Two rare Ford
GT40s are heading to auction this summer. One is a 1968 Gulf-liveried Mk IV racing car originally campaigned by the legendary John Wyer. The other is a 1967 GT40 Mk I with only 5,000 miles, one of just 31 built for street use. The two cars will be lots at the RM Auctions Monterey sale in August.
This is a big deal. GT40s occasionally come up for sale, but they are rarely this interesting. (Yes, I realize that's a ridiculous thing to say. Almost all GT40s are interesting, simply because they're GT40s. I'm speaking relatively.) You can see shots of both machines below the jump. Take a look. They're gorgeous.
The '67 car is a rolling time warp, with an unmolested interior, dainty wire wheels and the charm that comes only with decades of patina. GT40s being what they are -- racing cars built to win long-distance races like Le Mans -- they are no longer common in this kind of shape. Most have been ridden hard and restored at least once; like a lot of competition machines, GT40s are best appreciated when used, so most people use them. The '68 example is an original Gulf car, the first built for Wyer's team and a veteran of both Daytona and Le Mans. In 1970, it served as the camera car for the Steve McQueen film "Le Mans."
I've never driven a GT40, but then, neither have most people. But these cars have a special significance for me. If you know anything about them, then they probably do for you, too.
Before I elaborate, here's the auction listing's basic description of the model:
Widely considered one of the most heroic and legendary racing automobiles ever conceived, the GT40 succeeded the Shelby Daytona coupe as Ford's standard-bearer during the infamous Ford-Ferrari wars of the 1960s. Among its many achievements, the utterly dominant GT40 stands proudly as the first American-built racing car to take victory at La Sarthe, and it scored consecutive victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1966 through 1969. Concurrent road cars featured similar mechanical specifications to its racing counterpart but with slightly less austere cockpits, which included fully upholstered interiors. In total, only 133 of all variations of the original factory GT40 were built before production ceased in 1969.
You can read more about the cars at this Autoblog post
; the site has excerpted the original press release at the bottom of the page (click the "show press release" button). It's worth a read, if only to be reminded just how cool a Ford '40 is.
These sales were likely planned to take place this year; 2012 is the 45th anniversary of the GT40's 1967 Le Mans win (A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, huge milestone, etc.). Most owners of vintage racing cars of this value are not stupid, and there's nothing that drives up auction prices like an air of now-is-the-time urgency. But it's not as if GT40s, or any vehicle of this caliber -- emotional and historic significance, flat-out bad-assedness, that sort of thing -- need much help.
I cannot imagine what these things are like to ride in or drive, much less race for 24 hours at speeds approaching 200 mph. I've geeked over these cars since I was little, but the closest I've been to a GT40 is a short drive I once took in a press-car Ford GT, the modern-day supercar
that apes the looks of the '60s original. Suffice it to say that it was educational; I had something of a run-in with the local police, was scolded and sent on my way, and learned to never again do certain things behind the wheel. Also, I once stood in front of this thing, the 1967 winner piloted by Foyt and Gurney ...
... in a room at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn
, Mich. I was awestruck and couldn't move for about five minutes, and it wasn't even running. There is a pull here, an undeniable Something.
Perhaps this video will help. It's of a friend of mine, a classic-car dealer named Colin Comer, behind the wheel of a GT40 he once owned. Lately, I can't stop watching it -- not because I know Colin, but because the clip so perfectly captures what the car is about, even down to the weirdo surf music in the background. There's a drama there, an undeniable reverence. It's just ... GT40.