Ford GT40: The Second-Oldest Ford To Exist

Just as the box office blockbuster film Ford v Ferrari was released, numerous Americans got their first glimpse of one of the country’s most rare and valuable race cars, Ford’s GT40. Let us take a step back and look back at this renowned vehicle’s founding and voyage.

How The Ford GT40 Came Into Existence

Of course, Ford’s GT40 program was initiated with the intention of dethroning Ferrari’s dominance in European motor racing. However, it did not begin as a partnership between Ford and Carroll Shelby; that came later on. The GT40 development program got underway in the United Kingdom under the direction of John Wyer, the former Aston Martin team leader.

Wyer took charge of the project, and Roy Lunn, the designer of the 1962 Mustang 1 concept, was chosen to manage the design team. The development program began with Lola GT chassis rather than Ford-engineered cars. As development leaders, Bruce McLaren and Roy Salvadori served in Monza as well as on various circuits in England, including the Lola GT cars team. At the same time, Ford’s vehicles were progressed.

During the spring of 1964, the first two Ford GT40 prototypes, chassis GT/101 and GT/102 were built in Slough, England. With the 24 Hours of Le Mans only a few weeks away, the vehicles were pushed into track tests just days after they were finished, with the development program only having a few weeks to test the cars in the wind tunnel and on the track.

Salvadori and test driver Jo Schlesser drove the vehicles to their limits on English test tracks. At the same time, the assembly crew at Ford Advanced Vehicles Ltd. in Slough labored to manufacture more automobiles. These GT40 prototypes were powered by Ford’s 4,2-liter aluminum engine combined with a Colotti gearbox transmission with 350 horsepower and Girling disc brakes provided, stopping force at all four corners.

The Second-Oldest Ford GT40 To Exist

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Issues Faced Weeks Before Le Mans

Salvadori and Schlesser found early in the day that the car’s tails were not strong enough at high speed, making it hard to direct them north at 150 miles per second. Specific aerodynamic faults have been resolved but not before wrecking the GT/101 and GT/102. Salvadori and Schlesser were not harmed, but the program had been reversed only weeks ahead of Le Mans by losing two prototypes.

Undoubtedly, each automobile was a bit different from prototypes. GT/102, the vehicle in our photographs, was constructed from lighter steel to save weight while repairing and receiving a spoiler: Instead of 22 meters of the other prototypes, the vehicle had 24-gazed chassis steel.

But after a very late development stage of the GT/104 was finished, just 50 miles of testing were taken to the 24 Heures du Mans. The 1964 GT/104 started strong with other Fords driven by Schlesser and Richard Attwood in Le Mans, but the fire broke out in the engine room in the fourth race lap.

Attwood succeeded in immediately stopping the vehicle, but the car was finished for the day. It was not gone, GT/104 remained highly reliable, and a new engine had been installed once returning to Ford Engineering. The car returned to competition in November 1964 at Nassau Speed Week together with the GT/103, although neither car completed the race because of rear suspension problems, which had afflicted other prototypes in the previous year.

The 1964 season resulted in someone else leading the development program. After an unbelievable 1964 season, Ford hired Carroll Shelby to take over mechanical problems and issues with management.

Carroll Shelby Stepping In

Soon the cars were delivered in Long Beach, California, to Shelby American, where the GT/104 chassis arrived. Ken Miles worked with Carroll Shelby and began testing vehicles at Willow Springs and Riverside, where he was the development driver presently. GT/104 and the other cars got a lot of improvements under Shelby’s guidance after a lot of testing.

The rear suspensions were an issue for all prototypes of the Ford GT40 in 1964, but Shelby’s crew devised a technique to strengthen the suspension without too much change. In addition, Shelby was able to ditch the dry-sump oil system shaving off 75 pounds from the car’s weight and replacing Borrani wheels with a more lightweight magnesium version that would help improve the cooling of the brakes.

The crew also redesigned the internal cooling system in the automobile’s nose, again reducing its weight and reworking the conducting system under the skin, referring to cooling. The car also had a distinctive painting arrangement: a Guardsman blue with white stripes and a black striped original white.

Shelby’s high-tech GT/104 changes and other prototypes were related to aerodynamics, which until that moment, race cars had rarely been utilized in meaningful terms. However, the Ford GT40 prototypes experienced high-speed problems due mainly to lack of downforce in the back – a characteristic that prevented high-speed control.

Even so, Ford had an entire aerospace unit that may assist in measuring the air temperature on various areas of the prototypes with different speeds by using its wind-tunnel testing expertise to the automobile. This allowed Ford to modify the aerodynamic profile of the car with the collected data, which was not done in the past when it came to running automobiles.

Also, the Cobra-spec 289-CID motor replaced Ford’s older motor, and the Colotti transmission did not escape changes since Shelby technicians were adjusted for improved durability over lengthy operating times in high speed.

The Final Result

In February 1965, the crew ran to get the vehicles ready for their debut outing— Shelby’s team just had weeks to modify all that was necessary following the dismal 1964 performance.

GT/104 showed itself earlier in the summer with a Shelby engine and many changes inside and outside. It was the first time when Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther finished third in the Daytona Continental in February 1965 while GT/103 came in first, led by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby.

During the 1965 season, GT/104 continued to compete, but in Monza and Sebring, it had mechanical problems, with the vehicle having suspension difficulties. Although the automobile could not finish on a podium in the Nurburgring Race, it had no possibility of returning to Le Mans – the Ford project already had new variations of the GT40 design in place.

And that is for the racing days of GT/104. The vehicle was returned to Ford and restored to its original white hue with black rays by many modifications. But Ford did not retain it long, and in 1971 it was sold to its first owner.

The automobile has been trading hands numerous times over the following decades, with several owners commencing restoration work but has been in a dismantled state for many years. The automobile was just submitted to Ford GT40 expert Paul Lansante in 2010, who currently carries a much older and incomplete rehabilitation for comprehensive refurbishments.

It was still thought that its engine and original Colotti transmission had been rebuilt with the engine used during the 1965 season.

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  1. Musa says

    Wonderfully Crafted!!

  2. Deems says

    Very well written!

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