Future Classic: 2005-2006 Ford GT40

Ford GT

The original Ford GT40 of the 1960’s was conceived, designed and built for the sole purpose of showing the Europeans that Americans could win the endurance race of races…the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans. Up to this point, the Europeans (and especially, the big, red Italian stallions) had dominated the biggest races of the day.

Henry Ford II (then Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company) assembled a team of designers, engineers and builders to produce a world-class, high-performance GT (for Grand-Touring or “Tourismo”). This GT sports car would prove that we “Americans” and specifically the Ford Motor Company, could build a race car to compete with the best cars and teams the world had to offer. And boy oh boy, did he ever succeed by winning not only first place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, but also the other two remaining GT40’s took second and third places. This started a legacy of wins at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans which lasted all the way through 1969.

Fast forward to the year 2003, the year of Ford Motor Company’s 100th Anniversary. It brought the introduction of a new, updated version of the awesome, world-class and legendary Ford GT40 in a production supercar, simply named the Ford GT. Some thought (at least internally at Ford Motor Company) it would be called the Ford GT43 because the height of the new car was 43 inches.  Even though the cars looked very similar to the naked eye, they were extremely different under the beautifully curvaceous body skin.

The new Ford GT actually began its rebirth (as many great cars do) as a concept car for the Ford Motor Company’s centennial year.  It was originally shown at the 2002 North American International Auto Show to overwhelmingly, rave reviews. Soon after its debut, it was quickly decided and announced by the Ford Motor Company, that the new version would become a production vehicle to help promote the Ford Motor Company’s 100th Anniversary. Three pre-production prototype units were unveiled and shown on a promotional circuit during the 2003 centennial year of the Ford Motor Company.

Ford’s Vice President of Global Design and Chief Creative Officer, “J” Mays, headed up a team of designers, builders and engineers. This team included Camilo Pardo (head of Ford Motor Company’s “Living Legends” studio and responsible for the hands-on design of the new Ford GT), John Coletti (Ford’s leading engineer on the GT program) and of course, the famed Carroll Shelby (tapped to lend his legendary expertise to the design and performance testing of the new asphalt-punishing beast).

The result was an amazing combination of legendary, historical performance with the efficiency of modern technology, including futuristic design techniques. These combined some of the lightest, space-age materials available and the latest in high-performance components on the planet. All of this produced a modern day, supercar with real-life “I can own and drive this thing to the beach, the supermarket or the local raceway” sex appeal.

The new Ford GT was built for only two years, 2005 and 2006, as a special interest vehicle and Ford Motor Company only planned to produce a total of 4,500 copies of this modern legend. Actually, only 4,038 units were produced and about 300 of those were destined for distribution in Europe and Canada.

The Ford GT, like its predecessor, is a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, two door, two seat, superfast sports car. The Ford GT carries a modular 5.4 Litre supercharged V8, which is bolted to a specially designed, six-speed manual transmission. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and run through the traps in a quarter-mile jaunt in about 11.2 seconds at around 131.2 mph.  Its top speed was in the range of 212 mph.

The modern version of the Ford GT is an amazing vehicle in its own right and always turns heads. I am sure it changes opinions of critics who may be so lucky to belt themselves in and take her for a little ride, just as its grandfather did at the 24 Hours of Le Mans some 40+ years ago.

Find a Ford GT40 that you love!

Ranchero and El Camino ancestor, the Aussie ute, celebrates its 80th birthday

Restored 1934 ute and 2014 Ford Ranchero | Photos courtesy Ford
Lew Brandt’s restored 1934 coupe-utility and 2014 Ford Ranchero | Photos courtesy Ford

In 1932, a letter was delivered Hubert French, managing director of Ford’s Australian assembly plant at Geelong, a city on Port Phillip Bay west of Melbourne. The letter was from a local farmer’s wife, who said she wasn’t comfortable riding in her husband’s truck. She wanted to know why someone couldn’t build a vehicle that would carry people to church on Sunday and pigs to market the rest of the week.

