1968 Ford GT40

Factory built lightweight race car
FACTORY BUILT LIGHTWEIGHT RACE CAR
• Great period history including Le Mans
• Fully documented since new
• Excellent entry ticket for any event

Model history:

The history of the Ford GT40 began as an ambitious attempt to beat Ferrari at the grueling 24 hours of Le Mans race. Each June, some of the world's best in the automotive industry descend to a town West of Paris called Le Mans to compete in ‘the’ 24-hour endurance race. This tradition began in 1923 and since then has become the pinnacle of automotive racing that challenges speed, performance and durability. A selected group of European marquees had since dominated the race such as Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, Bentley, and Alfa Romeo. Ford desperately 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’s technology to help Ford achieve a glorious Le Mans victory. The negations unravelled and Ferrari walked away from the bargaining table in May 1963. Enzo Ferrari gave no indication as to why he had decided his company was no longer for sale. Consequently Ford decided to build their own race car and to beat Ferrari on the track.

Roy Lunn, an Englishman who had began his career at Ford of Britain came later to the United States in 1958. He had played an important role in helping to create the 1962 mid-engined Ford Mustang I Concept. The vehicle was an aluminium-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 centre section and its basic aerodynamic design. It was longer, wider, and stronger with a rigid steel section. In the mid-section lay an all-aluminium 4.2-liter V8 engine. The gearbox was a 4-speed Colotti unit and the suspension was double-wishbone. Excellent braking power was provided by the 11.5 inch disc brakes on all four wheels. In April 1964 the GT40 was first 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 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 Le Mans race, the Mark II proved to be a stronger contender but resulted in another unsuccessful campaign.

The third generation of the GT-40, was introduced in 1966 and only seven were produced. Ford continued to fine-tune and prepare the GT-40 for Le Mans. 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 another evolution for Le Mans. This car 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 Le Mans. Stutz had finished second in 1928. Chrysler had finished 3rd and 4th during the same year, 1928. In 1950 the first major attempt to win at Le Mans was undertaken by a wealthy American named Briggs Cunningham. Using modified Cadillac's he captured 10th and 11th. His following attempts to win at Le Mans included vehicles that he had built where he managed a 3rd place finish in 1953 and 5th place in 1954. This had been the American legacy at Le Mans.

Of the seven vehicles Ford entered in 1967, three crashed during the night. 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 litres. Ford had proven that Ferrari could be beaten and an American team and car could win at Le Mans. Ford left international sports racing and sold the cars to John Wyer. The Gulf Oil Company provided sponsorship during the 1968 Le Mans season. The Ford GT40 Mark I once again visited Le Mans 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.

Specific history of this car:
GT40 P/1079 was delivered new from Ford Advanced Vehicles (FAV) as one of the few privately entered factory built lightweight racing cars to Mr Jean Blaton from Brussels, Belgium. Compared to the road cars (which are today often rebuilt and used as race cars), the competition cars had a stronger race spec engine, a smaller, but improved clutch and a 140 litre fuel tank. They also featured a lighter flywheel and 25% stiffer suspension all around. Further the race cars were missing its interior trim, the door pockets, a radio, the heater and exhaust silencers compared to the normal road cars. As this car was one of the very late cars built by John Wyer, it belongs to the last series of GT40 which had slightly modified body parts and was lighter than any of the earlier cars.

The original invoice, which comes with the car, proves that Blaton received the yellow car on the 20th April 1968 in Ostende, Belgium for the Ecurie Francorchamps. This was just in time to put the car on a transporter for the 1.000 km race in Monza. The drivers Willy Mairesse and “Jean Beurlys” (the racing name of Jean Blaton) qualified the car 6th on the grid, but had to stop the race after 89 laps due to wheel problems. The where still qualified 7th overall and 2nd in class! The next race for 1079 were the 1.000 km of Spa-Francorchamps, were the car was entered by the Belgium Claude Dubois in the name of the Ecurie Francorchamps, still in its Belgium racing colors. The car was again driven by Mairesse and “Beurlys” who qualified the car in third position, only beaten by the local hero Jacky Ickx in another GT40 and a experimental Ford on pole. The start went very well but the Ecurie Francorchamps had to retire after 45 laps.

For the 1968 24 hours of Le Mans, the car was once more entered by Claude Dubois in the name of his team Ecurie Claude Dubois. The original and stamped (18 March 1968) entry form and application forms which are coming with the car, are stating Dubois, “Beurlys” and Mairesse as drivers. After some technical problems during the tests, the ended up in qualifying, now with a fresh engine, 10th on the grip. Shortly before the start of the 24 hours race it started to rain. Mairesse drove off first, but lost the car in the rain and crashed it at high speed on the Mulsanne as a door flew open.

After the accident the car remained untouched for a while before it went to Switzerland where it was restored. In the late eighties/early nineties the car was sold to a French based investment funds including some other high valued cars. The car was then offered at a French auction in 1994 and also stayed in France until the last owner bought it in the late nineties. During a further restoration the car has been fully stripped and some wrong parts have been replaced or corrected. The car was then showed to Ronnie Spain, author of the book “GT40: An individual history and race record”, who immediately recognised the car and stated it in writing as the original, ex-Jean Blaton car.

Since then, the GT40 was successfully driven at several Le Mans Classic races since 2002. It also raced on various Tour Auto events and Goodwood Revivals with great success. 1079 is probably one of the best documented GT40 race cars until today. Not only is there a more than 400 pages expertise by Ronnie Spain, but also a full technical expertise certifying the authenticity of the chassis. We are very proud to offer this rare and original racing Ford GT40 in race-ready condition. Only very seldom do original competition GT40 appear on the market as most of the cars which are found in historic motorsport are modified road cars.
Sources: 
• Mr Ronnie Spain
• “GT40: An individual history and race record” by Ronnie Spain
• “The Ford that beat Ferrari” by J. Allen and G. Jones
• “24 heures du Mans 1923 - 1992” by C. Moity
• Motorsport magazine
• www.racingsportscars.com