• You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie

You didn’t think they used the priceless historic cars, did you?

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We’ve always wanted, at least once, to own a piece of history. The car shared by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby throughout the 1966 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a Ford GT40 Mk. II, is such an example. The identical-looking ’continuation’ Ford GT40 Mk. II seen in the recently released ’Ford v. Ferrari’ movie is another.

The good news is you can own the latter and brag that you’ll sit where Christian Bale did during filming. He’s no Ken Miles but he surely played the part convincingly well and all you have to do to get this baby blue 7.0-liter monster is be the highest bidder on lot #R554 during Mecum Auctions’ Kissimmee auction in January. Simple, right?

Movie memorabilia collectors will battle for this 1966 Ford GT Mk. II replica

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Buying and selling movie memorabilia is a big business and has been for decades with adoring fans paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the jacket worn by a specific character in a well-known motion picture. The craze sometimes extends to other things that appeared in the frame during a film and you can argue that some of the most expensive pieces of movie memorabilia out there are of the automotive kind.

Remember how everyone went insane when one of the two genuine Ford Mustang GT 390 Fastbacks used in the making of the 1968 movie ’Bullitt’ starring Steve McQueen was found? This should be telling of the way people treat movie cars (oh, the real ’Bullitt’ car will also be at Kissimmee looking for a new customer). They are, to some aficionados, as close to deities as you can get without talking religion and the ’Ford v. Ferrari’ movie has already gained its slot in the gallery of legendary racing movies.

It’s due to its status - and the fact that it is a hit at the box office - that everything fortunate enough to get screen time in this movie will be sought after by somebody if it’ll hit the auction block.

As it happens, one of the cars associated with Christian Bale’s character, British racing driver Ken Miles, will soon be up for grabs and we predict the sale will attract quite the crowd helping the final selling price to reach and surpass the stratosphere - not quite real, McQueen-driven, Mustang Fastback money but surely more than the $170,000 sticker price of a non-hero car Superformance GT40 (that can cost as much as $300,000 if it’s tailor-made from the ground up).

Superformance is one of the best well-known companies that specialize in building replica Ford GTs and Shelby Cobras of any kind. The company has been in the business of making ’luxury racing replicas’ for years and its relationship with Ford Motor Company is so tight that it will soon build a road-legal version of the awe-inspiring Shelby GR-1 Concept from the mid-’00s. It was, then, a natural choice for James Mangold to knock at Superformance’s doors when it became clear that he and the crew needed many Ford GTs (the Cobras were also replicas, but most came from Shelby Legendary Cars in South Africa). Most were used during the racing scenes in the movie but some were also there just to act as motionless prop inside Shelby American’s shop. A few were also converted to act as camera cars.

You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Exterior
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As you could imagine, using the genuine, historically significant cars in the movie was out of the question from the beginning because, well, those cars are irreplaceable and incredibly expensive.

RM/Sotheby’s handled the public sale of the Ford GT40 Mk. II that finished third at Le Mans in 1966 - the race on which the movie focuses. The car sold for almost $10 million and we guess that’s less than what some members of the richest 1% are willing to pay for the genuine No. 1 car or the race-winning No. 2 car. Think Ferrari 250 GTO money. In this context, nobody can be upset about the fact that the film-makers, despite the $100+ million budget, went for replicas. After all, the cars Superformance manufacturers at its shop in Irvine, California, are the only ones to have been bestowed with the honor of receiving a license from Shelby American certifying their likeness to the real thing.

This example is about as close to the original as possible, without being the original.

About 80% of the parts used on the construction of any Superformance GT40 were blueprinted after the original ones and the other 20% is made up by bits that make the replicas faster and safer than their original peers.
You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Drivetrain
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For instance, this replica lacks the two bleeder tanks positioned on either side of the cabin that made the original a death trap in case of a side-on impact. What is more, the engine isn’t the same. An Mk. II is distinctive because it carries Ford’s NASCAR-derived 427 (7.0-liter) big-block V-8. But what this Mk. II replica features directly behind the driver’s head is an even bigger unit: stroked to almost 8.4-liters, the Roush-built 427IR V-8 churns out 604 horsepower and 572 pound-feet of torque.

The real one had to make do with just 485 ponies and 475 torques and that was back in '66 when it was new.

