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						Ken Miles Gt40 22
Ultimate Tribute

Honoring Ken Miles with a special-edition GT40 reproduction

Text and photos by Steve Temple

Fellow racers called Ken Miles “Teddy Teabag” and “Sidebite” for both his favorite British beverage and odd way of speaking. But the most fitting nickname for him was “Mr. Smooth,” an apt reference to his impeccable driving skills and his reputation for courtesy on the track (unlike the snarky, aggressive character portrayed by actor Christian Bale in Ford vs Ferrari). Ironically, he didn’t think of himself as primarily a wheelman.

Miles described himself this way (as quoted in A.J. Baime’s book, Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans): “I am a mechanic. That has been the direction of my entire vocational life. Driving is a hobby, a relaxation for me, like golfing is to others…”

Miles’ nonchalance about racing belied his astounding achievements on the track, as recounted in both books and films. Given all the publicity about his career in recent months, we won’t recount all the details of his illustrious career and tragic end. After all, we could hardly do justice to what he meant to motorsports in a brief feature article.

Instead, we’ll highlight a fitting reproduction of a ’66 GT40 Mk II devoted to his memory. Built by Ted Taormina of Taormina Imports, the car started with a custom-painted, turnkey-minus roller built by Superformance for Shelby American. But it was substantially enhanced, in keeping with the example set by Miles on all of the cars he was involved with.

Ted founded Taormina Imports back in 2010, and has an extensive background working on both Italian exotics and American muscle, including restoration, repair and buildups (note the sidebar on 790 hp Cobra, and his latest project combines elements of both a Ferrari and Cobra). He’s also race driver, so his expertise fits well with this sort of tribute car.

Rather than installing a 427 big-block Ford that ran in the Mk II version of the GT40 at Le Mans, Ted went one better. Or more precisely, many horses better.

Starting with a Shelby 427ci aluminum big-block, his shop then began breathing heavily on the innards, first punching out the displacement to 511 cubes with a 4.50-inch stroke and 4.25-inch bore. Ted’s technicians then topped it with a torquey, dual-plane intake manifold from Blue Thunder and a four-barrel Holley carburetor that gulps down 1,150 cfm. Finishing off the build were ceramic-coated custom exhausts.

“They’re huge,” Ted exclaims, measuring 1 3/4-inches. Once done, this bodacious big-block boasts a whopping 700 hp with a 10.5:1 compression ratio. He feels that Miles would have appreciated this serious uptick in power: “700 lb/ft of torque is exhilarating with a hair-raising rate of acceleration.”

But Ted had to overcome a few hurdles in taking this car to the next level. Funneling the flood of power to the rear wheels is a transaxle from RBT, which required a modified rear linkage. Since the car has a left-hand drive, the setup is more involved, as the connections have to run through the center tunnel (rather than on the right side with a right-hand drive). Ted’s system employs a gated shifter, two cables and shift rods. He fabricated an adjustable shift mechanism on a CNC machine for less movement and a better throw off of the cables. In addition, the rods needed to be lengthened.

“It was a domino effect — always something more,” he admits. “The biggest challenge was the rear frame structure to fit the RBT transmission, and making the car shift for speed,” he explains. Since most Superformance GT40s are built for a stroked small-block, he had to cut and re-weld the cage for the engine and transaxle.

So what sort of customer has the patience and resources to invest in this type of project? Ted can’t reveal his name, but he’s a well-heeled Silicon Valley entrepreneur, who rents track time for blowing out that bundle o’ snakes exhaust system.

Before delivering the car, Ted did a thorough pre-flight check, running it at night up to about 170 mph on remote roads south of San Francisco. Given his background with setting land-speed records, he was unruffled about the experience: “Not a big deal, but a car like that gets up to that speed pretty quick.”

Ted’s remark reminds us of a comment Ken Miles once made about wanting to drive a Formula 1 race car, not for the grand prize, but just to see what it was like: “That would be jolly good fun!”

Hall of Famer’s Cobra

Ted Taormina has a penchant for speed, especially in really quick reptiles, as in Cobras. He set a 201.1 mph land-speed record for a Superformance roadster called The Italian Job (dubbed for its color scheme). Prior to that, he built a similar car for a well-known professional athlete. While this customer insists on remaining anonymous, we can reveal a few details about the build. Despite Ted’s fondness for foreign rides, he has a thing for snakes, having built more than 60 of them.

How did this street version differ from the land-speed Cobra? Both have a number of aero mods to manage wind resistance, such as frontal canards, a belly pan, an under-spoiler and a rear diffuser. Surprisingly, it actually had a bigger engine, because the pro baller specificed, “I want a Cobra that’ll do 200.” Which it did — and more.

Fittingly dubbed “The Maneack” on the license plate, the engine displaces 526 cubes. Rather than EFI, Ted preferred to go with Weber carbs, enlarged from 48 to 55 mm. Final output came in at 790 hp and 740 lb/ft at 7,200 rpm. TREMEC supplied a TKO 600 five-speed transmission. So just how quick a sprint could it run downfield?

“He hit 200 once and it was still pulling,” Ted relates. But he didn’t realize exactly how fast, since it took only a mile and a half to get up to speed, and the speedo only reads up to 180 mph. Doing some quick calculations on the tach (7,100 rpm in fifth gear), diff ratio (3.48:1), and tire size (shaved Toyo Y-rated rubber), he came up with 204 mph.

Later on a track outing, the car went up against some NASCAR racers and blew them away. “He was ecstatic,” Ted says. “But I warned him that I didn’t like him going over 180 mph with the windshield on the car.” Apparently his customer ignored this advice, throwing caution into the wind stream. But maybe this reckless attitude is why he did so well as a pro athlete.

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