The Ford GT40 is perhaps the best-known American supercar – awesome on the road and unstoppable on the racetrack. It’s also the inspiration for the present-day Ford GT. Here’s where it all began…
- We reunite Ford Lotus Cortina TV star with its owner after 40 years
- Revealed: the Ford Fiestas that never were
- Made in Dagenham: Ford’s secret classic car collection
Henry Ford II
The genesis of the original GT40 came from a dispute between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari. Ford had wanted to buy the Italian manufacturer in 1963, yet found Ferrari unwilling to step away from the Indianapolis 500, which would have placed the two marques in direct competition. The deal failed, and Henry Ford II directed his company to find a way to enact revenge on-track at Le Mans.
1964 Ford GT prototype
Ford initially courted Lola Cars, Lotus and Cooper for a partner to build its new Le Mans racer. Lola was eventually chosen, in part due to the fact the Lola Mk6 race car already made use of a Ford V8 engine. Lola donated two Mk6 chassis from its factory in Slough, while Ford set about creating a team to develop and build its new race machine.
1964 Ford GT prototype engine
The newly created Ford Advanced Vehicles team set about development of the GT40. Early prototypes made use of a mid-mounted 255 cubic inch (4.2-litre) Ford V8, while later cars would use a 289 cubic inch (4.7-litre) unit. Famously, the GT40 name came from the overall height of the car: just 40 inches.
1964 Ford GT40 Mk1 – Nürburgring 1,000km
Making their debut at the gruelling Nürburgring 1,000km in 1964, the driver pairing of Phil Hill and Bruce McLaren qualified second on the grid. However, a suspension failure meant the GT40 failed to finish the race. The 1964 Le Mans event would also prove disastrous, as all three cars entered failed to finish. And to rub salt in the wound, Ferrari won both races…
1965 Ford GT40 Mk1 – Daytona 2,000km
For 1965, Ford switched management of the GT40 to Carroll Shelby, following his successes with the Ford-powered Shelby Daytona Coupe. Victory came immediately, with a win for Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby at the Daytona 2,000km race, with Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther taking third in a sister GT40. Yet the remainder of 1965 would prove fruitless, with no more wins for Ford.
1966 Ford GT40 Mk1 road car
Road versions of the GT40 soon rolled out of the factory, with the first example delivered to the US in early 1966. Although the Mk1 road cars had softer suspension, quieter exhausts and options such as air-conditioning and leather seats, they still featured a 335hp V8 engine. The car above was owned by the same family for nearly 40 years. Values today can top £4million.
1966 Ford GT40 Mk2
The Mk2 may have looked similar to its predecessor, but there were numerous changes beneath the bodywork. In came a 427 cubic inch (7.0-litre) Ford FE engine, with an exhaust system nicknamed ‘a bundle of snakes’ for its elaborate design. A strengthened gearbox was also used, featuring just four speeds instead of the five found in the Mk1. Finishing 1-2-3-5 in the ’66 Daytona 24 Hours proved the changes were a good move, and set Ford on the path to glory.
1966 Ford GT40 Mk2 ‘X-1’ roadster
Initially created for Bruce McLaren Racing in 1965 with a low-drag windscreen, on return to Ford the one-off roadster was updated to Mk2 specification for Shelby American. Its only race event came at the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring where, after experimenting with automatic gearboxes during practice, a manual transmission was fitted for the race. When the engine of the lead GT40 Mk2 seized, the X-1 Roadster of Miles and Ruby slipped through to victory.
1966 24 Hours of Le Mans
After years of frustration, 1966 would finally deliver the success Henry Ford II had been seeking. While Ferrari floundered as reliability issues struck the 330 P3, Ford took a dominant 1-2-3 finish. The result was not without controversy, though, thanks to Ford’s decision to stage a photo finish. Ken Miles, upset at a lack of recognition for his dedication to the GT40 project, deliberately slowed down to let the car of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon take the win.
1967 Ford GT40 MkIII road car
As the GT40 race car was cleaning up on track, a bespoke road-going version was being readied. Unlike previous street-legal GT40s, the MkIII had specific features to make it suited to the highway. An elongated rear gave access to a luggage compartment, while the bumpers gained small chrome overriders. Unlike the race cars, there was no bigger engine, with power still coming from the 289 cubic inch (4.2-litre) V8. Only seven examples of the MkIII were built, with just three in right-hand drive.
