Willment cars 1990 - 97

Ford GT 40



















Following the dissolution of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association ban on factory-sponsored racing in 1962, Ford USA lost little time in launching its awe-inspiring Total Performance programme. Conscious that victory at Le Mans was a priority if this initiative was to make a real impact on international motor sport, the Dearborn giant approached Ferrari with a view to acquisition. Knocked back after lengthy negotiations, it changed tactics and set-up its own FAV (Ford Advanced Vehicles) operation in Slough, England under the guidance of former Aston Martin crew manager John Wyer. By hiring designer Eric Broadley and his team, FAV effectively hijacked the rights to the Ford-powered Lola MK6 GT which had shown so much promise at the 1963 Le Mans. Working hand-in-hand with ex-Aston Martin engineer Roy Lunn and the Blue Oval's stateside experimental department, Broadley promptly converted two of his GTs into mobile test beds for the remainder of the 1963 season.



















Introduced in April 1964, the Ford GT40 was based around an Abbey Panels Ltd-manufactured sheet steel semi-monocoque with square tube reinforcement and fore / aft sub-frames. Equipped with all-round coil-over wishbone independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, its smoothly contoured fibreglass bodywork was punctuated by prominent cooling ducts and a ramped rear spoiler. Mounted amidships, it was powered by a 4.2 litre pushrod V8 mated to a Colotti transaxle (though, the GT40 MKI would later benefit from a 4.7 litre unit and stronger ZF transmission). Making its race debut at the Nurburgring, the new Ford proved fast but fragile. Hampered by poor reliability, bad brakes, wayward handling and unresolved aerodynamics, the 1964 season was not one to cherish. Though, the three team cars that went to Le Mans that year did manage between them to lead the race, set the fastest lap and be timed at 197.5mph before retiring.



















A period of transition, 1965 saw Eric Broadley return to his Lola activities, Carroll Shelby assume control of race car development and FAV charged with 'customer' GT40 production. Despite an early season victory in the Daytona 2000km and the best efforts of Shelby's brilliant test engineer / driver Ken Miles, reliability remained a bugbear with no further wins until the end of the year. Yet progress was being made. Utilising the same 7-litre engine as Ford's NASCAR Galaxies - albeit detuned to 485bhp in the interests of reliability - the MK2 proved faster still. Prepared by Kar Kraft, one of the MK2 duo that helped make up the 1965 Le Mans works team (alongside two 'ordinary' GT40s) was officially clocked at 199mph.

Subtly revised for 1966, the various GT40 derivatives began to yield a return on Ford's massive investment. Starting the season as it meant to go on, the iconic racer took first, second, third and fifth places in the Daytona 24-hours. Bolstered by a strong second at Sebring (behind an X1 open-topped version), the thirteen car works team (eight MK2s, five GT40s) arrived at Le Mans in high spirits. Largely cured of the transmission gremlins that had waylaid them the previous year, a trio of MK2s traded fastest laps on their way to a crushing 1-2-3 finish (the winning car of Bruce McLaren / Chris Amon averaging 125.39mph). Of no lesser importance that year was the founding of JW Automotive (JWA) by John Wyer and John Willment - as with Ford's blessing - this new company effectively took over FAV and responsibility for GT40 production / maintenance.



















Thus, 1967 saw the model's evolution head down two disparate but comparable paths. Aware that it was to be their last season with the GT40 programme, the American works effort (still headed by Shelby American) focused on a new monocoque chassis. Designated the MK4, its aluminium honeycomb construction meant that it was both lighter and stiffer than the MK2. Clothed in low-drag bodywork with a pronounced droop-snoot nose, it featured a reworked version of its forebear's 7-litre V8 that delivered a reliable 500bhp and tectonic-plate shifting torque. Piloted by Dan Gurney / A.J. Foyt and Bruce McLaren / Mark Donohue, MK4s secured first and fourth places at the 1967 Le Mans (Gurney / Foyt averaging an incredible 135.48mph). Somewhat less extreme, the Len Bailey designed JWA Mirage GT hid a lightened GT40 chassis under its similarly sleek bodywork. Fitted with a choice of 4.7 litre, 5 litre and 5.7 litre Ford V8 engines mated to the well-proven ZF transaxle, its distinctive pale blue and orange livery was in deference to JWA's principal sponsor, Gulf Oil.

