Besides the added grunt, that should translate to a top speed in excess of 205 mph (this being the original’s official top speed), the Superformance GT40 Mk. II comes with a plethora of modern go-fast bits such as a K&N Inglese-style injection system and a rear-exit “Bundle of Snakes” exhaust. The power is still sent to the rear wheels only but the job is not carried out by Kar Kraft’s Ford T-44 four-speed but by an RBT/ZF-style five-speed manual transaxle - similar to the T-44 but better and more reliable.

You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Drivetrain
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The suspension is independent all around with unequal-length A-arms, Bilstein shocks with H&R springs and an anti-roll bar in the front and trailing arms, unequal length lateral arms, and Bilstein shocks over H&R springs and an anti-roll bar. Steering is by rack-and-pinion while the vented disc brakes that hide behind period-correct Hailbrands rims with knock-off hubs sport Wilwood calipers.

The body is made out of electro-galvanized steel with a pressed-steel roof complete with a Gurney bubble on the driver’s door that the real car, chassis #P/1015, didn’t have. Inside, the Motolita steering wheel facing gorgeous Smiths analog dials is placed on the right-hand side, as it should be, with the shifter nestled within the footwell to the right, so that the driver wouldn’t have to shift with his left hand. The Alcantara-upholstered seats mimic the perforated pattern of the originals as you’d expect since this car was used for close-up shots in the movie so just about every detail had to be spot on - although it’s not, see that bubble on the roof/door.

You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Interior
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After covering quite a few miles during filming (the Superformance GT40 Mk. II used to portray the winning No. 2 car reportedly covered at least 500 miles being raced for the 1966 Le Mans scenes around Road Atlanta, as well as other places). You’re not seeing any of that patina because the car was cleaned up and tinkered with by Superformance prior to its appearances on the red carpet and during segments for ESPN and on CBS Sunday Morning. Oh, and it’s also been signed by Ken Miles’ crew chief Charlie Agapiou and Ken’s son Peter for good measure.

The story of the Miles/Hulme GT40 Mk. II

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Ford had little to do with long-distance endurance racing prior to the birth of the GT40 program but, once the wheels were turning, it was clear Ford wasn't going to quit until it'd achieved what it set out to achieve: beat Ferrari at Le Mans.

We talked about the early days of the GT40 program before and how Ford decided to ditch the tried and tested 4.7-liter V-8 that’d been effective in the lithe Cobra and go for a bigger engine, the mighty 427 (7.0-liter) V-8.

The car that would carry it would not be the product of Ford Advanced Vehicles in the U.K. but, instead, of Kar Kraft in the U.S. Kar Kraft was a wholly-owned subsidiary of FoMoCo acting as a skunkworks of sorts, a small group of highly experienced guys tasked with developing the big-engined Ford GT40. Roy Lunn, Chief Designer of the GT40, was also given the reigns of Kar Kraft and the fruit of its labor was the 1965 GT40 Mk. II, a car that debuted at that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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The suits in Michigan decided to race the Mk. II immediately after Ken Miles managed a 201 mph lap around the Romeo oval.

The haphazard affair saw Shelby American’s mechanics frantically working on the No. 2 car that was completed during the race week that June. Both Mk. IIs had previously missed April’s official Test Day and, given the inherent rush, both started the race with faulty transmissions that unsurprisingly failed (one was assembled with a gear meant for scrapping!).

The aerodynamics of the original Mk. II were also off the mark with that long nose and its odd dive planes not helping with nose lift at speed - especially since the Mk. II was quicker than the already unstable Mk. I. In short, the car was still not a winner although it did start from pole and led for a while. Encouragingly, however, Ferrari’s own 365 P2s, the latest evolution of the rear mid-engined breed from Maranello, also faltered and it was a privately entered 250 LM that won overall. So, if Ford could come up with a reliable package for once, Ferrari could be taken out in ’66.

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To maximize its chances, John Cowley, the Chief Race Manager at Ford, decided to allow two more outfits to join Shelby American in running Works-backed GT40s: Ford’s main NASCAR team, Holman-Moody, and Alan Mann’s team based in Britain. Mann gained Ford’s trust by tackling the European rounds of the World Championship in ’65 on Ford’s behalf in successful manner, Bob Bondurant becoming the GT champion aboard the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe. It was Mann too who’d prepared the team of Mustangs that had raced in the 1964 Tour de France, further solidifying its credentials.

