1965 Ford GT Mk. II #1 Pilots: K. Miles, B. McLaren Team: Shelby-American Inc. Race: DNF (P +5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1965 Spark - S4532 (resin)
By mid-1963, the negotiations between Ford and Ferrari concluded. Old man Enzo Ferrari categorically rejected Ford’s offer, and the deal was off. Some say he never wanted to sell to Ford in the first place. And with that, Henry Ford II blew a gasket and wanted revenge. He decided then and there to beat Ferrari in its own game. Costs be damned, he would build a car that could win Le Mans, hopefully humiliating Ferrari. So in 1964 what we now call the Ford vs Ferrari War officially began. The weapon for Ford’s revenge? A totally new car, built from the ground up, called the Ford GT. However, there was a little problem. Ford never built a GT car. Worse, the brand didn’t even have a racing department. That being so, the solution was to outsource the whole project.
They hired Eric Broadley to design something in the lines of his groundbreaking Lola GT. The new car, 2” lower than the Lola GT’s 42”, was ready in April 1964*. Yet, despite the almost unlimited budget, upper management rushed the project. Ford wanted to make a world-class GT champion in just 10 months. And as expected, the Ford GT Mk. I had a lot of issues. The car was really fast, however bad aerodynamics made it a handful to drive. And worst of all, it wasn’t reliable. At La Sarthe, in June, Ford lined up three GTs for the race. And all three were out in less than 12 hours, with mechanical issues. With the abysmal results at Le Mans and in other races, Ford had to reassess the whole project. With that, Carroll Shelby became head of operations and Roy Lunn chief engineer.
*: Officially, Ford called the car simply “Ford GT”. The name GT40, because of the 40” height, only came later.
With input from Shelby’s main test driver, Ken Miles, the car began to get better. To the point that, at the 1965 Daytona Continental in February, Ken Miles piloted a GT Mk. I to victory. However, at the Le Mans test trials in April, Ferrari dominated the field. Meanwhile, back at Dearborn, Roy Lunn had a new version of the car ready for testing, the Mk. II. While preserving the car’s aerodynamics, Lunn managed to fit Ford’s new 427 ci (6997 cm³) V8 behind the pilot. Miles tested the car at Dearborn and was happy with it. Consequently, with just four weeks until Le Mans, the Shelby team prepared two cars with the new 427 V8. Nonetheless, there were four other GTs in the hands of privateers and the Ford Advanced Vehicles team. These, however, all used either the older 289 (4727 cm³) or the 325 (5300 cm³) engines.
Things looked good for the Shelby team, with the Mk. II setting a new lap record during practice. However, the optimism during practice evolved into despair during the race. In the rush to get the cars ready, small mistakes happened. The result was that none of the Fords finished the race. The best result was Shelby’s GT Mk.II #2 that lasted until lap 89. The sister car, Mk. II #1, was out by the 45th lap, with a broken gearbox. The 1965 Le Mans race was an unmitigated disaster for Ford. And to add insult to injury, a Ferrari came in first place. Still, not throwing the towel, Ford came back the following year and then the story was different.
This Ford GT Mk. II was not a successful car at La Sarthe, on the contrary. Nonetheless, without the lessons it brought to both Shelby and Ford, the 1966 victory would not have been possible. Therefore, it is an historically important car. And in scale, it is a true masterpiece. Once again Spark did an outstanding job on the model, and it looks fantastic. This is my second Ken Miles car, and it is a thing of beauty. So, for the GT40 fanboy this is a must buy. And for the Le Mans nut, you can say the same. After all, it was an important part of the Ford vs Ferrari War.