1967 Ford GT40 J-car
Despite the success of the MkII GT40, Ford didn’t rest on its laurels and set about developing the car even further. With power now sufficient, experimental aerodynamic changes to maximise the muscle were made throughout 1966 and 1967, along with a lightened chassis. Tragedy struck during a test session, when famed driver Ken Miles was killed in a high-speed accident at Riverside International Raceway, with blame laid at the lack of downforce from the aero modifications.
1967 Ford GT40 MkIV
The experimental flat-topped roof of the J-car was dropped, but the resulting MkIV still managed to look distinctive. Lengthened and streamlined to achieve a higher top speed, the MkIV also had a lightened chassis. The death of Ken Miles was not in vain, with a high-strength roll cage also being fitted. Although the MkIV only entered two races, it claimed a 100% success rate, with victories in the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
1968 Ford GT40 Mk1 Le Mans
Concerned by the high speeds seen during the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA capped engine sizes at 5.0-litres for cars in the Sports class in 1968. This ruled out the MkII and MkIV versions of the GT40, but meant the earlier, smaller-engined Mk1 was still eligible. Now with reliability on its side, the Mk1 took overall victory in 1968, driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi. It would repeat the same feat in 1969 with Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver driving, taking the total number of outright Le Mans wins for the GT40 to four in a row.
The humble Ford Fiesta holds a special place in many of our hearts. Whether it was the car we learned to drive in, or our first brand new car, or even the first hot hatch we owned, many of us will have some special connection with the hatchback originally codenamed ‘Bobcat’.
Launched in 1976, the Ford Fiesta is 40 years old this year. Over that time, Ford has sold more than 4.3 million Fiestas in the UK alone – with more than one in every 20 cars sold during that time being a Fiesta. Every month for the last seven years it has topped the charts as the UK’s most popular car. And in 2014, it replaced the Escort as the UK’s best-selling car ever.
It’d be wrong for a significant birthday of the UK’s favourite car to pass by unnoticed, then. So Ford arranged a special shindig, in the form of a convoy (of 40 Fiestas, natch) from its Dagenham plant in East London, to this year’s Ford Summer Festival, held at Brighton Racecourse. A Fiesta fiesta, if you will.
Ford invited us along, with the promise that they had something extra special lined up for us to drive on the run. We’ll come to that in a moment, but first a bit about Dagenham, where the run was starting. Although the plant no longer produces cars, more than a million engines are made there every year. It’s the largest producer of Ford diesel engines in the world.
Although the Fiesta has been built at several plants around the world, it’s been a constant at Dagenham. In fact, it was the last car made there, with the final one rolling off the production line in 2002. For many of the cars on Saturday’s run, they were going ‘home’.
So, back to the run. A total of 40 Fiestas gathered at the site, from original Mk1s to brand new sixth-generation models, fresh off the production line. Although some were owned by Ford, many were driven there by enthusiasts, keen to take part in the Fiesta’s birthday celebrations.
We’ll get to the Fiestas taking part in the run – of which there were some very special examples. But first, check out the entourage: from a rare two-door Corsair to a near-mint Ford Scorpio Cosworth.
This was our steed for the run. It’s a 1981 Mk1 Ford Fiesta Popular, part of the manufacturer’s heritage fleet. Finished in fetching beige, this Fiesta would have been the cheapest way into Ford ownership when it was new. You could have parked one on your driveway for just £1,856 – as long as you could manage without such luxuries as carpet and a passenger door mirror.
Engine and performance (or lack of)
Powered by a 950cc engine, the entry-level Fiesta packed 45 hp when it was new, and would return 47.9 mpg at a constant 56 mph. Restored by Ford after it was donated by the widow of former Fiesta GB Club secretary, Andy Steele, today’s it’s in near-mint ‘as new’ condition.
Heading out of Dagenham towards the A13 dual carriageway and eventually the M25, the convoy of Fiestas received an awful lot of respect. In an area where van drivers are usually urging you out of the way at every opportunity, the Fiestas got nothing but smiles and thumbs up. There’s a lot of love for this little car.
Onto the M25
Following Autocar’s Steve Cropley in a Fiesta XR2i, the beige mean machine has no trouble settling into a cruise of around 60mph on the M25.
On the entire route there’s only one temporary breakdown: a Mk5 Fiesta Zetec S was spotted stranded in roadworks early on in the route. I later discovered it was diagnosed as a faulty air-con compressor, so turning the A/C off cured it. Maybe they’d feel some sympathy for me in the air-con-less Mk1.
Ford Fiesta XR2 Fly
Other highlights include this XR2 ‘Fly’, a rare convertible created by Crayford. With a list price of more than £8,000 when new, it sold in very small numbers – making it very desirable today.
