After 50 Years, the ’66 Le Mans Winning Ford GT40 is Reborn
This weekend marks a critical date in Ford racing history. Not only will the all-new 2016 Ford GT race car make its racing debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 84th running of the famed endurance race also marks 50 years since the original Ford GT40 first won the event in 1966, and in commanding fashion—taking first, second, and third. This dark ’66 Ford GT40, chassis P/1046 and emblazoned with racing #2, is that hallowed race-winning car. And thanks to restoration experts Rare Drive and RK Motors…it’s been restored to as-new condition, and given a new lease on life. In historic fashion, the ’66 Ford GT40 will be back on site at this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, celebrating its 50th race winning anniversary and the conclusion of its long 20-month restoration. And my, it looks staggering. RELATED: See More Photos of this Le Mans Winning Ford GT40
What makes this restoration project truly unique is its intention to make the iconic Ford GT40 as meticulously original as possible, flaws included! As RK Motors notes, the original exhaust pipes were carefully restored, and just as they had been when they left the Ford workshop, the left side is actually slightly longer than the right.
Further, when restoration experts were recreating the hand-painted #2 racing numbers on the car, they replicated the exact paint drips and runs observed in period photos. Circa 1966, each of the numbers were hastily hand-painted right before the race. The attention to detail is just phenomenal.
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While Ford GT40 chassis P/1046 had been in good condition prior to the restoration, it was said to be far from original, and had at one point been campaigned in vintage racing events, sold and re-sold numerous times, and used as a development car for testing new components following its retirement from the 24 Hours of Daytona. Now, it’s been fully reborn using genuine Ford components, tooling, processes, and know-how.
"When we restore a car like this, our goal is to have it be exactly like it was when it was original,” explains restorer Mike Allin. “We don't try to improve it or change how they did it just to prove that we can, or to preserve the car in a way that it wasn't preserved when new. This car will wear and tear just like it did when it was new, because we used exactly the same processes.”
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All told, the team estimates they’ve poured over 4,000 man hours into the meticulous nut-and-bolt restoration of Ford GT40 chassis P/1046, and frankly… it shows. The only thing that could make it sweeter? Perhaps a 50th anniversary win at Le Mans this weekend from the all-new Ford GT. The team will surely hope.
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Photo Credit: RK Motors