The Ford GT40 was one of the most distinctive sports cars of all time. It was built to win long-distance sports car races, notably the Le Mans 24 Hour Race against Ferrari (who had won four in a row 1958-62). Henry Ford II wanted a Ford at Le Mans since the early 1960s. Initially there was an attempt to buy Ferrari, but after they backed away in 1963 Ford decided to produce its own car. To this end, Ford established a small subsidiary, Ford Advanced Vehicles in Slough (England), working closely with the Lola company who had used Ford engines to great effect in racing. The resulting car was the GT40 (so named because its overall height was 40 inches) first produced in April 1964 and at Le Mans GT40s won four times straight from 1966 to 1969.
The original GT40 first raced at Le Mans in 1964 and was not very successful with all three cars retiring, but the experience gained then and in 1965 allowed the Mark II to dominate the race in 1966 with a 1-2-3 finish. The Mark IV won the following year (when four Mark IVs three Mark IIs and three Mark Is raced) and after a rules change re-engined Mark Is won the race in 1968 and 1969. Rule changes again in 1970 rendered the car obsolete.
The Mark III was a road-car only, of which 7 were built.
Just as with many classic sportscars, several companies made replicas of the GT40 - of varying quality. One of the best such companies was Safir Engineering, which bought the rights to the name "GT40" in 1985, and built cars until 1999 with chassis numbers continuing the sequence where the original Ford cars stopped.
At the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, a new GT40 Concept was unveiled by Ford. This is to be put on sale in 2003 as part of Ford's centenary. Curiously, Ford had never claimed "GT40" as a trademark. Demands of $40 million from Safir for the name were rejected, and the car will be known officially as the "Ford GT".
|Year||Car||Drivers||Distance (miles)||Av. Speed (mph)|
|1966||Ford GT40 Mk II||C.Amon, B.McLaren||3009.4||125.39|
|1967||Ford GT40 Mk IV||D.Gurney, A.J. Foyt||2630.2||135.48|
|1968||Ford GT40 Mk I||P.Rodriguez, L.Bianchi||2766.9||115.29|
|1969||Ford GT40 Mk I||J.Ickx, J.Oliver||3105.6||129.40|