This stunning bronze Mk1 was driven all the way from Belgium for the event.
Ford Fiesta Bravo 2
As special editions go, this certainly ticks the ‘special’ box. Based on a Fiesta L, the Bravo 2 added chrome window surrounds, a silver grille and wheel centre caps and, of course, the two-tone paint job. ‘Bound to make you feel good,’ the brochure claimed in 1983. We can’t dispute that.
Ford Fiesta Ghia
The Mk2 everyone wanted: a Ghia! With its crushed velour interior and plastic side mouldings protecting the exterior, the world knew you were doing well if you bought a Fiesta Ghia.
Ford Fiesta Supersport
The 1.3-litre Ford Fiesta Supersport arrived ahead of the XR2, effectively testing the market for a hot Fiesta. Based on the 1300 Sport, just 3,000 were built. It’s very desirable today.
Ford Fiesta ST200
It wasn’t all old Fiestas: Ford was showing off its hot new ST200 on the run. We had the pleasure of driving it for the return journey.
Ford Summer Festival
On arrival at Brighton Racecourse, the convoy was ushered into the show where the cars were on display for the public to enjoy.
There was even a birthday cake cut to celebrate 40 years of the Fiesta.
Summer has finally arrived and now is a good time to treat yourself to a set of weekend wheels. If your budget is limited to around £5,000, you could do much worse than looking at Toyota’s ‘midship runabout 2-seater’. In a Motoring Research Retro Road Test special, we’ve driven a first- and third-generation MR2 from Toyota UK’s heritage fleet to find out which one you should spend your money on.
Mk1: What are its rivals?
Launched in 1984, the original MR2 was intended as a fun-to-drive car that was cheap to run. It was unusual in its mid-engined layout, but its compact dimensions complied with strict Japanese regulations. It arrived around the same time as the Fiat X1/9, Volkswagen Scirocco and Honda CR-X.
Mk3: What are its rivals?
The third-generation MR2, launched in 1999, was a bit different to its predecessors. While it stuck to the mid-engined layout, it was a proper convertible and closer to the Mazda MX-5 and (also mid-engined) MG F.
Mk1: Which engines does it use?
The original MR2 shared a naturally-aspirated, 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with the more mainstream Corolla. It produced 128hp in the UK and could hit 62mph in less than 9.0 seconds – quick for its time, and faster than its peers.
Mk3: Which engines does it use?
By the third-generation model, the MR2 used a 1.8-litre four-cylinder naturally-aspirated engine. Like its predecessors, it used dual overhead camshafts and 16 valves – while the camshaft timing was adjustable using Toyota’s VVT-i system. The car’s low kerb weight meant it could hit 62mph in between 6.8 seconds and 8.7 seconds, depending on transmission (five- and six-speed manuals were available, as was a five-speed sequential ’box).
Mk1: What’s it like to drive?
The 1987 example we’re testing here still feels incredibly sprightly, even though it’s probably lost a few horses over the years – and isn’t, by Toyota’s admission, the best example just yet. With the engine’s weight sitting close to the rear wheels, it’s clear from the start that the original MR2 offers extraordinary levels of grip. Give it the beans from a standstill, for example, and you have to be very clumsy with the clutch for the wheels to (briefly) spin up.
Despite a shortage of power assistance, the steering is light (perhaps overly so) when you increase the speed – something that’ll happen soon as you work the twin-cam engine up through the gears, changing close to the 8,000rpm redline. It has an appetite for being driven hard and encourages you to do so.
While the old Toyota won’t see which way a modern hot hatch went, it still provides one of the most enjoyable driving experiences you’ll get for the money. The sound, steering feel and unusual driving position combine to make it feel like a wonderfully analogue experience.
Mk3: What’s it like to drive?
After driving the first-generation MR2, the Mk3 feels a little bland on first impressions. The interior is very dull in comparison – while the Mk1 is wonderfully 80s, the recent model is as we’ve become used to from Toyota. Lots of black plastics, and nothing particularly exciting.
But spend some time getting to know the third-gen MR2, and it’s equally likeable in a different way. Just like its predecessors, its mid-engined handling provides oodles of grip, while its diminutive dimensions give you lots of confidence for threading it down rural roads. While it’s not as playful as an MX-5 (if you get the rear out, you’ll probably need more than a dab of oppo to get it back in), it feels more agile. Turn into a bend and it’ll shrug off any thoughts of understeer.
Mk1: Could I drive it every day?
