The first Ford GT came out in the summer of 1963. Ultimate success for the Ford GT program, and it proved very successful, would involve the racing car expertise of internationally known Texan Carroll Shelby.
Carroll Shelby and the AC Cobra
Ford turned the program over to Carroll Shelby, who was achieving international success with his Cobra sports cars.
Carroll Shelby was noted for his work on the AC chassis he imported from England which was married with a Ford V-8. This was quite an undertaking. To accommodate the big block Ford V-8 several alterations had to be made to the AC chassis. This included a larger tube frame and five inches added to the width. Flared fenders were also added to accommodate the larger wheels.
Carroll Shelby had a strong working relationship with the Ford Motor Company. This relationship had Shelby installing a Ford V-8 in the Cobra. The first Cobra in 1962 had a Ford 260 horsepower engine inside a 2,100 pound sports car. This combination made for a powerful little car.
The Origins of the Ford GT
The 1965 Ford GT-40 weighed 2,600 lbs and could be considered a road rocket.
The beginnings of the GT program were said to have been the idea of Henry Ford II after his failed bid to buy Ferrari. Ford really desired a car that could compete at races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ford's Lee Iococca also wanted race car wins for the company. As a result Ford teamed with Lola who were already utilizing Ford engines. The result was a fiberglass body car forty and a half inches inches tall that could do 200 MPH. The car's height gave the vehicle the GT-40 designation. A good many parts of the subsequent design were taken from the Lola Mk VI GT.
It was an innovative and impressive racing sports car but proved unreliable in competition. Three GT 40 cars with 289 cid engines had run the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, but none finished. Something had to change.
Enter Carroll Shelby
Ford Motor Company of course was quite familiar with what Carroll Shelby achieved with his AC Cobra. As a result, Ford turned it's GT program over to Carroll Shelby who was achieving international success with his AC Cobra sports cars.
Carroll Shelby's first and major change to the 1965 GT 40 Mark I racing version was to replace the 289 cubic inch engine with a 427 cubic inch V-8 delivering 500 horsepower. These cars were MK II's. The 427 is the vehicle featured in this article.
Carroll Shelby was particularly interested to see how his four Ford GT Cobras would fare in 1965 on the track at Daytona. Shelby well understood that a good showing by the sleek, shark-like Ford GT was crucial to ensuring its further development. Fortunately this car gave Ford a coveted win at Daytona in the first race of the very next year.
Competition Successes for the Ford GT-40
The GT40 won at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for four consecutive years from 1966 through 1969. The car during this period was driven by some notable race drivers such as A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, and Jacky Ickx. The wins during these latter years of the 1960's made the GT40 the first four-time winner in Le Mans history. The Ford GT40 created a major legacy and its importance to American automotive history is well understood. Following the 1969 model year, the GT project was stopped and GT40 production totaled just 107 cars.
See the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...
Photos and history regarding Carroll Shelby and the Ford GT 40 program can be found in... Shelby GT40: Shelby American Original Archives 1964-1967 Including GT40, Mk. II, Mk. IV, and More by author Dave Friedman.
1965 Ford GT 40 Specifications
The 1965 Ford GT 40 Mark I was built in a street and racing version. The street version came with a 289 cubic inch V-8 delivering 335 horsepower. The GT 40 North American racing version came with a 289 cubic inch V-8 delivering 385 horsepower. As far as 0-60 speed goes, the racing version claimed 3.7 seconds and the street version 5.1 seconds.
As mentioned above, Carroll Shelby put in a 427 cubic inch engine producing 500 horsepower on his converted 1965 GT 40 Mark I. These cars could do 210 MPH.
Transmissions were four speed manuals. Shelby's had five speed manuals.
Both the Ford GT 40 street and racing versions had identical dimensions. Both had a 95.0 inch wheelbase, an overall length of 165.0 inches, a width of 70.0 inches and a height of 40.5 inches. The GT 40 race car version weight came in at 2,400 lbs.
Ford Shelby GT 40 Collector Cars
The Ford GT 40 had such popularity among collectors that many replicas have been produced over the decades. That being said, there's obviously quite a bit of difference between values of the real thing and the replica models. This is the same for Carroll Shelby's AC Cobra sports cars.
The Shelby GT-40 replicas will likely have price tags over $100,000. Authentic Ford GT-40's have sold for over $1 million. One at $1.5 million. A 1968 Shelby Ford GT 40 sold for $11 million at auction. A 1965 Shelby GT 40 Daytona went up to $6.8 million at an auction but stalled short of the reserve price.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)