The info gathered during testing by the three outfits would circulate from one operation to the other to allow all of them to stay in the loop and implement any updates, such as the updated air jacks or the quick-release suspension/brakes sub-assembly. The latter proved vital in the success of the Mk. II as it was a very heavy car with a propensity of eating through brake discs as if there was no tomorrow.

Tipping the scales at about 2,800 pounds due to the strengthened chassis, the Mk. II did feature some lightened components such as that 7.0-liter engine that weighed just 550 pounds, 52 pounds less than its NASCAR sibling.
You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Drivetrain
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It was via aluminum heads and hubs that such a low weight was achieved.

Ford also considered fitting the SOHC 427 engine but it was too tall while the Indy-bound 260 (4.2-liter) V-8 DOHC unit was unreliable. So, with the pushrod 427 in place, Ford made sure all the drivers knew what they needed to do to coax the engine into making the distance. None could rev it past 6,200 rpm although it red-lined at 7,400 rpm in Ford’s Galaxie stock car. The engine also ran with a 10.5:1 compression ratio instead of 12.5:1 like in NASCAR because you only had 101 octane fuel at Le Mans.

A dry-sump lubrication system was concocted specifically for the endurance version of the 427 V-8 with two scavenge pumps driven by an internal chain from the crankshaft with a NASCAR-bred oil cooler. Fuel feed is by a single four-barrel Holley carburetor. In its final form, the engine could go on and on without a hitch, running up to 48 hours non stop on the bank, revving as if it were on track thanks to Ford’s high-tech computerized dyno - something Ferrari couldn’t even begin to picture as it dispatched his drivers to nearby Imola or Monza for test runs prior to Le Mans. Ford, too, did plenty of real-world running at Sebring, Daytona, and Riverside, but the engines were also tested outside of the cars to iron out any issues.

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The gearbox on all the cars was Kar Kraft’s own T44 four-speed manual with a final drive ratio of 2.77:1 for a top speed of little over 201 mph - not bad considering the engine only put out 485 horsepower, 50 down on the NASCAR version. A semi-automatic transaxle with a torque converter akin to what Chevy was putting in its moving laboratory, Jim Hall’s Chaparral team, was tested before Le Mans but Lunn vetoed its use in ’The Big One’, probably haunted by nightmares full of faulty Colotti transmissions.

The suspension was improved too for ’66 and Ford was once more able to use the aid of computers to speed things up. Double adjustable Koni shocks are now in place all around but the short-and-long-arm all-independent setup was retained from ’65. The brakes, an issue even on the lighter Mk. I, could not be increased in diameter and the rotors still measured 11.6 inches in 1966.

Thus, the drivers were simply told to not lean on them too hard as excessive wear would cause cracks of the discs.
You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Exterior
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What Ford did, though, was to reduce the time a car would have to stay in the pits when used discs/pads were to be exchanged for new ones. Shelby’ Phil Remington came up with the quick-release system that allowed for easy pad replacement while Holman-Moody’s John Holman devised a setup whereby the disc hats are outboard of the hub flange allowing for fast disc changes.

The body of the Mk. II was changed drastically and ended up resembling a ’66 Mk. I quite a bit when seen from the front, although the fenders were wider a bit and taller. The rear deck was taller too and featured a pair of snorkels for brake cooling. The collection of scoops opening up on either side of the body behind the doors feed air to the oil cooler, the gearbox, and the carburetor, as well as brakes.

Ford arrived at Le Mans in June in a clear attempt to prove that the power truly lays in numbers.

There were eight Mk. IIs, three prepped by Shelby, three by Holman-Moody, and two by Alan Mann Racing.
You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Exterior
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On top of these cars racing in the Prototype 2.0-liter+ class, a sleuth of privateer GT40 Mk. Is filled up the Sports 2.0-liter+ class. At the beginning of the year, Ford’s Don Frey decided it was Holman-Moody that Ford would prioritize but, in fairness, The Deuce could care less which of the GT40s won as long as one did win. After all, he’d given Frey a blank check early on in the year and, to this day, Ford is yet to publicly state just how much it spent between 1964 and 1967 on the Ford GT program.

The Mk. IIs dominated qualifying and filled the first two rows.

