Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight
This Ford GT was sold over the weekend of August 18th, 2012 in Monterey by RM Auctions for $11 Million - making it the most expensive American car ever sold (at the time of this writing). It was featured in the 1971 film "Le Mans" and at one time owned by Steve McQueen.
Here's the history behind it: In March 2013, it will be 50 years since Ford instituted the GT40 program. The purposeful mid-engine sports coupe is the finest Anglo-American supercar of the last century, with four straight victories at the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race between 1966 and ’69. In 1966 alone, it finished 1-2-3 against Ferrari, in one of the most memorable photo finishes in the race’s distinguished history, cementing the car’s place in motorsports history and on the postered walls of teenaged bedrooms the world over.
Its genesis alone is the stuff of legends and the subject of countless books, summarized most succinctly as a failed buy-out of Ferrari by Henry Ford II. Blank checks were signed in Detroit, engineering and racing heavyweights were hired, and Lolas were modified and readied for testing. GT/101, the first prototype, was assembled in March 1964, in time for testing and the imminent Ford-Ferrari battle at Le Mans in the summer. Undaunted by a lack of wins, Ford regrouped for 1965 with Carroll Shelby—already a veteran with his Cobras—taking over the GT40 MK II program.
He delivered a win at Daytona with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby in GT/103 and a Second Place at Sebring with Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren in the same car. Shelby also ran the first MK II at Le Mans in June of ’65. Meanwhile, John Wyer continued development of the customer 289 GT40 racing cars.
The stunning GT40 offered here, chassis P/1074, is very well-documented in GT40 history. It began life as Mirage M.10003, and in its debut at Spa, in May 1967, the legendary endurance racer Jacky Ickx and the “Flying Dentist,” Dr. Dick Thompson, finished First Overall. This was also the first win for any car under the fabled powder blue (1125) and marigold (1456) Gulf livery. Such an accomplishment on its own would be sufficient to impress any enthusiast, but it marks only the beginning of P/1074’s storied history. It should be noted that Ickx was only in his early-twenties at the time, had just made his first Grand Prix start the same year, and was on the cusp of beginning one of the great careers in motorsports that, to date, includes an extraordinary six wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 25 podium finishes in Formula One, factory racing for Porsche, and everything in between, not to mention winning the Paris-Dakar Rally and even piloting the famous Ferrari 512S for the Steve McQueen film Le Mans.
Unfortunately, however, this particular car DNF’d later that year at Le Mans and Brands Hatch, and then won at Karlskoga and finished Second at Skarpnack, before finished with a convincing win at Montlhery. Quite the stunning debut for this exceptional racing car!
Following the FIA’s regulation change for the 1968 season, which reduced prototype engine size to three-liters and five-liters for production (Group 4) sports cars, with a limited build of 25 examples, Mirage M.10003 was taken back to J.W.A. in England for its conversion into a Group 4 GT40. The conversion was completed on February 23, 1968, whereupon it became GT40 P/1074, but has since remained complete with its original Mirage bodywork and could easily be returned to that configuration.
It was the first (by serial number) of three lightweight racing GT40’s built for the J.W.A./Gulf team. Its chassis retained the unique Mirage straight substructure forward of the windscreen. Specific to the car were Stage II ventilated disc brakes, a lightweight frame, and a lightened roof.
The body was described as “super lightweight with carbon filament aluminum, fully-vented spare wheel cover, extra wide rear wheel arches, double engine coolers, and rear panel vented (sic) for brake air exit.” The carbon fiber-reinforced bodywork used on the Mirage M1s, now P/1074, P/1075, and P/1076, are reputed to be among the first, if not the very first, uses of carbon fiber panels in race car fabrication.
Currently, P/1074 is fitted with an original, period correct GT40 Ford 289 cubic inch V-8 with Gurney-Weslake cylinder heads, four Weber twin-choke carburetors, and a 351 oil pump with an Aviaid oil pan. During its active career, P/1074 (M.10003) was powered by four other V-8 Ford push-rod engines, including a 289, a 302 (1074), a 305, and a 351 (M.10003). It was painted in powder blue Gulf livery, with a distinctive, constant-width, marigold (orange) center stripe, which instantly identified it as J.W.A’s number two car. On several occasions, it was raced with triangular nose-mounted canard fins to improve downforce. From the outset, 8.5-inch front and 11.0-inch rear BRM Mirage wheels were fitted.
440 bhp at 6,800 rpm, 289 cu in OHV V-8 engine, four 48 IDA Weber carburetors, ZF 5DS25/1 five-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and Koni adjustable shock absorbers, independent rear suspension with trailing arms, unequal-length A-arms, and Koni adjustable shock absorbers, and four-wheel stage II Girling ventilated disc brakes. Wheelbase: 95"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Pawel Litwinski