Time for a remake?
Back in 1966 there was a minor earthquake in France. Fortunately no one was hurt. But a lot of egos were severely bruised.
The epicentre of this event was the race track which hosts an event which could justifiably lay claim to being the most famous race tin the world. The Le Mans 24 hour. The reason for upset was the ending of Ferrari’s dominance in sports car racing and emergence of an upstart newcomer. Ford. The story has been told many a time but still needs touching upon to put the whole thing in perspective.
Revenge was a dish best eaten cold. Unlike spaghetti.
Henry Ford, owner of the world’s largest car manufacturer, had decided that the band had become a tad dull. Needed sprucing up. Made more exciting. The solution he thought might be the injection of some exotic brew. So began a courtship between himself and the man at the head of arguably the world’s most famous sports car brand, Enzo Ferrari.
Ferrari no doubt flattered and possibly not unimpressed by the large wad of dollars Henry was waving, looked as if was ready to do a deal. But then in a not untypical reaction for Enzo, dumped his American mistress. Henry was not impressed. In fact so much so that the instruction went out that he was going to teach that ******** Italian a lesson.
Three years later that lesson was administered by no fewer than three Ford GT40 who took the tops slots at Le Mans. And continued to do so for the next three years. Revenge was a dish best eaten cold. Unlike spaghetti.
Of course in part the irony was that the GT40 wasn’t a Ford at all, but a car designed by the “garagiste” that Enzo rather disparagingly described the English race car designers of the era. So the GT40 not only provided a platform for Henry to humiliate Ferrari, but also an opportunity for the Brits the bloody the Italians nose too.
A team led by Eric Broadley of Lola fame included John Wyer the ex Aston Martin team manager and Roy Lunn seconded from Ford in the States. They beavered away using a Lola chassis as a basis and eventually revealed at the New York Motor show the car to be known as there GT40.
The rest of course is history and what history. For four years from 1966 to ’69, the Ford GT40 swept all before them at Le Mans and delivered many other endurance race titles too. But equally as significant is the impression the car itself made. Few cars truly achieve iconic status, but the GT40 is one of that rare breed. No surprise when you feast your eyes on the surprisingly small body. Perfectly proportioned. It could almost have been designed by Ferrari!.
Though some originals survive, the GT40 has possibly spawned one of the biggest replica businesses of any car, except perhaps that of it’s U.S. stablemate the AC Cobra, the lovechild of another transatlantic co-operation.
Today though, only one company can lay claim to the heritage of the original GT40. That company is South Africa based Superformance, represented here in the UK by Le Mans Coupes, a company owned by ex racer Nigel Hulme. The car produces ‘continuations’ of the original GT40 using the same monocoque. And even more importantly chassis numbers that provide the confirmation that the Superformance GT40 is the only genuine continuation of the original production run.
The results? Well simply gorgeous. And of course quick! In fact quicker than the original race car.
Beautifully hand crafted, there are two versions available plus various extra options such as the addition of a ‘Gurney Bubble’ (after the U.S. born racer Dan Gurney), a necessary modification to the roof if you’re planning on wearing a helmet while driving. Surely every GT40 should have one?
One major refinement not available on the original, but extremely welcome today is air con. Carefully disguised, it makes driving the GT40 a considerably more comfortable experience than the original. Of course die hards and racers can opt out!
…a ‘Gurney Bubble’. Surely every GT40 should have one?
As we said in a recent review of another Le Mans racer available from Le Mans Coupes, can’t imagine why you would want to spend north of a £100k on a car made in the 1,000s, when you can have a tailor made icon.
Talking of 1,000s though, hats off to the Ford Motor company have revisited the GT40 for a second time in this century for much the same reason as Henry did back in the sixties. Sex appeal!
Back in 2005 they launched a re-imagined version of the classic and naming it the Ford GT. Very pretty it was too, though somewhat more corpulent than the original. But in this 60th anniversary year Ford will launch another assault on Le Mans with a new GT that will also be available as a road car in late 2016. Form a queue here.
Meanwhile UK fans will be able to see the racer in anger on April 17 at the Silverstone Six Hour race along with the other Le Mans wannabes.
So what’s it to be? A genuine continuation GT40 or a new Ford GT. Unfortunately if you order now neither will be ready for this year’s traditional blast down to Le Mans. But next year, well that’s another matter entirely….
To place your order for either go to:
Published on 26th February 2016