Book review: 'Ford GT40 MkII – the remarkable history of 1016'

A new addition to the 'Exceptional Cars' series looks at the troubled development of the Ford GT40, focusing on the unsung hero of the 1966 Le Mans triumph

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Henry Ford II’s failed $15million, 90 percent buyout of Ferrari that spawned the GT40 and Ford’s multi-million dollar onslaught of the Le Mans 24 Hours is a chapter of history that’s been told countless times.

There’s TV documentaries, a stunning segment presented by James May on The Grand Tour, magazine features and books solely dedicated to the Blue Oval’s relentless quest to embarrass Enzo Ferrari for having called off the deal.

The latest addition from the Exceptional Cars series again adds to that already well populated line-up. But Mark Cole’s Ford GT40 MkII – the remarkable history of 1016 joins that list somewhere near the very top.

As the title suggests, it’s dedicated to the gold-liveried, Holman & Moody-entered 1016 car that Ronnie Bucknum – the first person to drive a Honda-powered Formula 1 car – and NASCAR ace Dick Hutcherson shared to third place at the 1966 Le Mans. It’s still all encompassing, retelling the full narrative from Ford II watching Ferrari win in sportscars and proclaiming: ‘Why don’t we buy those red cars?’, tracking through the testing calamities and attrition-hit races preceding the Sarthe.

The 128 pages are split into three distinct sections. Part one focuses on the wider story of the GT40, it’s development, appalling early reliability and failed first attempts at Le Mans. Then the book builds on its title and focuses on the specific preparation of 1016 before ending with the later life of the car – it’s rebuilding and subsequent use in historic racing. Dotted throughout are dedicated autobiographical spreads on some of the key figures in the GT40 programme.

A good barometer of an engrossing book is the amount of pauses you take to research countless anecdotes on the internet and read beyond the confines of the pages. Cole achieves this to a high end. That’s not to say the book lacks detail, forcing you to fill in the gaps, far from it. But there isn’t any needless excess, and it constantly teases more than the words on the page. Deviations to back read on how the early prototypes were so aerodynamically unstable that wheelspin occurred at 170mph, and to see if there are similar cases of cars wearing through their wheel arches from having an incorrect set-up to cope with the Daytona banking are numerous.

Negatives are in short supply. Despite being a 50-year old story, there’s still an excitement in finishing each chapter that focuses on the races building up to Le Mans before getting to the main event. But the execution is not quite flawless. Although a somewhat trivial gripe, the use of a standard Windows font does have the potential to take the reader out of the book. The overly familiar format prevents it from ticking all the boxes as a quality item and that’s a shame. That said, the stunning images accompanying the basic-looking text means it’s still a pleasing visual package overall. It does justify an RRP of £30 – fairly priced for a book of this detail and of this type.

In short, Ford GT40 MkII – the remarkable history of 1016 is a high-ranking addition among the plethora of pre-existing pieces focusing on Ford’s French conquest. It’s testament to Cole and Porter Press that through his book there’s so much more to be learned than some of the more holistic, mass-market appeal productions on one of sportscar racing’s most infamous chapters.

Images courtesy of Porter Press International and LAT

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