We quite often say this in Retro Road Tests: you could drive the Mk1 MR2 every day, but it’d be a bit of a shame to. Its lack of storage space, general shortage of refinement and the potential to break down (yes, it’s a Toyota – but a very old one now) means you’d probably start to hate it fairly quickly. Save it for the weekend and you’ll relish every mile behind the wheel.
Mk3: Could I drive it every day?
If you’re looking for a daily drive, the Mk3 MR2 is much more realistic. It feels like a modern car inside, but don’t be fooled into thinking its practical. The boot space is… lacking, even for a couple of weekend bags. You have to take it very easy in inclement weather, too.
Mk1: How much should I pay?
Prices for the Mk1 MR2 are strengthening, and it’s definitely one of those cars where it pays to spend more money on a cherished example than be tempted by one at the cheaper end of the market. You can pick one up for less than £2,000, but it’ll probably need some bodywork in the near future and there’s no shortage of parts that could need replacing to make it drive as well as it did when it was new: bushes, droplinks, shocks and springs all wear with age.
Mk3: How much should I pay?
Prices for the Mk3 are pretty similar to the Mk1. You can buy one for less than £2,000 now, but they tend to be for leggy examples that have been owned by an unenthusiastic owner who may have skimped on maintenance. Ideally, we’d be looking to spend at least £3,000 on a 2003 or later model.
Mk1: What should I look out for?
Rust is the big issue with Mk1s. They rot everywhere: the wheel arches, wings, B-pillars, A-pillars, sills. Fibreglass skirts make it easy for rust to be hidden, so make sure you get underneath the car and have a poke in every nook and cranny. Other than that, the engine is fairly robust – but you’ll want proof of regular servicing. Listen out for a tappety engine, not a huge concern, but a sign that it might not having maintained as well as you’d like. And watch out for smoke coming out of the exhaust.
Mk3: What should I look out for?
In the first instance, look out for signs of how well the car’s been treated. Has it got many marks on the body, are all the tyres a good brand with plenty of tread, and does the owner have a folder full of paperwork? Earlier models can often face excessive oil consumption, while abused examples that have been thrashed from cold can suffer from the pre-cat breaking up and being sucked into the engine. Costly.
Although the third-generation model doesn’t suffer from rust as much as older examples, the rear crossmember is known to corrode – and it’s usually disguised by an undertray, meaning it won’t be picked up by the MOT.
Which one should I buy?
In reality, whether you should buy a Mk1 or Mk3 depends largely on what you want from a car. If you want a project that will attract admiring glances and attract comments at a classic car show, but will need regular maintenance to keep it on the road, you should definitely invest in a Mk1 while you still can.
The Mk3, despite its limitations in a practical sense, is a much more usable buy. If you pack light and want to take it on a European road trip, you can feel pretty reassured it’ll get you there – and in more comfort than the Mk1. A tidy one is probably a good investment and you’ll love every minute behind the wheel.
If you gave this reviewer £5,000 and told him to buy a Mk1 or Mk3 Toyota MR2? I’ll take the original, thanks.
The third-generation model we tested here was actually one of the last off the production line. One of 300 special editions, it’s badged ‘TF300’ and would have cost £18,015 when new in 2006. Each model came with custom leather and Alcantara upholstery, a twin sports exhaust and a dedicated vehicle number stitched into the seats.
Even today, few family cars drive better than the original 1998 Ford Focus. With its clever Control Blade rear suspension, this humble hatchback out-handled some sports cars.
Opinions of the first Focus RS, however, are more mixed. Launched in 2002, some rate it as one of the greatest hot hatches ever. Others, meanwhile, dismiss it as a torque-steering tearaway.
We borrowed Focus RS number 0001 of 4,501 cars made – fresh from Ford’s heritage fleet – to discover who is right about this controversial fast Ford.
What are its rivals?
The Focus is a front-wheel-drive hatchback, yet its two most obvious rivals – the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo (pictured) and Subaru Impreza WRX – were four-wheel-drive saloons. Both offer more power and are cheaper to buy second-hand. However, neither will appreciate in value like the limited-edition Ford.
Fancy something more civilised? Consider the Audi S3 or Volkswagen Golf R32. These four-wheel-drive Germans outgun the Focus in terms of horsepower, but not driving excitement.
What engine does it use?
The Ford’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine drives through a five-speed manual gearbox Peak power of 212hp arrives at 5,500rpm, with torque of 229lb ft from a useful 3,500rpm. The 0-60mph dash takes 5.9sec and top speed is 143mph.
