1966 Ford GT40 MK II
Chassis Number : XGT1 Horsepower : 485 Displacement : 8-cylinder, 6.98 L Wheelbase : 95"
The Big Three American automobile manufacturer had agreed, more or less, to stay away from international racing. However, by the late-1950s sports car racing was a major influence throughout the world. A victory at the 24 hours of Le Mans assured bragging rights and a sense of technical superiority. Ford initially tried to partner with the Ferrari operation in the hope of competing but there were disagreements between the two individuals (Henry Ford, Jr. and Enzo Ferrari) so that Mr. Ford, with a substantial cash surplus, decided to go it on his own. His organization clearly recognized that they were far behind in competition technology, particularly at the level of Le Mans.
By now he wanted to beat Ferrari, no expense spared. In fact, as pointed out in our exhibit, America did not win a Le Mans race since 1921 and had no dominant success with the European sponsored Stutz efforts of the 1920s nor the Cunningham activity throughout the 1950s and early-1960s. So Ford teamed up with Lola, a company run by Eric Broadley who had some experience in producing mid-engined sports racers with Ford power.
To be a Ford, this car had to be based around the currently used V8 with the central camshaft and a push rod overhead valve system. A standard Ford Fairlane engine, capable of 350 horsepower, was mated to a special force feed lubricated transaxle. Initial testing of these cars was disappointing but with the new gearbox and the installation of a Shelby Cobra cast iron V8 engine, the performance was somewhat better. Later Shelby was called in to replace Eric Broadley and the Lola team. Under Shelby’s direction the new GT’s came in 3rd in the 1965 Daytona race. Even with big block cars the 1965 Le Mans was a failure for the Ford team.
After development with the 4.7 liter engine and the T-44 gearbox, the GT40 was perfected and the new Ford team now headed by John Wyer. These new cars called Mark II’s were ready for the 1966 Le Mans where eight of them were entered by three different private teams. The particularly brutal 1966 race (only 15 of the 55 starters finished) was readily won by three Mark II Ford’s who completed in a dramatic 1-2-3 finish.
Our car was supplied to the British racing organization Alan Mann Racing as a lightweight chassis prepared by Shelby American for Mann to complete as a Mark II coupe. Its yellow and black stripes made it a standout during the race. Driven by Sir John Whitmore and Frank Gardner, it retired after five hours apparently because of clutch problems. It was taken back to Shelby American International where it was sent on a dealer tour in the Great Lake regions.
It was subsequently stored in 1967 and then in 1971 it was sold to Dr. Roger Wilcox. He had it restored at Holman & Moody according to the criteria which were applicable at the time. In 1987 when we acquired it from Rick Nagle’s museum, in a deal brokered by George Stauffer, it was obvious that although it was mechanically complete, the engine was not as original as the rest of the car which was otherwise in excellent condition. Recognizing that a proper engine would have to be installed, the car was entrusted for restoration to a GT-40 expert, soi-disant, who promised to give us the original bits we needed if we allowed him to do some work on the car.
Entrusting the car to him was a serious mistake, and by far the worst experience I have had in the automotive hobby. Without going into detail, the car was kept in his possession for years, without significant work being done. The final insult was when we found out that he had sold the most irreplaceable part of our car, the very special T44 transaxle! This led to a series of actions during which he had to supply us with a T44 transmission which was completely original and restored by Mike Teske, who generously respected our penchant for detail.
A correct cast-stamped racing block, obtained from the remnants of the Kar Kraft racing organization was finally obtained and all of the original accoutrements of a true 1966 Mark II racing car were added (aluminum racing heads, special carburetor, special manifolding, et cetera). The new engine was dyno’d to a high level and the car was completed by Ed Tatios with the help of Mark Allin so that, finally, we had a correct Mark II. Since then we have enjoyed its use and gratefully appreciate all those who helped us get this magnificent vehicle on the road in correct configuration