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Ford GT40 prototype sold for £4.2 million

Microsoft IES logoMicrosoft IES 2014-07-04 CJ Hubbard
© Microsoft

One of four original Ford GT40 racer prototypes has sold at auction in the US for a staggering $7 million. That's £4.2 million.

The Ford GT40 is famous for several things – being the product of Ford’s frustrated attempt to buy Ferrari, becoming an enormously successful Le Mans winning racing car and standing just 40 inches tall. Hence the name.

But what’s less well remembered is that the GT40 didn’t have the most auspicious start in life. The original cars, based on the British-built Lola GT, were unreliable and dangerously wayward at high speed – making the example pictured here all the more important.

The price is a bargain, given this GT40’s role in an incredible period of racing history

This is the 1964 GT/104 GT40 prototype. The fourth GT40 ever produced, it was the first built with a revised, lightweight chassis design, and one of the two prototypes Ford subsequently handed to the legendary Carroll Shelby, whose company, Shelby American, was then tasked with sorting the entire project out.

This Shelby most certainly did – although not without putting an enormous amount of effort in. GT/104 together with GT/103 were fitted with a more powerful Cobra 289 V8 engine and stronger gearbox internals, and then subjected to an intense testing regime.

This included aerodynamic optimisation that was way beyond anything anyone had ever attempted before – using computerised, military-spec systems originally developed for testing missiles, no less.

Come February 1965, the revised GT40 prototypes successfully competed in their first race meeting, the Daytona Continental 2,000km in Florida. GT/104, driven by Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther, qualified second, just behind a Ferrari 330P and ahead of GT/103 in third. An encouraging revival.
 

 

The race didn’t quite go GT/104’s way – but despite a number of incidents, resulting in the car being placed dead last at one point, the prototypes’ 200mph+ speed saw GT/104 finally cross the line in third, while GT/103 finished first. Not bad for their premier event.

However, this would sadly turn out to be the finest hour of these particular cars, as the pair were soon dropped in favour of production GT40s with even more powerful 427 engines.

But that hasn’t dented GT/104’s pedigree any – even in its current, thoroughly restored condition, this is considered one of the most authentic GT40s around. The bidders at the 2014 Mecum Auction in Houston, Texas, clearly agreed, given the price they've just paid. Then again, some might consider that a bargain, if you take into account this particular GT40’s role in an incredible period of racing history.

Click the main image at the top of the page to see more pictures of the Ford GT40 GT/104 prototype  
 

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