Classic Cars

Ford GT40s at Pebble Beach

A half-century later, Ford’s famous race car still generates excitement at the Concours d’Elegance

A few years more than a half-century ago, Ford tried to buy Ferrari. When negotiations fell apart, the attitude at Ford became if you can’t buy ’em, beat ’em.

That was Henry Ford II’s approach and he put Ford’s best effort and a huge budget behind it. The battleground? France’s famous 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ferrari had made a habit of winning at the Circuit de la Sarthe and it would be the perfect venue for Ford to make its point.

It didn’t happen right away. In 1964 and 1965 the Fords were fast but lacked Ferrari’s endurance. Henry the Deuce laid down the law: Get back to Le Mans and win.

Ford did so in 1966 and it worked. Not only did Ford win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but took the first three finishing positions. To celebrate that win a half-century ago, the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance gathered 17 GT40s. There were the 1-2-3 finishers from 1966 and the cars that brought Ford victory in 1967, 1968, and 1969. Plus many more.

Here is a gallery of the Ford GT40 weekend at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

1. Edsel Ford was a young man at Le Mans in 1966 and one of the driving forces behind gathering the cars at Pebble in 2016.

2. None of the original 1964 Ford GT40 prototypes exist, but Claude Nahum of Founex, Switzerland, had this “tribute” car created. It is very unusual to find a replica on the field at Pebble Beach, but this car is so authentically created and of such importance that Pebble organizers made an exception for it.

3. John Wyer’s variation on the GT40, the Mirage.

4. This ex-Scuderia Filipinetti has the look of most GT40 race cars.

5. In 1967, Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren drove this GT40 Mk IV to a win in the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring.

6. Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt raced this GT40 Mk IV to win the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans.

7. Master of ceremonies at Pebble Beach was Derek Hill, whose father, Phil, was involved in the early years of Ford GT40 development. Hill drove up on the awards ramp in a GT40 Mk IIB that belongs to the Revs Institute for Automotive Research. It is the last Mk II to win a race and, oddly enough, has two serial numbers—but that’s another story.

8.Only two cars in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans have won twice, and this is one of them. It is GT40 chassis 1075, which was victorious in 1968 and 1969. Here the driver is congratulated by Edsel Ford, his son Henry Ford III, and one of the winning drivers from 1969, Jacky Ickx.

9. The trio of winning GT40s assembled on the awards ramp at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

10. This is the first of the series of road-going GT40s called Mk IIIs. It came in third at Pebble in GT40-class judging.

11. A rare GT40, one of the Roadsters, which finished second in the GT40 class.

12. Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson were third at Le Mans in 1966 in this Holman & Moody-entered GT40 Mk II.

13. Shelby American entered this GT40 Mk II, which finished second at Le Mans in 1966 driven by Ken Miles and Denny Hulme.

14. A winner then and now. The GT40 Mk II that won Le Mans in 1966 driven by Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren. This year it won the GT40 class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

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