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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ford GT40 @ 50

50 years ago this year, one of the most iconic GT/sports racing cars appeared on the scene.

In the early 1960’s, Henry Ford II launched the “Total Performance” program, hoping that the race-winning image would push Ford automotive sales worldwide.


Though the campaign covered all matter of motor sports, Ford was particularly focused on the 24 Heures du Mans, which is considered one of the world’s most prestigious races.

Ford attempted to purchase Ferrari, who had won 6 times in a row (1960-1965), hoping that together, they could win Le Mans. Ferrari back out of negotiations, having used Ford’s bid as leverage for a deal with Fiat.

This enraged Ford, and he vowed to put all of his company’s resources into beating GT/sports Ferrari on tracks worldwide, with a primary focus on Le Mans.

Pen&ink and markers on light blue archival stock
© Paul Chenard 2013

The resulting British-designed/built race car was designated the GT40, GT standing for Grand Touring, and 40 representing its overall height of 40 inches.

After a few years of ironing the bugs out, Ford’s GT40’s took the first 3 spots in the 1966 running of Le Mans, racing Mark II’s.

In the 1967, Ford returned with the American-developed and built GT40 Mark IV’s, and took the first spot, famously driven by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt.

By 1968, Ford decided that they had reached their goal, and shut the GT40 program down. John Wyer’s Gulf Racing team (J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd.) took some of the GT40 Mark II’s and brought them to Le Mans in a high level of fit and finish.

They took the 1968 (drivers Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi), and 1969 (Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver) 24 Heures du Mans, both in the exact same car!

By 1970, the GT40 was just another obsolete race car, and Porsche took the Le Mans rei(g)ns. Today the GT4o is a highly respected collectable.

1 comment:

Irma said...

This is gorgeous!