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						Gt40 Replica A2
Bringing it Forward

Superformance MkII GT40

Story and Photos by Steve Temple

While the latest iteration the Ford GT is a fabulous car, both blindingly fast and drop-dead gorgeous, it has morphed quite a bit since its origins back in the 1960s. Looking back on the GT40’s early history, the cars established their significance at Le Mans in 1966 under the guiding hand of Carroll Shelby. Today, quality reproductions such as the one shown here keep the torch aloft, as we’ll see. First, though, a bit of background leading up to the GT40’s stellar achievements on the track. And then we’ll focus on how a reproduction actually improves on the original.

That the Ford GT would become a racing icon was not firmly established right off. The Ford GT racing team had been turned over to Shelby American at the start of the 1965 season, and the cars finally started winning races.

The MkII model was very similar in appearance to the MkI, differentiated by the high-mounted ducts in the rear quarters. Rather than a small-block Ford, it used the 427-cubic-inch engine from the Ford Galaxie and in NASCAR, but modified for a road-course application. While the chassis was retained from the MkI, Shelby had to alter it somewhat for the larger and heavier engine. Also, a new four-speed gearbox built by Kar Kraft was needed to handle the more powerful engine, replacing the ZF five-speed found in the MkI.

In 1966, the MkII dominated Le Mans, taking European audiences by surprise in a sledgehammer finale, beating Ferrari in a one-two-three finish. After the success of these MkII cars, the Ford GT40 went on to win the race for the next three years, remaining undefeated until 1970.

The buzz created by the Ford GT meant that others wanted in on the fun. (Ford used the names Ford GT and GT40 interchangeably at the time). Private teams wanted to race them, and well-heeled enthusiasts could see themselves cruising up to the country club in a more civilized version. Since Ford had to build at least a few street models in order to satisfy the prototype racing regulations, they opted to go with a version of their 289-powered Ford GT MkI. (But as we’ll see, replicas aren’t held to this restriction in engine size.)

Features that were acceptable, or even desirable, in a racing car made life difficult for owners who drove GT40s on the street. Neither the seats nor the pedals were easily adjustable, and getting in and out was an ordeal, with the transmission lever mounted to the right side of the driver seat. All Ford GTs were right-hand drive (the preferred side for racing since most race circuits ran clockwise), which made street driving in the U.S. a pain, plus the lever was in the way and had to be stepped over while clambering in over the wide sill. The doors, cut far into the roof to make it faster for drivers to hop in during the infamous Le Mans running starts, were capable of scalping tall drivers and passengers alike. 

Of course, the cramped interior, inches from the engine, became an oven on hot days. The rigidly mounted windows could not be opened, though they did feature small access openings for receiving tickets (an inevitable consequence of driving a race car on the street). Ford countered the heat problem on some race cars by simply cutting off the roof. Street cars were offered air-conditioning systems, although few were fitted. 

For power, Ford stipulated a 335 hp 289 with four Weber carburetors, although actual power output was closer to 300. The brakes, steering and most suspension components were carried over from the race cars. Although these early street GT40s were intended to use MkI bodies and wire wheels, some were fitted with MkII rear body sections and Halibrand mags before sale. 

But how did they run? Very well, thank you. The Ford GT would have been the quickest street car in the world at the time if not for the 427 Cobra (and around a racetrack the GT would have been the winner). The GT could easily trounce any Ferrari, Jaguar or Corvette street car. Around 30 street GT40s were sold before Ford decided to offer a more user-friendly Ford GT version, but only seven of these were completed.

But what about one of today’s reproductions? How does it compare with an original? This one, owned by Rudy Vilkutaitis, is designated as a Safir (which owns the GT40 trademark), but was built under exclusive license by Superformance. As a contemporary classic, this faithful reproduction has a number of appealing upgrades, even as more than two-thirds of the rolling chassis parts are interchangeable with that of an original car, including the monocoque-style chassis.

To start with, this reproduction has a left-hand drive, making it much more appealing to U.S. drivers. It’s not limited to a small-block, either. Powered by a 427 engine stroked to 482 cubes (4.25 bore x 4.25 stroke) by Robert Pond Motorsports, the output is prodigious at 610 horses at 600 lb-ft of torque. (About double that of the street version offered by Ford back in the ’60s.) Referred to as “a very high-performance-type engine,” this is an understatement in such a light chassis. It sips only high-octane fuel, of course, and racing oil is mandatory in the crankcase. 

Topping the engine is a Holley that sits in a turkey pan, the same type found in the 427 S/C Cobra. Power flows through a BRT ZF five-speed gearbox, and the bundle o’ snakes exhaust is silver ceramic coated.

Assembled by Dennis Oltoff of Oltoff Racing in North Carolina, this replica was thoroughly sorted out to live up to its forebears’ looks and performance. One look and you can tell it’s a truly exceptional car. 

The jet-black exterior wears four lighted roundels with silver Le Mans stripes. The wheels are period-correct 15-inchers, painted gold and fitted with Firestone Gold Line tires (9.20 x 15 front and 12 x 15 rear). Aluminum front skid plates protect the undercarriage, which is also fitted with extended sway bar links for better roll control.

The cockpit has an adjustable foot box, and is fully finished in Alcantara, a synthetic material with the appearance and tactile feel similar to suede, but much more durable. Helicopter vents improve on the airflow, and air conditioning eliminates the uncomfortable cabin heat of the original. 

No surprise, then, that Rudy preferred this exacting replica over a 2005 Ford GT. “I just didn’t care for the modern one. It’s just another street car,” he relates. “It had no dramatic impact on me.” He speaks from substantial experience both as a car collector, owning a number of high-end exotics, and as an engineer whose company manufactured drivetrain components for many major automakers. “I’ve always respected what Ford did back in the ’60s, beating Ferrari.”

All told, this spectacular reproduction carries on the illustrious tradition of the MkII, while comparing favorably with today’s Ford GT — if you could even acquire one. It’s really tough to get on the highly exclusive, invite-only customer list for the latest GT. On the other hand, here’s a superb continuation GT40 that’s hot, ready and waiting. 

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GT40 Superformance