FORD GT 40 REVIEW

Based on Eric Broadley's Lola GT, the original Ford GT40 was spawned by the Dearborn giants ambition to beat Ferrari at Le Mans, a feat it duly achieved for the first time in 1966. The GT40 project had commenced three years previously, following Fords failed attempt to buy into Ferrari, and was based at the Ford Advanced Vehicles plant at Slough, England. The GT40 first ran competitively in 1964, but failed at Le Mans that year and again in 1965. That first sweet Le Mans victory would fall to the 7-litre MkII, with victory the following year going to a US-built MkIV J car. (The GT40 MkIII was the British-built road-going version). A decade on, and the GT40s status as an all-time great classic sportscar had been firmly established, leading to an increased demand for unmolested originals and the start of a replica-building industry. Perhaps the only surprise concerning the emergence of a reconstituted official version is that it took Ford the best part of 40 years to get around to it. The new generation GT40 was developed by Ford's Special Vehicle Team Engineering department under the direction of John Coletti and Fred Goodnow. The composite body panels are unstressed, as on the original, but instead of the monocoque chassis construction used in the 1960s, SVT Engineering developed an all-new aluminium spaceframe combining extruded sections and panels. Doubling as fuel reservoirs, a pair of massive sills contributed much to the originals chassis stiffness, whereas the new GT40 relies on a centre-tunnel backbone that greatly improves ease of entry and exit. The suspension design is an advance on the originals, consisting of unequal-length control arms and a pushrod/bell-crank system acting on horizontally mounted coil spring/damper units. Braking is handled by six-piston, Alcon calipers with cross-drilled and ventilated discs all round. In defeating Ferraris more highly stressed V12s, Ford proved that the traditional American V8 possessed all that was necessary to compete at the cutting edge of international endurance racing. A far cry from the simple pushrod units of the 1960s, todays supercharged MOD 5.4-litre V8 produces 550bhp at 5,250rpm and 500lb/ft of torque at 3,250 revs figures on a par with those of the 7-litre engine that won at Le Mans in 1966 and 1967. The all-synchromesh six-speed transaxle uses ZF internals and was sourced from RBT Transmissions, whos founder Roy Butfoy had been a member of Fords racing team at Le Mans. The interior features leather-upholstered, Recaro bucket seats with aluminium ventilation grommets embedded into the panels. The instrument layout follows the originals, comprising analogue gauges and a large tachometer complemented by modern versions of the traditional toggle switches. Back in 1966, the Ford GT40 endurance racer became the first car to exceed 200mph along the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. Matching that would be some achievement for the production road car, even allowing for nearly 40 years of technological progress. Tested for Motor Trend magazine by Indycar racing legend Bryan Herta, the new GT40 duly topped 200mph at Fords Kingman test facility in Arizona, emphatically demonstrating that it was indeed worthy of that famous name. About 28 examples of the new Ford GT have been built for the European market.

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