverstone, some very talented drivers would line up to take a turn behind the wheel of the car.
Besides being tested by Dickie Attwood and John Whitmore, the car would end up being hurried around circuits in the UK and the United States by none other than Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby. Ken Miles would actually perform demonstrations with Ford's board members on the tarmac at Los Angeles' International Airport. Shelby, however, would chauffeur Henry Ford II. The car would even take part as a pace car for an A-C Production race. Driven by Lew Spencer, the pace car would prove as big, or bigger, a hit and would be nearly as fast as the cars it was escorting around.
By October of 1965, GT 108 had made a number of appearances at events all throughout the country. It would end up at Watkins Glen at the time of the United States Grand Prix and would actually be driven on some very quick laps by the World Champion, the great Jim Clark. Legend has it it was the only time Clark ever drove a GT40 at any time.
Following this brush with greatness GT108 would return to Michigan as a development car for Ford. Ultimately, this car would be instrumental in helping Ford to make some necessary advancements that, ultimately, led to victory in 1966, '67, '68 and '69. However, GT 108 would not remain around that long. It wasn't too long after coming to Kar Kraft in Michigan that it would be mothballed. At this time a good deal of controversy surrounded the car. U.S. Customs had a problem with the importation costs and value of the car. It seemed headed toward the same fate as GT 110. The car would be saved however and would remain in storage with Ford until July of 1969 when it would be sold to a Kar Kraft employee, George Sawyer.
The problem was that the car wasn't drivable. It had sat in storage too long and needed a great deal of help. Sawyer was just the man and he would take hours upon hours to rebuild the engine and other aspects of the car. Sawyer would continually restore and rebuild the car but would eventually sell it in 1978 to Harley Cluxton III of Scottsdale. Cluxton would take it and immediately advertise it for sale. One year later, John Robertson would become the car's owner.
At the time Jim Clark took to the wheel of the GT40 the car had been refinished with a flat black nose and hood. Under Robertson's ownership the nose would be refinished to its original livery and remains to this very day. In the early 80s the roadster would return to Cluxton and then would pass on to Tom Congleton. Under Congleton's ownership the car would undergo restoration and would even take part in a number of vintage races.
Besides being paraded around the country following when it was produced back in 1965, GT 108 has appeared in a number of magazines, including Autoweek, and continues to make regular appearances at events. In 2003, the car would enter one of its toughest events. It would take part in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Nevertheless, the car would come through in fantastic form finishing second within its class.
In addition to being the very first GT40 Roadster Prototype, GT 108 remains highly original inside and out. Ever since 1992 it has remained with its current owner and has maintained an incredible authenticity not seen, even in any of the other GT40 roadsters.
Steeped in Ford's and the GT40's history, GT 108 is often overshadowed by its highly successful on-track brethren. Nonetheless, this very rare and significant piece of Ford's motoring history more than holds its own. It is, after all, still a GT40.By Jeremy McMullen
This Ford GT40 Roadster (GT108) was the first of the open cars completed in March of 1965. It was first delivered to Carroll Shelby shops and tested at Silverstone by John Whitmore and Dickie Atwood, and by Ken Miles at Riverside that year. The car was the official factory test bed for the ZF transaxle, and resulted in all GT40s using the ZF from then on.
GT108 has had a very active racing history, both in world-wide competition while new, and in vintage racing more recently. It has never been seriously damaged and is the only intact and fully original roadster remaining.
The initial prototypes were all coupes, based on the design criteria of the time. Only four roadsters were built. Of the other three, one exists only as parts, one was converted to a coupe and the other has long since vanished. This car was the official test bed for the ZF transaxle. Successfully completing thousands of miles and resulting in all GT40's using the ZF from then on.
From 1965 to 1992 the car was owned by George Sawyer, John Robertson and Tom Congleton. The car was restored for both Congleton and Robertson and successfully vintage raced through the 1980s and 90s. It is the only intact example that still carries the correct 1965-style nose, and the low tail section unique to roadsters. This car is also the only roadster , or 'Spyder', to remain in as-built condition.