Sold for $4,950,000 at 2012 Gooding & Company
The LeMans winning Ford GT40 came about due to Ford's failed attempt to purchase Ferrari. Henry Ford II decided that if he could not own Ferrari, then he was going to build a car that could outpace the legendary marque. Enzo Ferrari soon found himself at war with the Ford Company, a battle that he would ultimately lose.
Mr. Ford was intent on conquring international GT competition. His endeavor lasted several years and required the help of several key individuals, including Carroll Shelby.
On April 1st of 1964, the Ford GT40 was unveiled. It had taken Mr. Ford roughly 12 months to build an international contender. Through the work of three principals - Royston Lunn, Eric Broadley and John Wyer - led to a 200+ mph sports car that stood just 40 inches tall. The design had its roots in the Lola GT and featured a design around a steel tub. Ford powered the car with a 4.2-liter Indianapolis motor mounted just behind the driver. In slightly detuned form, the powerplant offered 350 horsepower. Due to time constraints, a gearbox was sourced from Colotti in Italy. The four-speed transaxle was mounted to the Ford V-8 with half shafts sending power directly to the rear wheels. At both the front and rear were an independent suspension setup masked by the lightweight fiberglass body panels.
The vehicle's aerodynamic body design was done with the aid of computers and wind tunnel testing. The vehicle's tendency to lift at high speed was remedied by forward ground effects, for which the spoiler additionally decreased drag.
As the car came closer to its debut, further restrictions imposed distinctive features on the prototype cars, such as the Borrani wire wheels. The finished product was finished in white with black stripes and a matte dark blue nose.
Prototype cars GT/101 and GT/102 were used for both testing and press purposes as early as April of 1964. Roy Salvadori and Bruce McLaren put the car through its paces, testing the GT40 at Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) for numerous shakedowns prior to the fast approaching LeMans trials on April 14, 1964. During the trails, GT/101 was comprehensively crashed by Jo Schlesser as was GT/102 by Salvadori. The second prototype car was returned for repair. The following two cars - GT/103 and GT/104 - were being completed for the 1964 24 Hours of LeMans in June.
The first international outing for the GT40 was at the Nurburgring 1000KM where GT/102 was driven by Phil Hill and McLaren. It would retire prematurely due to suspension trouble. Next on the schedule was LeMans, and the Ford team continued to test the three entries - GT/102, GT103 and GT104 - at MIRA.
Ford GT40 drivers enlisted for the 1964 LeMans included Hill, McLaren, Richie Ginther, Masten Gregory, Richard Attwood and Schlesser.
After two difficult, troublesome years at LeMans, the Ford GT40 would emerge victorious. It would dominate the race four-years in a row.Chassis Number GT/104
Ford GT40 GT/104 was the fourth GT40 prototype and the first to receive a lightweight chassis. It used a thinner chassis steel (24-gauge as opposed to 22-gauge) in an effort to save weight. It was finished in white with a matte blue nose and black stripes, and rode on a set of Borrani wire wheels - in similar fashion to its sister cars.
GT/104 was tested at MIRA for 18 laps (totaling just 50.4 miles) before being shipped to France for the 24 Hours of LeMans. It wore race number 12 and entrusted to Schlesser and Attwood. They managed to maneuver the car to 8th fastest in practice at an impressive 3.55.4. After two days of practice, the race started with an impressive lineup of competition, including Ferrari Ps, Ferrari GTOs, Porsche 904s and Shelby's Cobra Daytona Coupe. The Ford GT40s fought valiantly but soon found trouble. Both GT/102 and GT/103 encountered gearbox failures. In the fourth hour, sitting in 6th place, Attwood pulled GT/104 off the Mulsanne Straight with an engine bay fire caused by a broken fuel line. Track officials were able to extinguish the flames, but the damaged car was unable to complete any more laps.
1964 was a disappointing season for Ford and their GT40 program, though it was important in gaining experience and 'lessons learned.'
