Write-up by Travis Wolcott. Video by Marchettino.
The Ford GT40: standing at just 40 inches in height it looks small, even as it passes a Ferrari 360 Modena. If you've never seen one in person, they really are incredibly compact, just the bare essentials of a mid-engine racing car with a body wrapped around it. The sound it makes, however, is anything but diminutive.
The GT40 was birthed from Ford's desire to beat the dominant cars at Le Mans in the 60s. At the time, that meant Ferrari. A quest that was no doubt fueled by a failed attempt by Ford to buy Ferrari in 1963. Beating them would be no small feat, especially considering the Italian powerhouse was on its sixth consecutive Le Mans victory by the time the Ford program was getting its act together. The GT40 first raced at the Nürburgring 1000 km in 1964, but failed to finish. By 1966, however, the GT40 had won Le Mans. It wasn't just a fluke, as they backed that up by winning the next three years as well. Some great names drove America's most iconic race car: Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx, Bruce McLaren, Bob Bondurant, Ken Miles, Mark Donohue and A.J. Foyt to name just a few.
Early GT40s used either a 4.7- or a 4.9-liter small block V8 in the MkI, then later a mighty 7.0-liter monster as in this delicious Mk II. You could even have it as a very exclusive road car, the Mk III. Though it was always destined to compete at the fabled Le Mans 24 Hour, Spa-Francorchamps is still a fitting track for this GT40's workout. Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman won the 1000-km race at Spa in 1968 in a MkI.
The GT40's legacy as a world beating racer lives on through numerous recreations and even Ford's own modern GT. But, the soundtrack of the golden age of motor racing will never be truly replicated. So let's be glad these original American legends are still out there shouting at the likes of Ferrari through that glorious bundle of snakes exhaust.