French passed the letter along to his sales manager, who showed it to the plant manager, who assigned the plant’s one-man design department, 23-year-old Lewis Thornet Brandt, to draw up with a response.

Lew Brandt (standing) plots out the first ute
Lew Brandt (standing) plots out the first ute

What Brandt drew up were sketches of a vehicle that was a standard coupe in front but with an integrated pickup truck-style bed in the back. By blending the sides of the pickup bed with the coupe bodywork, the result not only was aesthetically pleasing, but provided more room for cargo — or pigs — that might have been expected.

Working on a blackboard more than 30 feet long, Brandt drew a full-scale version of his coupe-utility vehicle. Soon, two prototypes were produced for testing. The car/truck went into production in January 1934, making 2014 the 80th anniversary of what Australians call the “ute.”

Late in his life, Brandt recalled that plant superintendent Slim Westman “quite rightly reckoned that if we cut down a car and put a tray on the back, the whole thing would tear in half once there was weight in the back.”

Them pigs are going to have a luxury ride!”

— Lew Brandt

 

So Brandt added structure, reinforced the area between the B-pillars and truck bed, and came up with a vehicle that featured both an all-weather cabin and a 5-foot, 5-inch bed with a 1,200-pound payload capacity.

“Boss,” Brandt told Westman, “them pigs are going to have a luxury ride!”

Brandt’s coupe-utility was equipped with a V8 engine, three-speed manual transmission and transverse leaf-spring suspension with shock absorbers in front and heavy-duty semi-elliptic rear springs and shocks in the rear.

The passenger compartment was the same as in the four-door Model 40 Ford five-window coupe, at least from the front seats forward. The truck bed was wood-framed with steel outer panels.

During World War II, General Motors’ Australian division, Holden, began building its own utes, though they were badged as Chevrolets.

Original 1934 Ford announcement included this photograph
Original 1934 Ford announcement included this photograph

Chevrolet had introduced a not-as-practical ute-style vehicle to the United States in 1936 in the form of its Model FC Coupe-Delivery, a standard Chevrolet two-door coupe that instead of a trunk lid had a pickup bed that fit into the trunk opening and extended out to the rear bumper.

Ford launched its American version in 1937 as the Model 78 Model 770 Cargo-Express, though it was a one-year wonder. In 1938, Plymouth produced its Model P5 Business Coupe-Pickup and in 1939, it offered the PT81 business coupe with a pickup-style cargo box that extended out beneath and beyond the trunk lid.

In the 1930s, American Austin and American Bantam did pickup versions of small cars, as did Crosley in the 1940s. Later, Studebaker, Dodge, Plymouth and more recently Subaru all would offer pickups-style beds in the back of passenger car platforms.

In 1957, Ford brought the “ute” concept to the United States, turning its Ranch Wagon station wagon into the Ranchero sedan-pickup. The Ranchero would remain in production until 1979, though it was never as popular as its rival from Chevrolet.

For the 1955 model year, Chevrolet introduced the Cameo Carrier, a pickup truck based on the company’s Handyman station wagon. The Cameo Carrier was a limited-production vehicle and remained in production only through 1958.

However, the Cameo changed the styling of pickup trucks. Instead of blisters around the rear wheel wells, the Cameo was “slab-sided,” using fiberglass panels – and later steel sheetmetal – to smooth the truck’s exterior over the wheel wells.

Then, in 1959, Chevrolet launched a new car-based pickup, the El Camino, which Chevrolet claimed was “More than a car… More than a truck.” Actually, it was less than either, seating only three people and carrying only 1,150 pounds of cargo. But that really didn’t matter because it was oh-so-cool.

Except for a four-year hiatus in the early 1960s, El Camino remained in production until early in 1988 (GMC dealers sold a version known as either the Sprint or Caballero).

