There was a time in the not too distant past that the name Ford was heard almost as often as Ferrari in the winners circles of major international road races as the Dearborn automaker concentrated heavily on racing.
Its rational, that proved to be very good at the time, was that anything it learned from the racing circuit could some day be applied to their consumer products division and if it wasn’t for models such at the Ford GT40, the automaker might still be struggling to make drum brakes work for more than one or two stops. Its shifters might still be three-speed, notchy devices on the steering column, while its clutches could still have required the force of an elephant to press down.
Using the aerodynamics it learned in GT (Grant Touring) road racing, Ford, which was to suffer through its incredibly nondescript cars of the 1970s, turned into the highly successful cars of the 1980s and 90s as Ford took the lessons it learned from the aerodynamic bodies developed for the GT40 and applied them to its consumer cars.
The first proof of that was its earliest aerodynamic design, the Ford Tempo and then on into its bread-and-butter intermediate the Taurus. Even the huge full-sized land arks that it made – the Crown Vic and the Mercury Town Car – benefited by having steering that no longer seemed disconnected from the front wheels and brakes that really worked as the automaker put used the disc brake engineering lessons the GT40 taught it to give their rolling behemoths two-wheel (four-wheel if you bought the Police Interceptor) disc brakes that actually stopped the vehicle and didn’t fade.
The GT40 ran in the Grand Touring classics of the late 1960s and for four straight years from 1966 to 1969 Ford was in the winners circle more often than not. Slickly styled, the GT40 was given the name GT for Grant Touring and its height – 40 inches.
GT40s – MKI-IV – were winners of the 24 Hours of LeMans from 1966 6to 1969. Indeed, one of the chassis was the only vehicle to win the race two years in a row. In 1967, in fact, the GT40 is the only American road racer to have ever won the event overall. That was quite an achievement in a day when Grand Touring circuits the world over were dominated by the likes of Ferrari, Maserati and racing versions of Mercedes-Benz.
In its day, the GT40 was quite a vehicle, making use of Ford’s big block V-8s, although the first winner was on a 4.2-liter powerplant, while the next two were 4.7 and 7. Indeed, the Ford V-8s were matched against Ferrari’s V-12 powerplants which displaced 3 and 4 liters, respectively. The Ferraris, though, were tuned for high-end performance and really slogged when their revs dipped below about 7,500 rpm. They were happiest in the 10,000 to 12,000 rpm range.
Still, the GT40 was a sleek, sporty vehicle that swept up from a very small front cross-section to its high spot of 1.2 meters at the top of the windshield and then it swept back toward the rear end which sported a rather large wing. Ford used four-spoke racing wheels with knock-off hubs for speed in changing tires.
Today, the GT40 is very much alive and well as a kitcar. Among the best of them being built by Era Replicas, headquartered in New Britain, Conn. At $54,000, Era’s GT40 isn’t the least expensive replica on the market today, but, then again, with the kind of work they do, the money is well-invested.
For example, they provide the monocoque frame. You can either then use their body parts or you can source them yourself through the Internet. Their GT40 is designed to use any Ford small block, while the front and rear suspensions come from Corvettes. They will also source the transmission, clutch and just about everything else for you.
One key to this is this is a streetable vehicle. You can run it on any street in the US since it relies on an EPA-approved powertrain you will have no trouble. There are many others that make GT40 kits, but one thing to watch out for is the quality as, with anything for sale, the quality will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer with ERA being among the top.