Pristine '64 Ford GT40, before the first one ever turned a wheel in combat
1964 Ford GT40 Prototype, # GT/104, Gooding's Pebble Beach Auction, Lot 113, Est. $5–$7 million
by Wallace Wyss
Now, you have to admit that GT40s are pretty rare on the ground. Over 100 built - but the first year is really rare, compared to later years.
The year 1964 was the year Ford thought they could run their new endurance racing program with John Wyer in charge, without any help from Carroll Shelby even though he was already on their payroll doing the Cobra thing.
The 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype GT/104 scheduled for auction at Pebble Beach in mid-August came out of that first year, which was a brutal learning experience for Ford. (The first 12 “prototype” vehicles carried serial numbers GT/101 through GT/112.) The car has that all important cache of having been competed at the 24 Hours of LeMans. Unfortunately, it and two of its sister cars didn't do that well in 1964, none of them finished. Even worse, Ford shipped them to the loosey-goosey races at Nassau (where the rules were made up by promoter Sherman "Red" Crise as he went along), where they got their tails whooped by GM cars – and GM wasn't even supposed to be in racing!
Ford, a bit sheepishly I imagine, ended up calling Carroll Shelby in the winter of '64 asking him if he'd mind taking on the additional responsibility of turning these cars into winners. Shelby started a test program to see what was wrong with the cars with test drivers Bob Bondurant, Bruce McLaren, and Ritchie Ginther. They ran them for many hours at Riverside and everything that broke was tossed out including the 255 cu. in. "Indy" V8, the Colotti T-37 gearbox made in Italy, the wire wheels from England and even the nose of the car designed in Dearborn, USA. The original nose was shaped like a duck's bill and even though there was a chin spoiler, it was the “King of Nose Lift.”
The refurbished car, now painted dark blue and with a custom-made chin spoiler under the Shelby-redesigned nose, went to Florida for the 1965 Daytona season opener. GT/104 finished in 3rd place in the hands of Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther, memorializing with its sister car the first-ever completed race for a GT40. It had a few more races that season and then was retired later that year. It went back to Ford where it was used by Styling as a show car.
Gooding estimates that it could fetch $5–$7 million. Although it never finished higher than third, it's a car with a racing history, regardless of how well it did. It was there. It did its thing.
For this author, the only question is: while we like to see the car in the configuration that it first became useful to Ford, we wonder why not one of the 1964 cars has been "brought back" to the duckbill platypus nose. We know, beaucoup nose lift – but we're talking history here... does anyone agree?
Race Results of GT/104
07/64 : Le Mans, 12, Attwood/Schlesser - DNF
12/64 : Nassau, 97, Mc Laren - DNF
02/65 : Daytona, 72, Ginther/Bondurant - 3rd
03/65 : Sebring, 10, Hill/Ginther - DNF
04/65 : Le Mans Trials, 10, Bondurant
04/65 : Monza, 68, Amon/Maglioli - DNF
05/65 : Nürburgring, 11, Amon/Bucknum/Hill/McLaren - 8th
Wallace Wyss, Illustration of Pristine '64 Ford GT40 (Prints available from email@example.com)
Gooding & Co., Photo of 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype, # GT/104