Brandt and the ute he restored | Brandt family archives
Brandt and the ute he restored | Brandt family archives

Meanwhile, Australia had become something of a “Uteopia,” which is what the Aussies call the annual Play on the Plains Festival & World Record Ute Muster, held annually at Deni, which is short for Deniliquin, a rural and inland town where utes are celebrated with more than 6,000 vehicles and nearly 20,000 people coming to the party.

Only 22 years old when he started working at Ford, Brandt would have a long and productive career with a resume that included not only the first ute but the long-range fuel tanks for Spitfire and Thunderbolt fighter planes and a variety of vehicles, including the heralded 1967 Australian Ford Fairlane.

Brandt personally restored a 1934 coupe-utility, which his family loaned to Ford for the anniversary photo shoot. In 1987, he died when he was involved in a crash while driving another restored version of one of the original utes.

 

Cross-country drives celebrate Mustang’s 50th

Thousands of Mustangs will hit the open road in April. (Photo: Mustangs Across America)
Thousands of Mustangs will hit the open road in April. (Photo: Mustangs Across America)

 What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang than getting together with a bunch of like-minded enthusiasts and driving the original pony cars across the United States, with a big birthday party at the end of the trip?

That’s the plan when the Mustangs Across America 50th Anniversary Drive leaves Los Angeles on April 10 and heads for Charlotte, N.C., on a seven-day tour. And this is just one of three cross-country drives that are being called the largest-ever mobilization of Mustangs.

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My Classic Car: Dale Grim’s 1965 Ford Mustang

British badges on a Ford Mustang? | Photos by Larry Edsall
British badges on a Ford Mustang? | Photos by Larry Edsall

I was born in Dearborn, Mich., on July 26, 1965. I was among the last of the Mustangs built in the 1965 model year. My original owner purchased me from the only Ford dealer in Rantoul, Ill., in August of that year.

In 1967 I moved to Lakenheath, England. I traveled the English countryside and to London many times. I even saw the Queen once! I have cruised the German Autobahn with the finest German autos. My handling package helped me climb the Swiss Alps safely and my bright red color and sleek fastback design brought me much attention on the streets of Paris.

In 1976 a friend of my current owner purchased me from my original owner and brought me back to the United States. In 1977 I was repainted my original color. I moved to Arizona and was adopted by my current owner in 1978. At that time I had just over 100,000 miles with only a valve job on my engine. I soon started on my first motor/transmission transplant.britstang2

I retired in1982 with 200,000 miles of daily transportation. Over the next 10 years end though I came out only for pleasure drives, time was taking its toll on me. So after a year of indecision and potential replacement search, my loyal owner decided to keep me and give me a new lease on life.

Jim Smart, editor of Mustangs and Fords, defined the process of maintaining a stock appearance with better-than-original performance on the road as a “restification,” now known as “restromod.”

My restored process went from October 1993 to May 1994. I am now on my “second 30 years” and plan to outlive my owner!

“Loyal” owner Dale Grim adds some details to the car’s story: The Mustang went to England with a fellow member of the U.S. Air Force. The original owner sold it to another airman, who eventually brought it back to the U.S. when stations at Williams Air Force Base near Phoenix, where Grim, also in the Air Force, saw the car and eventually bought the car. Grim has driven 46,000 miles since the 1994 restoration, shows it frequently, and already has made plans to be at the Mustang 50th anniversary celebration this year in Las Vegas.

 

Shelby Daytona Coupe is first to gain historic status

The first 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona coupe is driven during a special event at the Simeone museum in Philadelphia. (Photo: Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum)
The first 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona coupe is driven during a special event at the Simeone museum in Philadelphia. (Photo: Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum)

 

Score another win for the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, which has become the first historically significant automobile recorded under the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Heritage Documentation. Like a historic building, the Cobra Daytona and its records are to be preserved in perpetuity.

The first of six Cobra Daytonas built 50 years ago, CSX2287 will have its complete documentation permanently archived in the Library of Congress as part of the Historic Vehicle Association’s National Historic Vehicle Register and Historic American Engineering Record. The HVA and Department of the Interior collaborated in the effort to document the Cobra Daytona, the first in a number of historical vehicles that will be so recognized.