GT/104 was sent back to Ford Advanced Vehicles (FAV) for repair. By November, it was ready to be shipped to the Bahamas fitted with a Cobra 289 powerplant and a new nose. Both GT/103 and GT/104 participated in Nassau Speed Week, but both failed to finish due to similar suspension trouble. As 1964 came to a close, the GT40 had yet to finish a complete race.
10 weeks prior to the start of the 1965 season, both GT/103 and GT/104 were sent to Shelby American, Inc. Lunn had decided to contract the racing of the GT40 to Carroll Shelby. Carroll had GT/104 painted in Shelby Blue with two white stripes and became SAI's test bed. It saw significant use, being driven by Ken Miles, at Riverside Raceway that January. Revisions were made to faulty air ducts, and the suspension issues were resolved. The Colotti transmission was significantly reworked and a high-water-pressure input system was installed on both cars. The external socket - mounted differently on GT/103 and GT/104 - made them distinguishable. The Borrani wheels were removed and replaced with Halibrand alloy wheels.
The cars appeared at Riverside in February with modifications - notably the tailpiece - which included a hatch to the oiler filler. By the close of February the two nearly identical GT40s were ready to compete in the Daytona Continental. The GT40s and the Cobra Daytona Coupes showed tremendous potential during practice. Ginther and Bob Bondurant were tasked with piloting GT/104 (no. 72) and Miles and Lloyd Ruby were assigned GT/103 (no. 73). GT/104 set the pace for the Shelby team during qualifying. During the race, Bondurant had a minor spin on the first lap with GT/104, but was able to pull clear of the Surtees' Ferrari. A second driver error by Bondurant left him at the back of the field. After some skillful driving, both GT40s were running just behind Gurney's 'rabbit' special and the Ferraris. Gurney's aggressive pace forced the Ferraris into retirement. GT/104 was soon running in second and GT/103 was in 3rd. After Gurney suffered a blown motor, the GT40s were in the lead, with GT/104 in 1st.
During a scheduled driver change, GT/104 was unable to restart due to a condenser issue. It took 27 minutes to resolve and when it returned to the track, it was well out of the lead. The Ford representatives feared that the pace of the GT40s was not sustainable, so they demanded that Shelby slow his driver's down. Bondurant later reported that he would slow going by the pits, then returned to pace when out of sight.
GT/104 fought valiantly, gaining ground, and started catching up. As the checkered flag fell, GT/104 was in 3rd place, winning 2nd in Class. GT/103 remained in front and took home the victory.
A few weeks later, the cars competed at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Hill and Ginther were paired in GT/104 (no. 10) while Miles and McLaren were given GT/103 (no. 11). GT/104 was soon out due to rear suspension failure.
After the race, both SAI cars were shipped to France to join a pair of FAV GT40s at the LeMans trials. GT/104 performed well for Bondurant, who set the seventh-fastest time of the weekend. On Sunday, SAI ran the car with an experimental extended nose, but Bondurant was not pleased with the car's subsequent handling characteristics. This put an end to any panel modifications.
As the World Championship season continued, SAI entered the GT40s in Monza for the 1,000 km. During practice, Miles put GT/103 into a banking, but both cars were able to start the race. Mid-way through the race, GT/104 had moved from 8th to 2nd. Unfortunately, while traveling 160 mph, a ball stud failed. Maglioli managed to bring the car to a controlled stop with a collapsed front suspension.
The next month, Shelby America entered the two cars in the Nurburgring 1,000 km. This event was the final event before LeMans. Chassis GT/104 was given to Amon and Ronnie Bucknum and it wore race number 11. Early in the race, GT/103, powered by a 325 cid engine, broke a driveshaft and Hill and McLaren were given GT/104 to complete the race. After a missed pitting, GT/104 ran out of fuel just shy of the pits. It dropped from 3rd to 23rd. Amon pushed the car to its refueling, only to find that the car was no longer his to drive. Hill and McLaren were able to battle the GT40 back to an 8th place finish.
