For anyone who watched the movie Ford v Ferrari and rooted for team Ford, the true hero of the film had to be the Ford GT40, a somewhat legendary sports car. That said, the GT40’s win would have been impossible without the efforts and technical expertise put in by Ken Miles, the legendary Carroll Shelby, Phil Remington, and Roy Lunn because it was their build of the Ford GT40 that let Ford beat Ferrari in its game.
Ford’s in-house development gave the world the GT40 Mk I, which turned out to be a disaster, and the 1964 racing season did not win it any laurels. After handing development to Shelby, the Ford GT40 as we know it today began to take shape, although it went through 1965 minus any wins as well. Finally, in 1966 Ford GT40 did what it set out to prove, that a mass carmaker could also build a successful racer. Here’s why the GT40 remains Ford’s crowning feather, 55 years after it took home the LeMans title.
Born Out Of Vengeance, Forged By Carroll Shelby, Built On The Lola
Ford’s GT40 may have been American-engineered but the chassis came from British engineer Eric Broadley and his Lola Mk6 GT. Ford and Broadley had a falling out, so he quit and made Lola his own, leading it to a storied racing career for the next 50 years. Shelby saw the potential in the Lola chassis and made it the base of the GT40. Ford’s in-house development of the GT40 came with zero results, so things shifted stateside, and soon enough, Ken Miles’ suspension tweaks and Phil Remington’s air ducting changes turned it into one powerful race car.
The story of the Ford GT40 is rather ironic. Henry Ford II was out to buy Ferrari’s racing division so that Ford could also reach heights on the track as much as did on the asphalt. The deal fell through with Enzo Ferrari choosing to team up with Fiat SpA instead, and Ford decided, it was time his company birthed its racing team.
The Ford GT40 is a story of a grudge against an Italian, the chassis from a Britisher, and American expertise at its best.
Winning The 24-Hours Of Le Mans Twice In A Row
Part of Shelby’s development of the GT40 was to squeeze in a giant 7.0-liter V8 into the Lola chassis, the same one that gave the Shelby Cobra a massive boost. Once they managed to fit in the engine, this GT40, called the GT40X flew on the test track at a top speed of 210 mph and became Ken Miles’ pick for LeMans.
For 1966, Ford never truly “beat” Ferrari given that all Ferrari entries bowed out that year due to mechanical failure, but such was the prowess of the GT40 that they managed to do the 1-2-3 photo finish. Ford asked Miles to stop his GT40 and wait for the other two teams to catch up at the finish line. Sadly, this “tie” cost Ken Miles his Le Mans title as the officials decided to award the first place to Bruce McLaren because he had started eight meters back at the starting line. Given that Miles also won Sebring and Daytona the same year, he would have been the first driver to cinch all three.
Ford’s amazing sports car, the GT40 went on to win the Le Mans in 1968 and 1969 as well, with the title going to the same car, making it a remarkable achievement for the GT40 and a stunning win for Ford as well.
The Ford GT40 Is Ford’s Most Expensive Car Ever
While there are many “tribute” GT40s floating in the market, an actual, original, certified Ford GT40 needs very, very deep pockets. Think seven figures, although the most expensive GT40 sold nearly touched eight.
No one quite knows the exact number of GT40s made, although estimates stand around 100 in total, with many more built via original spare parts but copycat chassis. The main thing that makes some of the Ford GT40 examples insanely expensive over and above the others is its racing legacy. For instance, in 2018, the GT40 that finished third in the 1966 Le Mans sold for a whopping $9,795,000. Just $205,000 short of 10 million.
A roadster prototype of the GT40 meanwhile sold for $7,650,000 in 2019 and another non-racing example sold for $4,000,000 in 2016. Clearly, the price of the GT40 keeps rising with the years, and now, with Ford reentering the racing arena, and partnering with Red Bull for Formula 1, the next GT40 sale may hit the eight figures! Once a haloed race car, the Ford GT40 remains the most iconic sports car from Ford, yet.