Ford lightweight racing car GT40 1968 edition used in Steve McQueen’s Le Mans sells for $11 million at RM Auctions
A 1968 Ford GT40 racing car went for $11 million, thus becoming the costliest car from America ever to be sold at an auction. The 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage racer in blue with marigold stripes here, was initially estimated to be auctioned for $8 million at an auction to be held by RM Auctions at Monterey, but as is the case with good old cars, this one too exceeded expectations.
This particular GT40 has a history to be proud of and it is this that got it its fair share of attention. This Ford has been part of the original Gulf team and has an excellent racing track record. Two bidders at the auction competed with each other and took the price from $9 million up to $11 million which also included auction house fees.
GT40 dates back to the early 1960. The car won Le Mans 24 Hours race for four years in a row from 1966 to 1969. This ultra lightweight racing car, which eventually sold for $11 million at the RM Auctions, stunned audience to such an extent, that it received a standing ovation. RM Auctions, Gooding & Co and Bonhams are well known for their up market auctions which include historic cars, art and wine, holding special place of interest among the wealthy and famous.
Read the news release below for more information.
1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight Racing Car
1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight Racing Car
Chassis No. P/1074 (M.10003)
440 bhp at 6,800 rpm, 289 cu in OHV V-8 engine, four 48 IDA Weber carburetors, ZF 5DS25/1 five-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and Koni adjustable shock absorbers, independent rear suspension with trailing arms, unequal-length A-arms, and Koni adjustable shock absorbers, and four-wheel stage II Girling ventilated disc brakes. Wheelbase: 95″
• Debut win at Spa 1967 with Jacky Ickx and Dr. Dick Thompson
• Extraordinary racing history; ex-David Hobbs, Brian Redman, Mike Hailwood, and Paul Hawkins
• The first win for the famed Gulf/Wyer Partnership
• Only Gulf team car to win both as a Mirage (’67 Spa) and a GT40 (’68 Monza)
• First of three lightweight production GT40s; one of two surviving
• Early use of carbon fiber-reinforced bodywork
• Famous Gulf camera car used in the epic Steve McQueen film, Le Mans
• Distinguished provenance, including Sir Anthony Bamford, Harley Cluxton, and others
• Complete with original 1967 Mirage bodywork
• Countless books, models, awards, and event participations
In March 2013, it will be 50 years since Ford instituted the GT40 program. The purposeful mid-engine sports coupe is the finest Anglo-American supercar of the last century, with four straight victories at the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race between 1966 and ’69. In 1966 alone, it finished 1-2-3 against Ferrari, in one of the most memorable photo finishes in the race’s distinguished history, cementing the car’s place in motorsports history and on the postered walls of teenaged bedrooms the world over.
Its genesis alone is the stuff of legends and the subject of countless books, summarized most succinctly as a failed buy-out of Ferrari by Henry Ford II.
Blank checks were signed in Detroit, engineering and racing heavyweights were hired, and Lolas were modified and readied for testing. GT/101, the first prototype, was assembled in March 1964, in time for testing and the imminent Ford-Ferrari battle at Le Mans in the summer. Undaunted by a lack of wins, Ford regrouped for 1965 with Carroll Shelby-already a veteran with his Cobras-taking over the GT40 MK II program.
He delivered a win at Daytona with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby in GT/103 and a Second Place at Sebring with Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren in the same car. Shelby also ran the first MK II at Le Mans in June of ’65. Meanwhile, John Wyer continued development of the customer 289 GT40 racing cars.
The stunning GT40 offered here, chassis P/1074, is very well-documented in GT40 history. It began life as Mirage M.10003, and in its debut at Spa, in May 1967, the legendary endurance racer Jacky Ickx and the “Flying Dentist,” Dr. Dick Thompson, finished First Overall. This was also the first win for any car under the fabled powder blue (1125) and marigold (1456) Gulf livery. Such an accomplishment on its own would be sufficient to impress any enthusiast, but it marks only the beginning of P/1074’s storied history. It should be noted that Ickx was only in his early-twenties at the time, had just made his first Grand Prix start the same year, and was on the cusp of beginning one of the great careers in motorsports that, to date, includes an extraordinary six wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 25 podium finishes in Formula One, factory racing for Porsche, and everything in between, not to mention winning the Paris-Dakar Rally and even piloting the famous Ferrari 512S for the Steve McQueen film Le Mans.