For LeMans, Shelby American decided to run two new production chassis as well as two prototype 427 cars.
In late 1965, GT/104 was given to Ford's Kar Kraft for restoration. Invoiced in November from SAI to Ford Motor Company, GT/104 was taken over by the Ford styling Department. After around 500 hours of restoration work, the car was transformed back to original condition. It received new bodywork with a smoother tail section and it was given its earliest prototype livery of white with black stripes with the exception of the nose, which was painted a greenish blue. Also, the car wore its Halibrand alloy wheels.
GT/104 took on show car duties and was displayed at the Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall. GT/104 would remain with the Ford Motor Company until 1971. A.H. 'Nub' Turner of Ann Arbor, Michigan became the car's first private owner. At some point during his ownership, the left fuel filler was improperly shut while refueling and a small fire ensued. The flames were quickly extinguished and damage was limited to a small area of fiberglass around the filler.
In 1972, the car was sold to another Ann Arbor resident, John Beaudine Stringer of Road Sport International. In 1973, it was sold to Dr. Peter Patton of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who soon began a restoration of the car. It remained with Dr. Patton until 1978 when the unfinished car was sold to Bill Jacobs of Chicago, Illinois. Greg Lonberger of Oak Park, Illinois purchased the car in September of 1978. A restoration followed, after confirming its identity as the 1965 Daytona winner. The unfinished car was sold in June of 2010 to its current owner. In August of that year, the restoration began anew by GT40 specialist Paul Lanzante in England.
The car was completed using many original and period-correct components. The car retains its original Colotti gearbox, lightweight chassis, and original 256 engine mounts. The powerplant is the correct type SAI 289 block with correct LeMans specification components and five-bolt bell-housing pattern.
GT/104 has been brought back to its original 1965 Daytona specification. This car participated in Ford's initial GT program and earned the first showing for Ford at LeMans. It was the first GT40 with a podium finish and has been piloted by some of the greatest sports car drivers of that era.
In 2012, the car was offered for sale at Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach, California auction. The car was estimated to sell for $5,000,000 - $7,000,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $4,950,000, inclusive of buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2012
The history of the Ford GT40 began as an attempt to beat a certain Italian Automobile Manufacturer at the grueling 24 Hours of LeMans race. Each June, some of the world's best in the automotive industry descend onto a town West of Paris called LeMans, France to compete in a 24-Hour endurance competition. This tradition began in 1923 and since has become the pinnacle of automotive racing that challenges speed, performance and durability. A select group of European marques had since dominated the race such as Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, Bentley, and Alfa Romeo. Ford wanted to join this elite group.
During the early part of the 1960's, Ford attempted to buy Ferrari for $18 million to run its international racing program. The purpose was to use the Ferrari company and technology to help Ford achieve a LeMans victory. The negations unraveled and Ferrari walked away from bargaining table in May of 1963. Enzo Ferrari gave no indication as to why he had decided his company was no longer for sale. Ford decided to build their own super-car and beat Ferrari at International Racing.
Roy Lunn was an Englishman who had began his career at Ford of Britain and later came to the United States in 1958. He had played a role in helping to create the 1962 mid-engined Ford Mustang I Concept. The vehicle was an aluminum-bodied, two-seater that was powered by a 1.7-liter 4-cylinder engine.
After the Mustang I, Roy Lunn along with Ray Geddes and Donald Frey turned their attention to a racing program. The car that Ford had conceived was similar to a Lola GT, being low and mid-engined. The Lola was designed and built by Eric Broadley in Slough, England and first displayed in January of 1963 at the London Racing Car Show. Broadley was running low on funds and consequently more than eager to join with Ford.
