We’re nothing if not eager students of the late 1960s era of Ford domination at The 24 Hours of LeMans. It’s common knowledge that Ford Motor remains to this day the only American automaker to have won overall the most grueling sporting event of any kind on earth—all stick-and-ball sports included we might add.
And not only that, the House that Henry built won the thing four years in a row from 1966-1969. And the car we will discuss a little later pays tribute to that first 1966 win.
But first, did you know some of the more interesting facts behind those four wins? A little history lesson if you will? Well, give a read to these tidbits we have committed to memory years ago.
First up, 1966 wasn’t the first year Ford tried to take on LeMans. It was, in fact, 1964 the GT40 Mark IIs were first on course at the eight-plus-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. And in those first two years, the results were downright embarrassing. Hank the Deuce (Henry Ford II) and his band of engineers, mechanics and drivers got their you-know-whats handed to them so badly by Ferrari, that by 1966, Henry II handed out little cards to everyone on the Holman-Moody and Shelby teams that simply said, “You’d better win.”
And win they did as many know by now. You can read extensively about the 1-2-3 finish in the excellent book “Go Like Hell…Ford, Ferrari and their battle for speed and glory at LeMans,” written by author A.J. Baime. We read the tome a few months ago and it’s a thoroughly outstanding account of that first year.
For 1967, the effort was made and accomplished again with an all new American-made GT40 Mark IV piloted by legendary American drivers Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt.
Forwarding to the ’68 and ’69 campaigns we’ll tell you what we consider to be our favorite piece of Ford’s history at LeMans. It was in those two years that privateer teams with a 289 small-block-powered GT40 Mark I (the cars that won the 1966 and 1967 races were FE 427-powered) won the race overall. Note we mean singular in reference to the GT40 Mark I. That’s right, the exact same car—Chassis number 1075—won the race two years in a row! To win LeMans once is a feat of herculean effort. To win four years in row is beyond amazing. To do it with the same actual car two years in a row? Well, we feel there aren’t words to describe such an accomplishment, so we’ll leave it at that.
In any case, Ford has won the GTE Pro class at LeMans again for 2016 and the car we’re talking about here pays tribute to the effort first achieved just over 50 years ago, right when your humble writer was a babe-in-arms of less than a year old.
This 2017 GT will be available in a limited-edition Heritage theme honoring the GT40 Mark II driven to victory by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon at Le Mans in 1966, which was part of the historic 1-2-3 Ford GT40 sweep we touched on earlier. The car will feature unique interior and exterior color themes, and an exclusive wheel finish.
“Celebrating the anniversary of Ford’s historic victories at Le Mans has always been a part of the return of the Ford GT,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, product development, and chief technical officer. “This new Ford GT ’66 Heritage Edition is a stunning tribute to the car that kicked off Ford’s string of Le Mans victories in 1966.”
The tribute model has a Shadow Black exterior in either gloss or matte finish with silver stripes and an exposed carbon-fiber package. It will also have a Frozen White #2 hood and door graphics, and 20-inch one-piece forged aluminum wheels in a gold satin clearcoat with black lug nuts.
The interior wraps the carbon-fiber seats in Ebony leather, with pillowed inserts and plow-through stitching, and the seats’ head restraints and the steering wheel are embossed with the Ford GT logo. The instrument panel, pillars and headliner also feature an Ebony-leather wrap, with gold appliqués on the instrument panel, the seat’s X-brace and shift paddles. Like the winning ’66 GT40, the steering wheel is leather wrapped, with seat belts featuring a unique blue webbing.
Rounding out the unique touches to the package are a unique serialized identification plate, a #2 interior door graphic, and exposed matte carbon fiber door sills, air register pods and center console.
Garen Nicoghosian, exterior design manager for the car, says the team set out to highlight where it all started with that race-winning GT40. “While the looks are distinctly based on the GT40 Mark II race car,” he says, “we’ve accentuated new styling cues to provide a modern interpretation.” The Ford GT ’66 Heritage Edition can be viewed at fordgt.com using the configuration tool.
Limited quantities will be available for the 2017 model year only, so if you want to own a tribute to what we consider to be the greatest four-year-stretch-of-accomplishment in motorsports history, we’d suggest getting your applications turned in and your checkbooks ready right away.