Designed by Peter Brock as an aerodynamic solution to raising the top speed of Carroll Shelby’s Cobra racecars in GT competition, the Cobra Daytona successfully beat Ferrari to win the International Manufacturer’s GT Championship in 1965, making Ford the first American manufacturer to win an international race series.

Having my Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe design recognized as the very first car to be included in the permanent archives of the Library of Congress is a great honor and the thrill of a lifetime.”

– Peter Brock

“Having my Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe design recognized as the very first car to be included in the permanent archives of the Library of Congress is a great honor and the thrill of a lifetime,” Brock said in an HVA press release.

According to the HVA, the Daytona was picked for historic recognition because of “its association with important persons and events; its construction and aerodynamic design; and informational value as one of the few racecars from the period that has not been completely restored.”

The Daytona, part of the permanent collection of the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, is currently being displayed by the HVA at the Washington Auto Show through February 2.

“It has been nearly 120 years since the first automobiles were produced in the U.S.,” said Mark Gessler, president of the Historic Vehicle Association, in the release. “During that time, we have implemented national programs to recognize our historic buildings, airplanes, spacecraft and vessels but not our historic automobiles.

“Through our work, we hope to celebrate the contribution of the industry’s pioneers, the vehicles they produced and the preservation efforts necessary to ensure future generations appreciate the unique roll of the automobile in shaping America.”

HVA and the Department of the Interior are working to document more historic vehicles as well as refining guidelines and procedures for public input. For more information, see www.historicvehicle.org.

Simeone Museum hosts Ford GT40 celebration

This 1966 Ford GT40 was on display at the Simeone Museum’s recent People’s Choice Demo Day. (Photo: Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum)
1966 Ford GT40 on display at the museum’s recent People’s Choice Demo Day. Photo courtesy Simeone Museum

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum presents a celebration of the Ford GT40, the groundbreaking race car that famously beat Ferrari at Le Mans, in a special Racing Legends event at noon on January 11, 2014,  at the Philadelphia-based museum.

Well-known GT40 expert Greg Kolasa will lead a discussion on the development and history of the GT40. Kolasa, who wrote The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide 1965-1970, is Shelby American Automobile Club historian and registrar.

The GT40, so named because of its roof height in inches, holds a special place in the history of American auto racing. After Enzo Ferrari had imperiously snubbed Ford’s efforts to acquire his automobile business, Ford set out to beat Ferrari at its most-hallowed racing venue, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Led by Carroll Shelby, who had already trounced Ferrari with the Cobra Daytona coupe for a GT class win in 1965, the GT40 team completely dominated the 1966 running of Le Mans with an outright win that saw them cross the finish line in first, second and third places. The GT40s were back the following year, and again won Le Mans for 1967.

GT40s were raced by privateers for years after, and today the GT40 remains one of the most hotly sought-after collector cars for vintage racing.

Both of the Simeone Museum’s GT40s, a Mk. II and a Mk. IV, will be displayed during the January 11 program and, weather permitting, they will be taken out for demonstration runs after the presentation.

For more information about the museum and the GT40 event, see www.simeonemuseum.org. 

First new Mustang will be sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction

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The first retail sale of the new 2015 Ford Mustang GT will occur during Barrett-Jackson’s 2014 Scottsdale auction. All proceeds from the sale will go to JDRF, the former Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for its work on type 1 diabetes research.

“We’re kicking off the next 50 years of Mustang in style with a 2015 model featuring a sleek all-new design, world-class performance and innovative technologies,” Steve Ling, North America car marketing manager for Ford, was quoted in a press release announcing the first retail sale of the new pony car.

“We’re thrilled to be able to take advantage of Mustang’s popularity to help achieve the dream of ending juvenile diabetes,” he added.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Ford unveiled its new Mustang, which won’t be available at Ford dealerships  until the third quarter of 2014.

