Ford GT40 - World class winner born out of revenge
It may be hard to imagine, but the main reason for the existence of Ford GT40 and its impressive career was none other than Enzo Ferrari. After failed negotiations and attempts to buy Ferrari in the early sixties, Henry Ford II, the head of Ford Motor Company, was extremely aggravated. Not only did Enzo Ferrari refuse his generous offer, but he didn’t act as a good businessman and he managed to waste Ford’s valuable time. So Henry Ford II needed a revenge and what better way to get one than to beat Enzo Ferrari at his own game?
GT40 was born from revenge
However, there is a long way between an idea and its realization, and Henry Ford II knew that Ford needed help. So he called Carroll Shelby, a famous racer turned constructor and the ’59 Le Mans winner who already had a conflict with Enzo. Alongside Shelby, he invited John Wyer, the ex-Aston Martin team manager, and Eric Broadley who was a manager with Lola Cars, a factory which provided a lot of technical know-how, especially in chassis and suspension department. Very soon, works on Ford GT40 race car started. The model designation “40“ was inspired by the height of the car which was only 40 inches (1 meter). The new Ford GT40 model debuted in 1964 with a very modern design, central-longitudinal V8 engine from Ford which had 289 cid (4,7 liters) displacement and around 300 bhp.
GT40 showed great potential right from the start
The first exam for the new car was at Nurburgring in May 1964, followed by the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unfortunately, GT40 didn’t finish either of the races because of mechanical problems, which was devastating to Ford. However, the GT40 showed big potential and further development was continued. For the 1965 season, Ford introduced GT40 MKII, an improved version with an extremely powerful 427 cid (7 liters) V8 engine and around 485 bhp. The GT40 MKII also failed to win the 1965 Le Mans but it won some smaller races, which was good enough for Henry Ford II to keep financing the project.
Four years of GT40’s dominance at Le Mans
However, in 1966, GT40 dominated 24 Hours of Le Mans, destroying all of the competition and scoring an impressive 1-2-3 win. Henry Ford II was delighted, but his revenge was not over yet because that win was just the beginning. The following year, Ford GT40 came back and won 24 Hours of Le Mans, beating Ferrari 330 P4 by four laps. The same thing happened in 1968 when Ford won again, but that time the Porsche 907 was second. Unbelievably, Ford won again with GT40 in 1969 with a smaller engine version (5.0 liters V8) making it the fourth win in a row and a tremendous success. During that period, behind the wheel of the GT40’s were some of the best drivers that the world has ever seen like Phill Hill, Bruce McLaren, Ken Miles, Denis Hulme, Dan Gurney, A. J. Foyt, Mark Donohue, Jacky Ickx and Bob Bondurant, which were a big part of Ford’s success.
In the end, Ford built 107 samples of GT40 in four variants. Some of those cars were road going vehicles but most were pure racing cars. During GT40’s heydays, everybody wondered what was the secret of its dominance? There was no secret, but a very good combination of quality components, precise construction, experienced drivers and very powerful Ford engines with enormous amounts of torque, which is important to achieve high top speed on long straights. And, a little bit of luck, of course…
Video : Ford GT40 start up