Ode to Big Ed

Posted October 10, 2018

A GT40 with the roof cut off, now why would someone build such a thing? You have to admit, while it’s not something you’d come up with on your own, it sure does look nice properly executed. But appearances weren’t the primary inspiration behind this one-of-a-kind GT40 replica. Constructed in the early 2000s, this unique GT40 roadster pays tribute to Ford’s most unloved GT40 known as Big Ed. I can’t exactly take credit for coining Big Ed as the most unloved GT40, that claim comes from an article on Hemmings.com. But where the Hemmings article ends with the painful demise of a rare GT40, our story begins with a meticulous reincarnation in the form of an ERA GT40 roadster.

Chassis GT/110 shipped out of Abbey Panels in the U.K. back in ’65 with a few obvious tweaks to the GT40 formula. For one, it was one of five GTs built in a roadster configuration without a roof. But also, this chassis was constructed from aluminum, while the other four roadsters were done in steel. Stamped with the number GT/110, the chassis was shipped to McLaren and fitted with a specialty body for Group 7 racing, which consisted of experimental two-seaters without homologation rules. At this time, the car was known as the Ford X-1 and wore a long nose and tall rear spoiler and was powered by a 427-ci Ford V8. 

After shaving as much weight as possible from the car, McLaren’s drivers were unable to find success in the X-1. Along with a string of mechanical failures, McLaren found that any benefits from weight savings were overcome by a loss in rigidity. The car was then shipped to Shelby American for a second effort to purpose the significant investment in GT/110.

Big Ed5

The crew at Shelby American was non-to-thrilled on the GT40 roadsters by the time the X-1 arrived, and took to calling the car Big Ed, a reference to Ford’s failed Edsel. Ed was overhauled to MkII specifications in an effort to overcome its record of constant disappointments. At the time, it was pretty obvious that the GT40 roadsters were a total flop, but Ed would have one final shot at greatness in 1966.

That year, Ed was entered into the Sebring 12-Hour event at the hands of Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby, giving him his best odds yet. Miles and Ruby kept Ed together enough to stay competitive in the race, trailing Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant’s MkII GT by a significant margin. However, Gurney’s MkII experienced a mechanical failure in sight of the finish, prompting Gurney to push his car a quarter mile to cross the finish. While the stunning display inflated Gurney’s overwhelming popularity, it didn’t secure the win, only a DNF from the officials. Big Ed crawled in under the radar after Gurney’s epic finish, taking the official victory. Ed’s win at Sebring would be the car’s only victory, and moreover, the only victory for a GT40 on American soil in period.

Ed’s time in the limelight didn’t last long though. Unfortunately, just one month after the Sebring victory, Ed was already being parted-out at Shelby to support their more competitive cars. Ed’s remaining components were still laying around at Shelby by 1970, and it was at this time that the U.S. Customs showed up to ensure Ed’s demise.

Ed was imported into the U.S. on a temporary import bond, which expired long before 1970. Customs officials ordered that Shelby pay the import charges and late fees, or scrap the car. Shelby elected to scrap the car, having poor Ed cut into pieces. Unfortunately, the rules stated that the car must be wrecked while a Customs inspector is present, and Shelby was forced to tack weld the car back together, before cutting it again with the inspector present. The car’s remains were allegedly buried afterwards — how appropriate.

With only a few historical photos to commemorate its unique construction and Sebring victory, Ed could have easily been reduced to an odd footnote in the GT40 story. But thanks to a few people in the replica business, a living, breathing example of the breed is out there to honor Ford’s most unloved GT40 roadster.

The car listed here on BringaTrailer.com was constructed by ERA Replica Automobiles and is allegedly the only ERA MkII Spyder ever built. The car was originally finished in black and used in the company’s promotional materials, before sitting idle for 10 years or so. The car was then purchased by a new owner, who had the car refinished in Big Ed’s Sebring-winning configuration. The seller reports that almost all 1,900 miles have been logged during their ownership.

To get the roadster right, ERA modified several aspects of their standard MkII. The roof was removed, and a revised safety glass windshield and surround were added. The rear body, dashboard and doors were also modified to match. The enlarged rear spoiler was bolted to the original Big Ed to offset the air turbulence caused by the new windshield and roof, and it's perfectly replicated on this example. In proper MkII spec, a 427 ci Ford side-oiler V8 with Weber carbs powers the roadster through a ZF transaxle.

Sensing the all-too-obvious opportunity to honor the unloved Big Ed, the current owner had the car refinished to proper Ed specification. Ford’s unique candy apple red paint was applied along with all the No. 1 roundels, stripes and smaller decals. The car is reported to be in excellent mechanical and physical condition.

If you dig into the comments section of the listing, one commenter actually claims that the seller originally developed the MkII roadster on his own before ERA produced this example.

"... The first GT40 replica Spyder was done by this Seller maybe 20 years ago. He sourced the windshields and retrofitted them onto ERA GT40 coupes, maybe did 3 or 4 back in the day. This car was done by ERA themselves, using the experience the seller developed..." says commenter Jjd1776.

This stunning tribute to Big Ed is up for auction here on BringaTrailer.com. With two days remaining in the auction, the current high bid sits at $100,000.

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