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Friday
Jul292016

A Quartet of Ford GT40s

By William G. Sawyer, Editor at Large

Patrick Ernzen © 2016Dearborn, Michigan was a magical place to grow up in the Sixties. Our hometown car company defied the AMA’s anti-racing ban in spectacular fashion, challenging the status quo with spellbinding, innovative solutions bristling with technology. Less than a mile from our home a low-slung brick building housed Kar Kraft, Ford’s skunkworks. We’d circle the facility on our bikes hoping to catch a glimpse of the future, and occasionally we succeeded. For budding car guys like the six Sawyer brothers, it was the equivalent of growing up near the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. So it’s little wonder The Ford GT has a special place in our hearts. Memories of standing in the aisles of Joe’s Hobby Shop watching Le Mans on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and rummaging through our pockets for the money to buy a model kit of the cars competing on TV came flooding back while I perused the catalogs of upcoming auctions in Monterey next month.

No less than three GTs are up for sale in Monterey. All started as street cars, although one is now in race trim. Two of the three have been in the same hands for over a quarter of a century. A fourth GT40, one with true racing heritage, is up for grabs at a dealership in England if you’d rather skip the circus-like atmosphere of the bacchanalian car fest near Cannery Row.

GT40 P/1028

© 2016 Mecum AuctionsFirst on our list is chassis number 1028, Mecum Auction’s Lot S103. This 11,000 mile example just completed a four year comprehensive restoration by Legendary Motorcars. According to Mecum no less an expert than Ford GT historian Ronnie Spain said, “It is impossible to get a cleaner bill of health than this as far as originality of a GT40 chassis is concerned.” The first road car delivered to North America, it is also said to be the only GT40 road car delivered from new with air conditioning and a leather interior. The car spent its early years as a Ford promotional car, including a stint as racing legend — and Ford executive — Fran Hernandez’ personal Ford VIP car, before landing in the Schroeder family garage for nearly 40 years. Mecum estimates it will take between four and five million dollars to snag this beauty when it crosses the block in Monterey.

GT40 P/1057

Patrick Ernzen © 2016Not to be outdone, RM Sotheby’s has a pair of stellar beauties on offer. First up, Lot 125, is chassis number 1057, another road car that served much of its life crisscrossing the country as a Ford promotional vehicle. Originally Warwick Green with Borrani wire wheels, it now sports sparkling red paint and magnesium BRM rims. Once sold to the public, it served as a daily driver in Kansas City, MO for nearly two years. It was stored for several years after one owner spun it into a ditch resulting in minor damage to the driver’s side front, and – undoubtedly – the driver’s ego. Thankfully it ended up in the hands of Robert Ash, a renowned GT40 guy whose shop, Racing Icons, is said to have restored more GT40s than any other shop on the planet. In the hands of one lucky collector for the past quarter century, GT40 1057 is estimated to bring between $3.25 and $3.75 million.

GT40 P/1061

© 2016 Courtesy RM SothebysRM Sotheby’s Lot 141 is a GT40 from the Jim Click Collection. Chassis number 1061, yet another GT40 relegated to the indignity of serving in Ford’s Promotion and Disposal Program, it was finally released to the public, going first to Harry T. Heinl. (At one time Heinl owned the only road legal Ford GT Mk IV, a car once profiled in Road & Track.) Following an accident in a snowstorm (!?) Heinl sold it to his mechanic, who passed it on to Herb Wetanson. Following a succession of owners it was turned over to former Gulf-Wyer team manager John Horsman for conversion into a vintage racer. After winning the SVRA race during the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the GT40 at Watkins Glen, it eventually ended up in the hands of  

Ford dealer Jim Click. Now equipped with a 450 hp. 302 bored out to 351 cubic inches, it’s appeared at many historic races over the years. RM expects this green-and-yellow beauty to bring between $3.75 and $4.25 million. (You can view RM Sotheby’s incredible Monterey Auction digital catalog, which is a veritable Virtual Collection unto itself, here.)

GT40 P/1080

© 2016 Maxted-Page Limited 2016 All rights reservedAh, but what if you yearn for a Ford GT40, but the very thought of braving the crowds in California gives you claustrophobia?  Maxted-Page Ltd., a British dealer specializing in Porsches, has chassis number P/1080, an authentic championship winning race version. After placing third in 1971 and second in 1972 the car, in the hands of Emilio Marta, won the little-known Angolan Championship in ’73. Maxted-Page says the car has recently been fully inspected and authenticated by Ronnie Spain, who has prepared an in-depth inspection report on the car, one of the few to retain its matching-numbers chassis, engine and gearbox.

One of the last seven race cars, built to the same specs as the Gulf-Wyer car that won Le Mans in 1968, it was restored by Modena Motorsport and maintained by Maxted-Page for its Australian owner before being sold to an American. Late-spec racers prepared for F.I.A. historic racing are usually sold by word-of-mouth to members of an exclusive set of collectors most of us can’t access. This may be your chance to get in on the action.

Since this is a virtual collection and money is no object, it would be easy to say we’ll take all four cars, but that’s a cop-out. It would be great to go vintage racing, but the car that captured my heart is 1028, the Mecum car. Its originality, connection to Fran Hernandez, and the fact that it hasn’t been on the market in 40 years make it the latest addition to the Virtual Collection.

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