Only Ford GT40 Roadster to race at Le Mans joins Mecum auction
One of the five GT40 roadsters made for sportscar racing is heading Mecum's Kissimmee Sale in January 2019
The Ford GT40 is engrained in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours as a result of its success, but it should also be remembered for being an experimental test bed for Ford. The company’s Advanced Vehicles division in England made five roadster prototypes in the mid-1960s, and the only one of those that competed at Le Mans is headed to auction.
Chassis GT/109, which was driven in the 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours by two-time Monaco Grand Prix winner Maurice Trintignant and Guy Ligier, boss of the self-named Formula 1 team and automotive manufacturer Ligier, will go under the hammer in January next year at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale as one of the main attractions.
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Taking away the roof from the normal GT40 was supposed to offer a weight saving advantage, but the roadster body provided new issues, including the most obvious: chassis flex. When Ford started its winning run at Le Mans a year later, it did so with the coupe version, with the troublesome roadster having already been shelved.
Shelby American was trusted with the running of chassis GT/109 at Le Mans, although it was entered under the Ford France banner. As a result it bore red and blue striped over its plain white paint job, representing the Tricolore.
Though Ligier was scheduled to drive, only Trintignant got to race the car in anger during the 24 hour race itself, as he retired after a mere 11 laps with gearbox problems. One of GT/109’s doors ended up on another GT40 later in the race, but that also retired.
Having had an unsuccessful time in France, the car then stayed at Shelby American’s base in California. Its value was quickly forgotten, and stored with other Ford has-beens in a Michigan warehouse. It was rediscovered years later when classic car customiser Dean Jeffries and IndyCar legend A.J. Foyt visited Ford’s facilities, but sans engine and transmission.
Jeffries took the car, and various parts from Ford that would be of use, three V8 engines, two from Indy cars, and two four-speed transmissions, one from Colotti and one from ZF. It took decades before restoration of the car began, but Jeffries had enough parts to get the job done, and turned down interested buyers, to the tune of $5 million, in the process.
The final rebuild included the Indy car engine, although the sale includes the original 289ci V8, and Ford ended up taking the car back for display purposes at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion in 2003 shortly after the restoration was complete. Jeffries died in May 2013, and has been under a consigner’s car since. It’s been on public display several times, and as yet has no estimate price for its auction debut.
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