Le Mans ’66: now you want a GT40?
Inspired by the excellent Le Mans ‘66 movie (aka Ford v Ferrari in other regions), which has been recently released on streaming platforms and DVD, I got to wondering how much you’d have to pay to get your hands on a Ford GT40, or one of the many continuations and replicas that are out there.
Genuine blue oval
Firstly, let’s consider the genuine Ford options. An original 1960s Ford GT40 is pretty close to unattainable. Only around a hundred were built between ‘64 and ‘69 and most were race cars. Depending on its condition, race history and other provenance you’ll have to find upwards of £3m. As an extreme example, the Gulf-liveried GT40 that won Le Mans in both ‘68 and ‘69 last sold for just over £20m. Off the scale expensive.
In 2002, to celebrate their pending centenary, Ford showed a new Ford GT concept that went into production two years later. Larger but similar in shape and design to the GT40, this model is much more plentiful with over 4,000 built in total and around a hundred registered in the UK. Although cheaper than the original, one of these teenaged chargers from a specialist like GT101 will still cost you £200-400k.
Lastly, 2017 saw Ford release the sublime road-going version of their successful “return to Le Mans” GT racer. Although there are echoes of the GT40 in the overall shape, this is a very different car and doesn’t have a V8 motor – although it is by no means lacking in power. Still in production, the first cars are now coming out of first-owner’s anti-flipping restrictions and are being listed by supercar dealers for £700-900k.
That’s a genuine blue oval out of the running for most people then, so let’s take a look at replicas. As you would expect of such an iconic sports car, there are many recreation options with an equally varied price range.
Top of the tree would be the Superformance GT40, not a replica but a licensed continuation model, eligible for the official Shelby Registry and carrying a GT40P/2000 series chassis number. Built from the original drawings, their authenticity can vary from 80% of parts interchangeable with those on the original cars to 100% and eligible for historic racing.
Understandably, 20th Century Fox didn’t fancy shooting Le Mans ‘66 with the real thing, so it was Superformance that they turned to for the star cars. In the UK, official supplier Le Mans Coupes will sell you a new GT40 in a spec and livery of your choice for around £175k (all new prices in this article include VAT). Pre-owned models can be found in the classifieds from upwards of £100k, and many of these continuations will either hold their value or even appreciate gradually depending on their age and specification.
The imitation game
When Ken Vincent Attwell, a senior production manager at Ford’s Swansea factory, was asked to repair a GT40’s GRP bodywork, he also got permission to create moulds to make copies to build a replica, which he then grafted to a rudimentary chassis for himself. The KVA GT40 was a very basic look alike with poor handling; using a combination of Ford, Citroen and VW running gear powered by the Ford Essex V6 engine. From the early ‘80s, Ken’s kit evolved and was also adopted and improved upon by others (notably GTD) thus spawning the plethora of replicas we see today.
It is worth noting that most often, these replicas are sold in component form as kits and you will need a decent garage or workshop to build them in as well as good practical skills. If you have neither, or want a GT40 right now, there are pre-built cars available too but try to find one built professionally or by a reputable and highly skilled amateur and make sure it’s Ford V8 powered because it makes a big difference on resale. To avoid carrying a Q plate you’ll also need a vehicle type approval, which most kit makers can help with.
Pride and achievement
Before you begin your journey, be sure to check out the GT40 Enthusiasts Club where you will find a good deal of information, cars for sale and access to a community of owners and builders. Useful too is the GT40s forum where you will find builds of most replica kits documented. For self-builders, saving money is not the key motivator, it is the satisfaction of doing it yourself to your own needs and specification. Belinda Wheelwright, Chair of the Enthusiasts Club, speaks of her “enormous amount of pride and feeling of achievement, and knowing where every brake pipe, fuel line and wiring is placed”.
Self-build may well be more expensive, particularly if you have exacting standards or want the best. Belinda knows of others who have invested up to £100k on their builds. Understandable when a ZF gearbox can cost up to £20k or a fully rebuilt 302 V8 another £20k. You’ve then got wheels and tyres maybe £2.5K and another grand or two for the interior. Of the all important final finish, she says “I have heard of owners paying £8-10k having their cars painted”.
Our pick of the replicas
As worldwide there are now so many road-going GT40 kit cars and replicas to choose from, we’ll stick to a few that are readily available here in the UK.
Not made here, but supplied through a reseller near Cambridge, Cape Advanced Vehicles (CAV) are based in South Africa and they don’t make a kit but either a rolling replica for owners to install their own locally-preferred engine and transmission, or a complete turnkey car. The finished vehicle is visually authentic but their stainless-steel chassis setup has been developed to allow greater flexibility and to give a more modern driving experience. They also fit a full soft-leather retro interior, making the CAV what they say is the most comfortable and user-friendly GT40 replica. Expect to pay upwards of £100k for a new, bespoke vehicle or £70-90k for a pre-owned car.
Supplying from their base in rural Hampshire, the Southern GT is considered to be one of the best and most authentic of the replica kits in the UK. Owners like the way the SGT drives and handles; the chassis having been further developed from the GTD to also give more leg room and less pedal off-set. Taller drivers may want to specify a “Gurney bubble” to give more head room. Self-builders can expect to pay around £55k to get to a rolling chassis stage (without engine or gearbox) or you can find pre-owned, pre-built examples for £80-95k.
Well-respected Tornado Sports Cars, based in Kidderminster, are the longest established replica kit manufacturer in the UK with 36 years in business and 30 years supplying GT40 kits. Buyers have a choice of space-frame or monocoque chassis, and self-assembly costs start around £57k depending on spec. If you want them to build one for you, it would be £96k with a three month lead time. The Tornado’s longevity and popularity also means that there are plenty of pre-built cars in the classified ads for £50-100k.
Down at the budget end of the market, Kent-based GT Forte gives very keen self-builders the option of starting with a flat-pack of pre-cut steel tubes to weld together into a space-frame chassis. Unless you’re a competent welder, it is probably wise to go for the Deluxe Starter Kit which gives you a ready assembled and powder coated frame along with running gear and body panels to install yourself. With reported estimates of £20-30k by the time you’ve completed the self-build, this is clearly one of the cheapest ways into having a “GT40” on your driveway but do your homework and read the feedback on the forums to make sure you go in with your eyes open.
A convincing Christian Bale
With the classic motoring world becoming much less sniffy about recreations and replicas, and marques themselves producing continuation models, a high quality look alike GT40 in a historic livery will attract a great deal of attention and respect both on the road and at car shows. Even with a healthy performance car budget of say £75k, you are clearly not going to be Ken Miles or Bruce McLaren, but for the price of a decent Porsche 911, we could all turn out a convincing Christian Bale – just leave out the dodgy Brummie accent!
What do you think of continuations and replicas? Leave your comments below.
[Gallery photos: Le Mans Coupes – Other photos: author]
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One thought on "Le Mans ’66: now you want a GT40?"
We have much to thank Ken Atwell for, like the RS200 moulds that he saved from Fords when he managed that project.