Borrowed from the Lola GT was the monocoque center section and aerodynamic design. It was longer, wider, and stronger with a rigid steel section. In the mid-section lay an all-aluminum 4.2-liter V8 engine. The gearbox was a 4-speed Colotti unit; the suspension was double-wishbone. Excellent stopping power was provided by the 11.5 inch disc brakes on all four wheels. In April 1964 the GT40 was displayed to the public at the New York Auto Show. Two weeks later the car was at Le Mans being put through pre-race testing. The result of a very rushed program became evident. The car suffered from aerodynamic and stability issues and as a result ended in two crashes.
The GT represented 'Grand Turismo' while the designation 40 represented its height, only 40 inches. The number 40 was added to the designation when the Mark II was introduced.
The Mark II, still built in England, was put through extensive testing which solved many of the stability issues. Carroll Shelby was brought onboard to oversee the racing program. He began by installing a 7-liter NASCAR engine that was more powerful and more reliable. The result was a vehicle that was much more stable and quicker than the Mark I. For the 1965 LeMans, the Mark II proved to be a stronger contender but resulted in another unsuccessful campaign.
The third generation of the GT-40, the Mark III, was introduced in 1966 and only seven were produced. Ford continued to fine-tune and prepare the GT-40 for LeMans. The GT40 led the race from the beginning. This lead continued throughout the evening and into the morning hours. During the morning the GT40's were ordered to reduce their speed for purposes of reliability. By noon, ten out of the thirteen Fords entered had been eliminated. The remaining three Fords went on to capture first through third place. This victory marked the beginning of a four-year domination of the race.
In 1967 Ford introduced the Mark IV to LeMans. It was built all-American, where the previous versions had been criticized as being English-built and fueled by monetary resources from America. This had not been the first attempt for an all-American team using an American vehicle to attempt to capture victory at LeMans. Stutz had finished second in 1928. Chrysler had finished third and fourth during the same year, 1928. In 1950 the first major attempt to win at Lemans was undertaken by a wealthy American named Briggs Cunningham. Using modified Cadillac's he captured 10th and 11th. His following attempts to win at LeMans included vehicles that he had built where he managed a third place finish in 1953 and fifth place in 1954. This had been the American legacy at LeMans.
Of the seven vehicles Ford entered in 1967, three crashed during the night time hours. When the checkered flag dropped it was a GT40 driven by Gurney/Foyt to beat out the 2nd and 3rd place Ferrari by only four laps.
For 1968 the FIA put a ceiling on engine displacement at 5 liters. Ford had proven that Ferrari could be beaten and an American team and car could win at LeMans. Ford left international sports racing and sold the cars to John Wyer. Gulf Oil Co. provided sponsorship during the 1968 LeMans season. The Ford GT40 Mark I once again visited LeMans and again in 1969 where they emerged victorious both times. In 1969 the margin of victory for the GT40 was just two seconds after the 24 Hours of racing.
In 1969 new FIA rules and regulations ultimately retired the GT40's from racing and ended the winning streak.
Around 126 Ford GT-40's were producing during the production life span. During this time a wide variety of engines were used to power the vehicle. The MKI used a 255 cubic-inch Indy 4-cam, a 289 and 302 small block. The 289 was by far the most popular, producing between 380 and 400 horsepower. When the MKI returned during the 1968 and 1969 season it was outfitted with a 351 cubic-inch Windsor engine. The MKII came equipped with a 427 cubic-inch NASCAR engine. The third generation, the MK-III, had 289 cubic-inch engines. The final version, the MK-IV all were given 427 cubic-inch power-plants.
America, more specifically Ford, had proven that American automobiles and drivers were able to compete in all arenas.
After the production of the Ford GT40 ceased, there were several companies interested in creating replicas. One such company was Safir Engineering which purchased the rights to the name. In 1985 the Ford GT40 MKV was introduced and examples would continued to be produced until 1999. Chassis numbers continued in sequence where the original Ford cars stopped. The cars were powered by a Ford 289 cubic-inch OHV engine that produced just over 300 horsepower and was able to carry the car to a top speed of 164. Zero-to-sixty took just 5.3 seconds. Disc brakes could be found on all four corners. The cars were nearly identical to the original.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2007