Ford GT: Facts and History | ModelSpace
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the most famous races in the world, but pre 1966, it was almost unknown in the United States. The arrival, and eventual success of the Ford GT40 changed that forever. But what made the Ford GT so phenomenal, and what happened after that fateful year? Read on to discover all the facts about the Ford GT!
The Non-Ford Prototype
Interestingly, the first Ford GT did not come from a current Ford model, but in fact was based on another make. Automotive engineer Roy Lunn, along with Carroll Shelby and other Ford officials, developed the preliminary design. But when it came to construction, they added a 4.2L Ford V8 engine to Eric Broadley’s Lola Mk6 body. They then developed it further with John Wyer, Aston Martin’s former boss. Thus, the Ford GT40 Mk I was born.
British Made, Then American
The champion Ford GT Mk IV that won Le Mans in 1966 was an all-American beast. But before the US got the formula right, Ford built the Mk I, Mk II, and Mk III prototypes on British soil. Going into the history-changing race, Ford brought four of the GT40 Mk IVs, and it made all the difference.
The Famous Kiwi
Though his legacy lives on with the McLaren Formula 1 team, New Zealander Bruce McLaren’s influence on the Ford GT’s story should not be understated. Before Ken Miles got his hands on the steering wheel, Bruce McLaren was there. As the first test track driver, he pushed the first prototypes and helped Ford understand what was working – and what wasn’t. Come race day, McLaren was in the driver’s seat again. Despite Ken Miles leading as the race drew to an end, Ford’s decision to have all three cars cross at the same time handed Bruce McLaren the win.
The Ford GT40’s End
By 1969, Ford had well and truly shifted the balance in endurance racing. But following its fourth consecutive Le Mans win, and with 107 cars produced, the GT40’s run came to an end. Unfortunately for Ford, they’d have to wait another 47 years for their next Le Mans win.
Ford’s Number Five
Exactly 50 years after their initial 24 Hours of Le Mans success, Ford claimed their fifth win, and it was one for the ages. Driven by Sébastien Bourdais, Joey Hand, and Dirk Müller, the No. 68 Ford GT was locked in a brutal battle with the No. 82 Ferrari 488 GTE. In a throwback to the epic 1966 duel between the two rivals, the No. 68 Ford GT took the lead for the final time in the 20th hour of the race, and went on to win. Though they didn’t repeat the 1-2-3 finish, the No. 69 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, and Richard Westbrook also made it to the podium in third place.
2019 marked the final year for Ford’s Le Mans challenges, with the manufacturer opting to retire its endurance racing program. Similar to its win in 2016, there was a nice parallel – it was the 50-year anniversary of the original Ford GT40’s last Le Mans win in 1969. Though there won’t be any new Ford GT’s to come, you can still capture and honour the champion car’s legacy with your very own 1:8 scale Ford GT replica. Subscribe now, and build your own piece of automotive history!