1967 Ford MK IV
Chassis Number : J-8 Horsepower : 530 Displacement : 8-cylinder, 6.98 L Wheelbase : 94.9"
The Mark IV was the ultimate evolution of the GT40 series and was replete with a variety of outstanding technological features. To discuss the engineering innovations Ford’s desire for victory and would be the subject of several chapters. Ford’s desire to make the car completely in the United States gave their newly formed racing satellite, Kar Kraft, a free hand to create such innovative features as a honeycombed aluminum chassis that was substantially lighter but virtually equal in strength to the steel version.
Modifications were made on the streamlined body shell and the 427 Ford engine was beefed up to give optimal output. A special transaxle with its own cooling system carried power to the rear wheels. For a detailed description one is referred to the excellent historical analysis of Ronnie Spain’s GT 40: An Individual History and Race Record.
Four of these cars were prepared to race at Le Mans and the racing history of the Mark IV is focused on that one 1967 Le Mans race, although one car did win Sebring that same year. Our car, J8, was assigned to Lloyd Ruby and Denny Hulme. During the race they were progressing very nicely and, in fact, set the Le Mans top speed record at over 224 mph, the record equaled by Mario Andretti before his accident in that race.
It is said that while traveling down the Mulsanne Straight at these dramatic high speeds the turning point at the end of the Straight was misjudged and the car landed deep into the sand. Attempts to dig it out with the in car equipment provided proved fruitless and ultimately the car was abandoned only to be recovered some time after the race. The J8 was returned to Holman and Moody. What to do with these cars remained questionable. Apparently Ford planned to use some of them as show cars but the most were not kept although the alleged 1967 Le Mans winner, J6 driven by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt, was retained by the company and ultimately displayed in the Ford museum.
J8 was donated to the Harrah Automobile Collection on February 26, 1968. Apparently some paint work was done to the front because the configuration of the letter “4” appears different currently than when raced. It is likely that the rest of the car was not repainted since there are various stress cracks throughout the body as would show up during the flexing of racing. It remained in the Harrah collection until September 27, 1985 when it was auctioned by the Holiday Inn Corporation, the final lot of the day.
I had planned to attend this auction but it was just impossible for me to get away from my clinical responsibilities. I learned, however, that George Stauffer purchased the car. I flew to Wisconsin to see him, having ascertained its availability. We struck a deal. At the time he had another built up car from an unused J chassis which was in mint condition, whereas J8 looked somewhat tatty with its stress cracks and obviously aged paint. I’m not sure whether George understood why I was only interested in the J8 but after some discussion it became obvious that that was the car for me.
Subsequently we have done very little to it. It was always in excellent running condition. Everything about her appears untouched. With these GT-40’s are we ever sure whether the actual racing engine is still in the car but there is no record of engine work being done prior to going to Harrah’s. The brakes fit and work nicely but they are incorrect and we are currently looking for an original set of the rare Kelsey-Hayes calipers rather than having them made new. It was displayed at the 100th anniversary of Ford at Laguna Seca and it has given us much pleasure.