Unfortunately, however, this particular car DNF’d later that year at Le Mans and Brands Hatch, and then won at Karlskoga and finished Second at Skarpnack, before finished with a convincing win at Montlhery. Quite the stunning debut for this exceptional racing car!
Following the FIA’s regulation change for the 1968 season, which reduced prototype engine size to three-liters and five-liters for production (Group 4) sports cars, with a limited build of 25 examples, Mirage M.10003 was taken back to J.W.A. in England for its conversion into a Group 4 GT40. The conversion was completed on February 23, 1968, whereupon it became GT40 P/1074, but has since remained complete with its original Mirage bodywork and could easily be returned to that configuration.
It was the first (by serial number) of three lightweight racing GT40’s built for the J.W.A./Gulf team. Its chassis retained the unique Mirage straight substructure forward of the windscreen. Specific to the car were Stage II ventilated disc brakes, a lightweight frame, and a lightened roof.
The body was described as “super lightweight with carbon filament aluminum, fully-vented spare wheel cover, extra wide rear wheel arches, double engine coolers, and rear panel vented (sic) for brake air exit.” The carbon fiber-reinforced bodywork used on the Mirage M1s, now P/1074, P/1075, and P/1076, are reputed to be among the first, if not the very first, uses of carbon fiber panels in race car fabrication.
Currently, P/1074 is fitted with an original, period correct GT40 Ford 289 cubic inch V-8 with Gurney-Weslake cylinder heads, four Weber twin-choke carburetors, and a 351 oil pump with an Aviaid oil pan. During its active career, P/1074 (M.10003) was powered by four other V-8 Ford push-rod engines, including a 289, a 302 (1074), a 305, and a 351 (M.10003). It was painted in powder blue Gulf livery, with a distinctive, constant-width, marigold (orange) center stripe, which instantly identified it as J.W.A’s number two car. On several occasions, it was raced with triangular nose-mounted canard fins to improve downforce. From the outset, 8.5-inch front and 11.0-inch rear BRM Mirage wheels were fitted.
Soon after conversion to a GT40, driven by endurance racing greats David Hobbs and Paul Hawkins, P/1074 raced at Daytona (February 3, 1968), where it was a DNF. This record would soon improve. On March 3, 1968, with the same drivers, it finished 28th at Sebring, then ran at the Le Mans Trials with Jacky Ickx, where it set a 3 minute 35.4-second lap record. Driven again by Hawkins and Hobbs, P/1074 won at the Monza 1000 Kilometre on April 25, 1968. On May 19, 1968, competing at the Nürburgring, David Hobbs and Brian Redman finished in Sixth Place. Hawkins and Hobbs teamed up in P/1074 at Watkins Glen to finish Second. This was the first race that P/1074 was fitted with the larger 302 cubic inch V-8 engine. It DNF’d at Le Mans (September 8, 1968), which was the last race of the season that year, again with Hawkins and Hobbs driving.
In October 1968, P/1074 was loaned to Ecurie Fracorchamps and to a Belgian racer, Jean (Beurlys) Blaton, as a replacement for his P/1079, which had been crashed at Le Mans earlier that year. Beurlys and DeFierlant ran the car at Montlhery on October 13th, achieving an Eighth Place finish. Early in 1969, J.W.A acquired P/1074 again, and in its only race that year, David Hobbs and Mike Hailwood finished Fifth at the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch in April, still running the 302 V-8.
This car’s life was about to change dramatically. In 1970, David Brown, of Tampa, Florida, purchased P/1074 and P/1076 from J.W.A. He in turn leased P/1074 to Steve McQueen’s Solar Productions, of North Hollywood, California, in May of that year. Under the care of J.W.A, it was to be used as a mobile camera car for McQueen’s epic production of the movie Le Mans. Steve McQueen had insisted that the cars be filmed at speed. This necessitated that the camera car be capable of very high performance and keeping up with the “star” cars.
For filming purposes, the entire roof section was removed, which left P/1074 with a windscreen that was just a few inches high. It is believed that this operation rendered the doors inoperable. Period photographs of the car show the doors securely taped shut. At the same time, the car’s fully-vented spare tire cover was removed and replaced with the less aerodynamically-efficient “twin nostril” unit from a road-going Mk III GT40.
The modified GT40 was tested at the Fighting Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) in Surrey England. The radical changes to P/1074 resulted in a race car with adversely impacted aerodynamics and, in the words of Jonathan Williams, “diabolical” handling. During a test, P/1074 ran over a section of tank tread, which punctured one of its racing tires, precipitating an off-road excursion that dented the belly pan in a few places. Its driver, John Horsman, author of Racing in the Rain, and the film’s director, who was accompanying him as a passenger, were unharmed.