To tame those rampant horses, Ford used a Quaife torque-biasing differential. It works by diverting twist-action to the opposite front wheel if wheelspin is detected, improving traction and agility – at the expense of some refinement. And on that topic…
What’s it like to drive?
That mechanical front diff is essentially a sticking plaster – a solution to the absence of four-wheel drive. But it defines the character of the RS more than any other component, giving it an appetite for corners that’s positively ravenous.
Find a B-road and car turns in with eager immediacy, the wheel writhing between your palms. Then the diff starts to bite, hauling it around radii like an arm hooked around a lamp post. It’s pointy, purposeful and, yes, focused.
In line with its reputation, the RS also quite physical and more than a little unruly. There’s torque steer, some turbo lag and plenty of whooshy wastegate noise. But we’re inclined to see these traits as part of car’s character, rather than faults to be ironed-out
A 212hp output is merely Fiesta ST territory now. But the 1,278kg RS is a fast car and, believe us, it still feels like one.
Reliability and running costs
Fuel economy of 27.9mpg won’t impress your neighbours in their Focus 1.0 Ecoboost. But comments over the garden fence can be rebutted with a gentle reminder that, as your car increases in value, theirs is plummeting into a bottomless pit of depreciation.
Service and maintenance costs should be manageable (this is a Ford, after all), but custom RS-specific body panels mean accident or rust-related repairs can be expensive.
Reliability will largely depend on how the car has been driven. Sounds obvious, but some will have been pampered, while others will have been thrashed (and possibly crashed) by track-day enthusiasts or boy racers.
Could I drive it every day?
Wrestling the RS along a country road can be tiring. If you want to ‘make progress’, the car makes you work for it.
At anything less than eight-tenths, though, it calms down and does a passable impression of an ordinary, vanilla-flavoured Focus. The ride on 18-inch OZ Racing alloys is firm, but not hyperactive like the current Fiesta ST. And practicality is a match for any mid-size hatchback – save for the three-door-only body (ironically, the new Focus RS only comes with five doors).
There are aren’t many classics you could comfortably commute in, but the Focus certainly ticks that box. Shame the number of Mk1 RS daily-drivers is dwindling fast, as owners eye-up the car’s investment potential.
How much should I pay?
Just under half the Mk1s built came to the UK, so you may find cheaper left-hand-drive examples from Europe in the classifieds.
For a RHD UK car, prices currently start at around £7,500, although you should really budget five figures for a good one.
At the top end, the very best cars are nudging £20,000. For that price, you could also consider the Mk2 RS, which is faster and even better to drive. However, it’s also more common (with 11,500 made) and arguably less exciting.
What should I look out for?
If anything, the Mk1 RS is over-engineered. Mechanical components, including the engine and Quaife differential, are tough, but that shouldn’t stop you insisting on a fully-documented service history.
Ensure the cambelt has been changed at least once, preferably well in advance of the recommended 100,000-mile interval, and don’t dismiss cars with an additional non-standard intercooler – it can help prolong the life of the engine. Steer of any mods aiming at boosting power output, though. Winding up the turbo boost is a recipe for lots of lag and lots of trouble.
Check those unique RS body panels carefully, as some are becoming hard to source. Peer under the wheelarches for signs of rust where the bodykit meet the metal and look for uneven panel gaps due to crash-damage.
Don’t forget to check all the RS-specific interior bits, such as the two-tone steering wheel and Sparco gearknob, are present-and-correct, too. That garish blue trim might look a bit Halfords, but it’s an important part of the car’s identity. Remember, originality is key when it comes to value.
Should I buy one?
Speaking of value, fast Fords are always in demand and, in theory, this longer-term gain in the car’s worth can be offset against the cost of running one. Bear in mind, however, that nothing is guaranteed, so we’d buy a Focus RS to drive and enjoy – with any rise in value a welcome bonus.
Despite our initial misgivings, the Focus RS won us over with its old-school hot hatch charm. Handing back the keys, we ached for more time behind the wheel – a sure sign of a great driver’s car.
For our money, the Ford Racing Puma from the same era feels even more special. Look out for an MR Retro Road Test on that car soon. But the added performance and practicality of the Focus would swing it for many.
The Mk1 RS was an effective halo car, but Ford lost money on every one sold. The exact amount is uncertain; internet chat forums (always, ahem, a reliable source) suggest anything between £4,000 and £6,000 per car.
This hole in the balance sheet is one reason the latest Mk3 Focus RS (seen here) doesn’t have custom body panels and shares a higher percentage of parts with the standard car. Ford execs insisted that even the RS must be profitable in its own right.
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