Making its first appearance at the 1967 1,000km, the Mirage GT proceeded to win in Spa (1,000km), Paris (1,000km), Scandinavia and South Africa. Falling foul - like its distant MK4 cousin - of proposed rule changes it was duly withdrawn at the season's end. Undeterred, JWA decided to run with modified GT40 MKIs for 1968 and 1969 (whereas Ford USA chose to withdraw entirely). Toting less weight, better brakes and engines stroked out to 5 litres, the resultant Gulf-liveried cars exceeded all expectations in 1968. Winning the Brands Hatch, Spa and Watkins Glen championship rounds, one of JWA cars became the first GT40 (as opposed to MK2 or MK4) to win Le Mans (it led for the last eighteen hours and averaged 115.29mph). Incredibly, the very same car (chassis 1075) also claimed victory the following year after a mesmerising late race battle between Jacky Ickx and Porsche driver Hans Hermann which pushed its average speed up to 129.40mph.

Coming directly from the Willment family collection, this particular example is certified by them as being the very last sanctioned production Ford GT40. Forming part of the original Ford sanction of 100 vehicles (10 prototypes and 90 production models) allocated to J.W. Automotive, it was one of three cars that remained unassembled at the end of period production in 1969. Indeed, it only existed then as a very special collection of parts (according to Bryan Wingfield chassis P1086, P1087, P1088 and P1089 were labelled-up as A, B, C and D respectively). Carefully stored for the next twenty-five years, it was not until 1994 that the late John Willment decided to "finish the job" and make the last three cars. The first of these (GT40P-1087) was completed in 1996 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Ford's first win at Le Mans.

Finished in Willment Red with white racing stripes, chassis GT40P-1089 is described by the vendor as being in excellent condition with regard to its engine, transmission, electrical equipment, interior trim, chassis, bodywork, paintwork and wheels / tyres. Built by Bryan Wingfield on behalf of the Willment family, its chassis is said to contain "approximately 10\% original Abbey Panels" and to have been completed to "the same technical specification as the definitive 1968/1969 Le Mans cars 1075 and 1076". Reportedly the work of Stuart Mathieson at Mathwall Engineering, its 302ci V8 is encapsulated by a composite body that was "formed in the original Ford Motor Company moulds". Though, currently housed in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Museum (Gaydon) at Ford's request as part of an exhibition on cars that competed at Le Mans, P-1089 has recently been issued with a Historic Technical Passport (No. 20392) by the FIA.

Specification:

Engine: Ford 302, 4996cc
Cylinder Block: Cast Iron, 4 bolt mains, part no XE-136505
Crankshaft: Forged Steel, part no XE-1326257
Connecting Rods: Ford Indy, part no SK34375 (GT10/3/3777)
Pistons: Ford / TRW, part no SK368666 (GT40/3/9043)
Cylinder heads: Aluminium Gurney Weslake
Carburettors: Weber 48 IDA
Power Output: 450bhp
Clutch: Triple Plate Borg & Beck 7.25-inch diameter
Gearbox: Specially built ZF 5ds25/1-2 with Le Mans ratio gearing and interlock change
Brakes: Girling ventilated with 18/4 front and 16/4 rear callipers DS11 pads
Body: Lightweight moulded fibreglass
Wheels: BRM 15-inch diameter. Rim width 10-inch front / 14-inch rear
Tyres: Avon 'intermediate' historic pattern

The very last sanctioned production GT40 offered for sale by the family of one of the GT40's last parents (namely John Willment), chassis P-1089 is a very special motor car.

copyright (c) Willment Cars 2004