Building the Ford GT40 was a decision made by Henry Ford II, finally to beat Ferrari at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. But how could this happen, why they wanted to beat Ferrari in racing ? In the early 1960’s Ferrari struggling with huge financial problems while the Ford Motor Company struggling with a bad image. They were building “boring cars for boring people”.
Ferrari was a winning company, sexy and young, they took the win at all the great races all over the world.
But the Ford managers knew about the financial problems at Ferrari and try to buy the Scuderia to have access to the knowhow of building beautiful and fast cars. Lee Iacocca and a few other top men traveled to Italy to have a talk to Enzo Ferrari convincing him to sell the Scuderia to Ford. But, thank god, it dosen’t work like this and the company was sold to the FIAT factory.
The disappointment at the Ford Motor Company about this was huge and Henry Ford II decided to build a race car which was able to beat Ferrari on track. This was the birth of the iconic Ford GT40 which at the end dominated the most famous races all over the world.
The Prototype of the Ford GT40 was looking great but it was undriveable – too much weight, too slow – the final touch was missing. Therefore the Ford Motor Company asked Carroll Shelby for help to lead this project to success. Carroll Shelby was using Ford engines for his own cars, the mighty Cobra, and was very successful at the race tracks in the US and he knew what it was needed to win the 24 hours at Le Mans, because he took the overall winning in 1959 driving an Aston Martin DBR1 and sharing the car with Roy Salvadori.
He and his driver / mechanic Ken Miles took over, developing the car to a real competitive race car. They optimized the aerodynamics and the engine performance. They made it lighter, stronger and more reliable.
At their debut at Le Mans in 1965 the GT40’s pushed so hard, were much faster than the competitors, especially the Ferrari’s, however not all of the Ford GT40 couldn’t survive the 24 hours and finish the race. Nevertheless Enzo Ferrari knew that the 1965 win of Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory could be the last one for years, so Ferrari decided to build a new car, the Ferrari 330P4. This Ferrari was much faster than the cars before.
When the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans came this was the race which brought the Ford Motor Company the revenge for everything happened in the past and started the series of four overall winnings at the most prestigious race in the world. This was the turning point for Ford to become a sexy company with a great image. So, finally they had their headlines in the magazines and newspapers all over the world. A very sad aspect of this kind of a fairytale was that Ken Miles didn’t won Le Mans and died at testing a very new version of the GT40 MK IV for the 1967 season.
The Ford GT40 is an icon of Sports Car Racing and I was able to watch so many of these tremendous cars at the several historic race events, in special the Spa Six Hours race which is dominated by them for the last years.
By the way, the name GT40 was not a fantasy name, GT stands for Gran Turismo and the 40 for the height of 40 inch.
FORD GT40 MK I – TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
MANUFACTUR Ford Motor Company
TYPE Race Car
YEAR OF PRODUCTION 1964 – 1969 (GT40 Mk I 1964-1966)
TOTAL NUMBER OF BUILD CARS 134 items
ENGINE Ford Windsor V8- 289, mid mounted
CUBIC CAPACITY 4727 cc
TRANSMISSION 5-speed, not synchronized
HORSEPOWER 385 hp
BODY STYLE Coupé
WHEELBASE 2413 mm
BRAKES front and rear disc, ventilated 292mm
LENGTH 4046 mm
WIDTH 1778 mm
HEIGHT 1029 mm
WEIGHT WITHOUT FUEL 980 kg
V-MAX ca. 290 km/h