The person posting the highest bid at Barrett-Jackson will have to wait to take delivery, but will get the first retail sales unit and will be able to specify transmission, color and other options. The car also will be autographed by members of the Mustang design and engineering development teams.

The 2015 Ford Mustang GT will be powered by a V8 engine producing more than 420 horsepower.

JDRF has been a frequent beneficiary of special Ford sales through Barrett-Jackson.

“Ford’s charitable vehicle sales at Barrett-Jackson have raised more than $3 million for JDRF through the years,” said Jeffrey Brewer, president and CEO of JDRF, “and these funds are helping us make tremendous progress towards therapies and treatments that will make life better for people with type 1 diabetes today as we work to find a cure for this terrible disease.”

Ford has supported the JDRF effort since 1983.

April 17, 2014 will mark the Mustang’s 50th anniversary.  Each 2015 model Mustang will celebrate that milestone with a badge showing the galloping pony logo and the words, “Mustang – Since 1964.”3

In addition to the special Mustang auction, Ford will stage a hot-lap riding experience at WestWorld during the auction featuring the Shelby GT500, Focus ST and Fiesta ST. The Mustang created for the Need for Speed movie (see photo) also will be on display. That car features a custom wide body, unique 22-inch wheels and larger air intakes for its supercharged V8 engine. The movie debuts March 14, 2014.

MUSTANG VS. CAMARO: At Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in 2009, the first retail sale of the then-new Chevrolet Camaro brought $350,000. Use the “Share your thoughts!” box below to guess what the new Mustang will bring at Barrett-Jackson in 2014.

Mustang corrals in Charlotte, Vegas for pony car’s 50th anniversary

The Mustang Club of America and Ford Motor Co. have announced a joint celebration marking 50 years of the original pony car, the Ford Mustang, from April 16 through April 20 in two places at once.

Open to everyone, including the multitude of Mustang enthusiasts, the twin parties take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nev. The Mustang fun will include live music, cruises, ride-and-drive, exhibitions, celebrities and of course, pony rides.

With a brand-new 2015 Mustang all saddled up and ready to run, Ford is focusing on its wildly successful progeny. More than nine million of them have been sold in the past half century, and nearly everybody has a Mustang story to tell.

For more information, see  www.mustang50thbirthdaycelebration.com.

My Classic Car: Gary Chittenden’s 1961 Ford Sunliner

Photo courtesy of Gary Chittenden
Photo courtesy of Gary Chittenden

Great story from Ed Fisher. I just sold my ’55 Crown Victoria and felt the need to own another car. I found a 61 Sunliner and bought it over the phone. I have always thought that they are very under-appreciated cars. Very elegant. Mine doesn’t have the 401, but I just want to cruise, so the 352 is good enough. I will probably sell this one as well and buy another “One I’ve Always Wanted.”

Gary Chittenden
Coldwater, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to Gary for sharing his story.  Why not share yours?

My Classic Car: Ed Fisher’s 1961 Ford Starliner

Photo courtesy of Ed Fisher
Photo courtesy of Ed Fisher

Way back in 1961 or 1962 I had a “401” 1961 Starliner, 3-speed with overdrive. I won many Super Stock trophies with it. Had a great time. One fantastic memory was driving it from Akron to Daytona, checking into the motel, putting slicks on it, and drag racing on the back stretch of Daytona Speedway on Saturday night the night before the 500.

I was first loser (to a towed Super Stock). What a memory. That was also the year Curtis Turner was driving a ’61 Starliner. Came from the back of the pack to I believe 5th place and then blew the engine! That was accomplished in just a few laps.

What a car!!!

I had the chance to buy a ’61 Starliner 3 years ago. It has the “401” also. It is aqua and white,very original. So I went to North Carolina and bought it.
I live in Phoenix and take it to various shows here.

Ed Fisher
Akron, Ohio

Many thanks to Ed for sharing his story.  Why not share yours?