Ford GT40 Mk. IV #1 – Spark

GT40 Mk
1967 Ford GT40 Mk. IV #1
Pilots: D. Gurney, A. J. Foyt 
Team: Shelby-American Inc.
Race: 1st overall (P+5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1967
Spark - 43LM67 (resin)

Published 05/13/22

Ford’s commitment to have a GT car at Le Mans started in the early 1960s. Moreover, Henry Ford II was hell-bent to have a car to beat Ferrari after Enzo Ferrari turned down his offer to buy the Ferrari brand. At a HUGE cost, by 1964 their GT40 was ready to take on the Italians. However, the car had many issues, and only became truly competitive in 1966. That year a Ford car finally won at Le Mans. Despite the GT40 Mk. II being a winner, it still had a fair share of issues. Chief among these issues was weight. To be competitive, the GT40 had to use engines almost twice the size of its adversaries. Furthermore, the added weight and power stressed all running components, affecting the car’s reliability. Ford was aware of all this, therefore they needed a lighter car. 

GT40 Mk
Though the Mk. IV did well at test day, Ford opted to not race it in 1966.

The obvious solution was to use a lighter aluminum monocoque instead of steel, like in the Mk. II. However, engineers feared that an aluminum tub would not withstand the punishment of 24 hours at La Sarthe. With that, they opted to use a honeycomb structure sandwiched between the sheets of aluminum. The result was a very sturdy chassis, though the complete car weighed 200 kg less than the Mk. II. Internally Ford called this new project the J-car, and it was first ready in spring of 1966. In fact, Ford took the J-car prototype to the 1966 test day at Le Mans, and it did well. Back in the US, they built a second one that tragically took the life of Ken Miles during testing in August. Consequently, Ford destroyed the first prototype in crash tests to determine what was wrong with the car. 

Ford never found out what caused Ken Miles crash.

Subsequently, Ford produced two more prototypes, and did extensive aerodynamic testing for the bodies. After testing 25 bodies they found a design that best combined low-drag with high-speed stability. With the testing done, they called the new car the GT40 Mk. IV. For Le Mans, to leave nothing to chance, Ford built four completely new chassis. Two (J-5 and J-6) were handed to Shelby American, and two (J-7 and J-8) were entered by Holman & Moody. While the Holman & Moody cars crashed out, the Shelby Americans fared better. In fourth place came the Mk. IV #2, piloted by Bruce McLaren and Mark Donohue. On the other hand, the GT40 Mk. IV #1 here (chassis #j5), with Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt at the wheel, came in first place. That was Ford’s second overall win at the 24 Heures du Mans. The Deuce got his revenge.

It took me years to finally make this shot with all the Ford Le Mans winners.

In scale, the GT40 Mk. IV #1 is nothing less than a gem – absolutely stunning. Furthermore, this model is without a doubt a grail model for my collection. In first place, the car is ICE cool. All right, Gulf GT40s achieved more and look great, however the Mk. IV is just sexy. Secondly, the Mk. IV is an overall winner and this is the first version in 1:43 by a premium brand. You can find (for a hefty price) Ixo’s version, however it is an old mold that just can’t stand up to a current Spark. That being the case, this is one of those models that will look good in any racecar collection.

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