1968 Ford GT40 auctioned for $11 million

Article by Christian A., on August 20, 2012

Nothing could ever beat the classics. A 1968 Ford GT40 racer just set a record when it sold at an auction in Monterey, California for $11 million. RM Auctions had an unexpectedly huge lineup of classics this event. On the first day of a 120-lot sale of "investment-quality automobiles,” the works Gulf/Mirage, which was finished in trademark powder blue with a marigold stripe, was expected to be sold at a price of over $8 million.

RM, Gooding & Co. and Bonhams’ summer sales on the U.S. west coast are considered bellwether events for the market. Just like art, wine, or other alternative asset classes, the appeal of classic cars has been increasing.

This is true particularly for new buyers who want to diversify their investment portfolios. From the start of the year until July, the Historic Automobile Group International Top 50 benchmark index of outstanding classic cars has increased by 8.2%. If it stays on this course, it will rise to around 14.4% over 2012. HAGI founder, Dietrich Hatlapa, said that the GT40 was a “great demonstration” of how the price is determined by the car’s history.

He explained that value is based on the early life. He mentioned that this Ford model was included in the original Gulf team and had kept a “good racing record.” Canada-based RM said that two bidders raised the GT40 price from $9 million to $11 million, which is inclusive of auction house fees. Ford created the GT40 in the early 1960s to do better than Ferrari at long-distance sports car races after the U.S. automaker was unable to purchase the Italian brand in 1963.

The story of the Ford GT40 is an interesting one as it begins when Ford made an attempt to buy Ferrari. When this failed, Henry Ford II got so mad that he declared he wanted to win the 1966 Le Mans. To reach this objective, the company established the Ford Advanced Vehicles and gave it the task of developing a highly-advanced GT model.

Specifically it had to be a mid-engine coupe that was aerodynamic and created using the 4.2-liter engine of the 1963 Indianapolis. By April of 1964, the company managed to release the first prototypes and these were dubbed as the GT40. The name came from the fact that the height of the car was 40 inches. A total of three GT40s participated in the 1964 Le Mans.

While none of these models were actually able to finish the race, they managed however to set a new lap record of 3:49.4, running at 131.7 mph. By 1965, Shelby-American, owned by auto designer and racer Carroll Shelby, took the lead in the project and implemented some big changes. The biggest of these was to replace the engine with the one that was in the Shelby Cobra, which was the 289 cubic inch 4.7-liter V8 engine which could offer 385 hp.

Another change was to use the Ford helical gears rather than the straight-cut Colotti gears. Further, changes were also done on the fuel feed system, drive shaft, and the clutch. Shelby-American also made it a point to focus on enhancing the aerodynamics and the cooling.

As such, when the improved Ford GT40 finally made its official debut during the Daytona Continental Race held in February 1965, it grabbed both the first place and the third spot. However, like the previous experiences, none were able to complete the 1965 Le Mans. Towards the middle of 1965, the level of development for the GT40 reached a point that it made it possible to manufacture more units.

In order for the GT40 to be able to participate under the Production Sports Car category, Ford made a total of 50 units. By 1966, Ford would be able to get the top three spots of the Le Mans and from there, it became a dominant force in the world of sports car racing.

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