Ferrari’s fastest man, Mexican prodigy Pedro Rodriguez, was only fifth aboard a N.A.R.T.-entered 330 P3 that was 2.4 seconds slower than the No. 3 Gurney/Grant pole-sitting Ford. The No. 1 Miles/Hulme Ford was second, Ken reeling in a 3:31.7 in qualifying, 1.1 seconds off Gurney’s fastest lap. The No. 2 Ford of McLaren and Amon was fourth, sandwiching the No. 8 Whitmore/Gardner Alan Mann Ford GT40 that beat all of the Holman-Moody cars in qualifying.

You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Exterior
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In the race, Ford’s reliability run turned into a fight for survival with five out of the eight Mk. IIs retiring with mechanical gremlins. Luckily, all of the three 330 P3s also retired as did the four private 365 P2s. In the end, the surviving Mk. IIs ran first, second, and third overall with the No. 1 holding a commanding lead over the No. 2 that’d bounced back after losing the better part of two laps early on due to starting on Firestone rubber instead of Goodyear (due to contractual obligations, Amon and McLaren racing on Firestone in F1). The No. 1 car, too, had its issues. First, the driver’s door wouldn’t stay shut and, later on, brake issues required an additional brake change aside from the one that Miles had planned for.

In the end, however, Leo Beebe, Head of PR & Promotion and Racing Director, ordered Miles to slow down and allow McLaren to catch up. After that late stop for a brake change, Miles was on the same lap with McLaren and the New Zealander managed to get in the Briton’s wheel tracks with only minutes to spare as the No. 5 Bucknum/Hutcherson Holman-Moody-entered Mk. II also joined the duo, despite being 12 laps in arrears.

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When the checkered flag flew, it was McLaren who crossed the line first with Miles less than half a car length behind and Bucknum a car length behind Miles. Ford knew by then that the planned ’dead heat’, the historical result they hoped to walk out with by bringing McLaren next to Miles, was something that the ACO hadn’t agreed upon but the drivers weren’t informed.

As such, the winning driver pairing was the one that'd covered the biggest distance and it was Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren who'd done it, winning by a scant 26 feet over Ken Miles and soon-to-be F1 World Champion Dennis Hulme.

At first, Miles was fuming, sure of the fact that he’d been robbed of a clear victory by Ford’s executives. Later on, however, he took it all in his stride and moved on, probably happy to have won the 24 Hours of Daytona on merit and the 12 Hours of Sebring thanks to a lucky turn of events. Maybe Miles had spent up his allowance of luck at Sebring and had none left by the time he started Le Mans. What’s clear is what the history books tell us: Miles - second-place finisher in the1966 24 Hours of Le Mans aboard the No. 1 car.

You Can Own One of the Superformance Ford GT40 Replicas from the Ford v Ferrari Movie Exterior
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After the release of the movie, this No. 1 car has arguably become more famous than the winning No. 1 car and it’s due to the newly found fame that we want to set the record straight about one important aspect of this car: its livery as seen at Le Mans (it was white with red accents at Daytona and it also raced in blue and in white in ’67).

Many say the car was painted in ’Gulf Blue’. These people refer to the unique Powder Blue tint you see on the ’68-’69 Ford GT40 Mk.Is campaigned by John Wyer’s team. But they are wrong. The No. 1 GT40 was painted in Arcadian Blue with red flame-like accents on the front fenders and a pair of white stripes complete with blue contours along the length of the car over the nose, the roof, and the rear deck. It is, if anything, a nod to the red and blue you’ll find in the center of any GT40 steering wheel but there’s no confirmation as to why the No. 1 raced in this color combo.

Regardless of the colors, the car is a beast to drive, a proper tribute to a machine hailed as "the easiest car in the world to drive," by Ken Miles.
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"When properly set up," he added, pointing out that "small changes in chassis tune produce large changes in handling." Oh, and the man himself also busts the ’myth’ of the 7,000 rpm shifts you see in the film. "We babied them. The thing’s safe for 7,400 rpm, but we never exceeded 6,200 in the race."

As a counter opinion, Chris Amon, said the Mk. II handles "like a truck" when compared to Ferrari’s supple 330 P3/4 he drove to victory lane with Ludovico Scarfiotti in the 1967 edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona. We bet this Superformance replica is less of a truck, then, and we hope the new owner will get to find out just how raucous the whole thing is on the track - it deserves to be out there and not to be ’babied’ any longer!

Source: Mecum

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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