P/1074 was employed as a camera car at the start of the 1970 Le Mans 24-Hour race, where its former driver, Jacky Ickx, was coincidentally also in attendance, racing a Ferrari 512S, no less! Its spare tire cover was removed, and a pair of movie cameras were mounted securely in the spare tire well. Several runs were made up and down the pit lanes prior to the race. It’s uncertain as to whether the car actually ran during the race. A gyroscopically-stabilized, compressed air-powered, 180 degree rotating Arriflex camera was mounted on the rear deck, where it could be remotely-controlled by a dashboard-mounted TV screen. A 35 mm manually-rotated camera was securely mounted above the passenger side door. Its operation required intrepid cameraman Alex Barbey to crouch alongside it in a small rotating seat.
But the combination of these heavy cameras, along with the car’s substantially reduced aerodynamics and now less rigid chassis, meant the car was very hard to control at the 150 mph speeds the filming required. At this time, Dutch skid-pad expert Rob Slotemaker replaced a probably very relieved Jonathan Williams as P/1074’s driver. The much-modified GT40 “roadster” was used in its altered configuration for some five months, until the filming of Le Mans was completed. It was still finished in powder blue and marigold.
After the film wrapped production, Harley E. Cluxton III (then of Glenview, Illinois) bought P/1074 from Mr. Brown. He tested the car at the Glenview Naval Air Station and said that crossing the runway arresting cables at speed was what he could only describe as “interesting.” P/1074 was sold to noted collector Sir Anthony Bamford (Staffordshire, England) in 1972. It was subsequently reconstructed by Willie Green, of Derby, England, who did the rework using a new roof structure obtained from Abbey Panels Ltd. The cut-down doors were replaced with early GT40 units, which meant the car was now equipped with early type “rocker” door handles instead of the sliding levers that are found on later J.W.A. racers.
Other body modifications performed at this time included new rear bodywork, fabricated from a “standard” GT40 production unit with widened wheel flares, so the transom lacked the additional outlet vents found on Gulf GT40s, and the rear wheel arches did not have carbon fiber reinforcement. Finally, the number plate location had to be modified to clear the exhaust pipes when the rear section was opened. Willie Green raced the reconstituted P/1074 at several UK racing events. Subsequent ownership history is well-documented and includes Mr. Cluxton’s re-acquisition of the car in 1983, prior to another restoration.
The peripatetic P/1074 was present at the GT40 25th Anniversary Reunion at Watkins Glen in September 1989 and at the 30th Anniversary Reunion in July, 1994. It has appeared in numerous books, on the “Competition Ford GT40” poster, and it’s been replicated in several models, both as the topless Le Mans camera car and in “conventional” Le Mans racing configuration. The current owner bought P/1074, and sent it to Harley Cluxton for a complete restoration in 2002, where it received a straight nose stripe and a fully vented nose cover. The doors were replaced with units featuring the later rocker style handles (as the car’s original sliding lever handles). The infamous cut-down tail section, which was removed when the car was reconstructed, reportedly survives in France. P/1074 has since been fastidiously maintained by its current owner.
In 2003, Jackie Oliver drove P/1074 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Again in 2004, this well-known and highly-respected GT40 reappeared at Goodwood fitted with nose canard fins and an adjustable height rear spoiler. In 2009, it was driven by its original driver, David Hobbs, at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it was awarded Best in Class.
For a fortunate bidder, the acquisition of GT40 P/1074 represents a special opportunity. Aside from its current, stunning presentation, the fact that it is one of only two surviving Gulf Mirage M1s, in which form it accumulated much of its racing history, renders it particularly attractive to an enthusiast who now has the option of relatively easily returning the car to this configuration and actively campaigning the car with its remarkable Jacky Ickx provenance.
This car’s impeccable credentials, both as a winning racer and as the camera car for the legendary Steve McQueen film Le Mans, as well as its long documented history of prominent owners and its meticulous restoration in J.W.A./Gulf livery, mark it as one of the most desirable GT40s, and indeed endurance racing cars, ever built.
Please note that a number of spare parts accompany the sale, including 1967 Mirage bodywork. Please consult an RM specialist for further details.
Special thanks to the GT40 Registry, Ronnie Spain, author of GT40: An Individual History and Race Record, and John S. Allen, author of The Ford GT40 and The Ford That Beat Ferrari, for their help and research on this car.