Cars

The GT40: 19 Stunning Photos of the Most Beautiful American Race Car

Published On 01/14/2015 Published On 01/14/2015
Ford GT40, 1960s
Ford

For some, it's hard not to think about, write about, or even look at the GT40 without getting a strong sense of nostalgiaā€”even those of us that weren't even born when it levied its historic slaps across Enzo Ferrari's face at race tracks around the world.

That's why the world lost its proverbial sh*t when Ford let loose a new iteration of one of America's motoring gods, and it's why you need to take a deep breathe, stretch out, and take a look at these 19 pics of the original, doing what it did, and still does, best.

Ford

The car's legacy began with an overload of residual bad blood stemming from Enzo calling off a proposed sale of Ferrari to Ford, over a dispute regarding control.

Ford

Henry Ford II then threw up one of the greatest middle fingers in corporate history and reached out to British racing team Lola, hell-bent on beating Ferrari at his own game.

Ford

And he did. Four consecutive wins at Le Mans were a record at the time, and the lasting legacy of that Gulf Oil-liveried car winning Le Mans has manifested itself in the exalted orange and blue color combo still seen today.

Gorgeous GT40s

At the highest levels of motorsport, you need more that just a ton of money to throw at a problem. You need visionaries. Ford developed a team with some of the best.

Peter Aylward

The car started off in England as a project headed up by legendary English race team Lola, and development was abruptly under way.

Ford

The car was fast, but it wasn't exactly what one would call stable at high speeds. When you're trying to be the first car to top 200 mph at one of the world's most deadly races (Le Mans), that's...not so good.

Ford

So Carroll Shelby was brought in. And with him, aerodynamicists. Suddenly the car was in a military wind tunnel used for designing missiles. Just a few tweaks to the front of the car (look at the bottom) and it was on its way to reaching its all-conquering potential.

Ford

The GT40 didn't just win at Le Mans and Sebring. It won everywhere, and tended to be driven only by outright legends.

Ford

Bruce McLaren (yes, that McLaren) won Le Mans in controversial fashion due to a complex mix of corporate politics and an obscure rule regarding starting position, so that Ford's orchestrated photo finish wasn't really as photo finish-y as it seemed.

The cars brought Le Mans glory to men like A.J. Foyt, Chris Amon, Pedro Rodriguez, and Dan Gurney, who was so happy he sprayed his champagne everywhere, thus starting the world-famous tradition.

Ford

Ford even designed a few to be driven as street cars, with (a little) more refinement.

Ford

Nearly 50 years later, some of the originals are still raced at events like the Le Mans classic (shown above).

Peter Aylward

And yes, the owners are crazy/wealthy enough to risk letting other drivers race the cars through the rain at breakneck speed.

Supermac

How they have the gall to do so is unknown, though it probably helps to know everyone around you is just as terrified of ruining such a piece of machinery.

VeZoul

Mmmm that Gulf, though. It wasn't the first vehicle to don the livery, but it's definitely the sexiest, even after all these years.

Ford

Needless to say, the car had inimitable style. Also, safety measures have changed.

In a word...stunning.

Ford

Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. Some day, he will drive a GT40...some day...

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