Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
It was built to win long-distance sports car races against Ferrari (who had won at Le Mans four times in a row 1958–62). Henry Ford II had wanted a Ford at Le Mans since the early 1960s. Initially there was an attempt to buy Ferrari, but after negotiations broke down (over ownership and control of Ferrari's racing program) in 1963, Ford decided to produce its own car instead. To this end, Ford established a small subsidiary, Ford Advanced Vehicles in Slough, England and began negotiation with Lotus and Lola, and Cooper. Cooper had no experience in GT or prototype and its performances in F1 were declining. The Lotus Europa was the design put forth by Lotus. Lotus had won in Indianapolis with the 4.2 L Fairline engine. However the Lola proposal was choosen as Lola had used a Ford engine on the Lola GT that made a noted performance in Le Mans 1962. Thus Ford began working closely with the Lola company, the resulting car was named GT40 after the Gran Turismo class it was intended to compete in and its overall height of 40 inches (1.02 m) measured at the windscreen. Big Ford V8 engines (4.7 L and 7 L) were used, compared to the V12 of Ferrari which had 3 or 4 litres.
The original GT40 first raced in May 1964 at the Nurburgring 1000 km race and later at the 24 hours of Le Mans, and was not very successful with all three cars retiring. The experience gained then and in 1965 allowed the Mark II to dominate the race in 1966 with a 1-2-3 finish. The Mark IV, a newer design with a narrower roof and hence more compact cockpit, won the following year (when four Mark IVs, three Mark IIs and three Mark Is raced).
After a rules change which limited the capacity of Prototypes to 3 litres (same as in Formula One), but allowed a maximum of 5 litre capacity for Sportscars (where at least 25 had been built), a revised and re-engined Mark I won the 24 hours of Le Mans race in 1968 and 1969 against the fragile smaller protoypes. In 1969, the winners Ickx/Oliver managed to beat the Porsche 908 by just a few seconds, mainly due to the heroic efforts of Jacky Ickx, who managed to win Le Mans 5 times more in later years. In 1970, the new Porsche 917 dominated the Sportscars with its 5 litre flat V12 engine, and the outdated GT40 was obsolete.
The Mark III was a road-car only, of which 7 were built.
In the early 1980s, new "Group C" rules required Sportcars to have a height of 100 cm, and Ford built its C100 as a successor to the GT40. The successful Cosworth DFV F1 engine was modified to a 3.9 L DFL, but its vibrations caused problems in long races. The newly introduced Porsche 956 dominated at Le Mans in 1982 with a 1-2-3 victory, and Ford abandoned the C100.
Just as with many classic sportscars, several companies made replicas of the GT40—of varying quality. One of the best such companies was Safir Engineering, which bought the rights to the name "GT40" in 1985, and built cars until 1999 with chassis numbers continuing the sequence where the original Ford cars stopped.
At the 1995 Detroit Motor Show, the Ford GT90 concept was shown and at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, a new GT40 Concept was unveiled by Ford, similar to the original cars, but bigger, wider, and especially taller than the original 40 inches (1.02 m), so it should have been named GT43. This car is to be put on sale in 2003 as part of Ford's centenary. Curiously, Ford had never claimed "GT40" as a trademark. Demands of $40 million from Safir for the name were rejected, and the car was introduced in 2003 as the "Ford GT".
|Le Mans records|
|1966||Mk II||Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren||3009.4||4,843.2||125.39||201.80|
|1967||Mk IV||Dan Gurney, A. J. Foyt||2630.2||4,232.9||135.48||218.03|
|1968||Mk I||Pedro Rodriguez, Lucien Bianchi||2766.9||4,452.9||115.29||185.54|
|1969||Mk I||Jacky Ickx, Jackie Oliver||3105.6||4,998.0||129.40||208.25|
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