The car that crossed the line second actually won that monumental race – coincidentally, it also had the No 2 racing label. It set distance and speed records during that 24-hour endurance motoring performance. And to this day, it pays every ounce of respect to that achievement.
Because that same No 2 Ford GT40 that was the winning 1966 LeMans car is getting ready for the centennial anniversary of the famous sporting event: in 2023, Le Mans turns 100, and the all-Kiwi GT40 of 1966 is prepared to pay its homage. (The Kiwi reference hints at the Newzealander duo that drove the car to victory.)
The car is privately owned now and underwent a complete restoration in 2016 (in anticipation of the jubilee celebration for the 1966 historical win). Rob Kauffman is the proud collector who brought back the Ford GT40 Mk II 1046 chassis.
Extensive care went into the rebuild to have the car look as close to its glory days. The only striking difference is the fire-suppressing system, which obeys today’s modern standards, and takes up the space of the original spare tire.
But, as you can hear Rob saying, they worked on the 1046 chassis so minutely that three different typewriters were needed to replicate the tachometer chart on the driver’s side front pillar. To further reproduce the car’s patina, the engine stickers have been oven-baked to give the impression of exposure to a seven-liter racing V8 hot exhaust.
The works went so in detail that the bundle-of-snakes exhaust pipes are cast in sand molds, and the aluminum “luggage space boxes” are rightfully in place. It was one of the odd requirements of car racing in those days, so the 230+ mph (370 kph) GT40 Mk II has a usable – although minuscule – twin-trunk.
Speaking of raw power, the monster 427 ci (7.0-liter V8) in the historic car was capable of 550 hp, although downgraded to just 485 to last through the 360 laps it covered during the 24 hours of June 18-19, 1966. The 475 lb-ft (644 Nm) put the car in front of all the racers, with an average speed of 125 mph (201 kph). Play the second video, and at the 12-minute mark, you can hear the French race officials announcing the winner.
Despite its scarcity of interior amenities, the car features the 7,000 RPM Tachometer, oil and water temperature gauges, an ammeter, and three pressure indicators (for fuel, engine oil, and differential oil). Frankly, the only thing that faintly resembles comfort is the perforated seats to help drivers cope with the cockpit heat of the race.
From start to finish, the restoration project spanned some eighteen months – well worth it if we look at how the car looks now! So much intricate attention was paid to chassis 1046 that the car won the 2016 Restoration of the Year title from the International Historic Motoring Awards.
So, to reach the original appearance and feel of the vehicle, the restorers from Rare Drive spent about three weeks’ worth of time just gazing at photos of No 2 Ford from LeMans. And by three weeks, I mean the 400 or so hours. Overall, the project was not as challenging to rebuild the vehicle as it was to find the correct bits and pieces and components.
But, in the words of its proud current owner, this car will live on to inspire some future collectors to invest just as much care in it to make it ready for the 100 years celebration of the 1966 LeMans historic win.