FORD GT40 RESTORATION

GT40P #1031/1047

UNCOVERING THE HISTORY OF AN ORIGINAL FORD GT40 MKIIB...

As is common to many older race cars, accurate determination of race history is often a challenge.  This is especially true when researching the 35+ year old records of a Ford MKII.  Over the years, and for various reasons, many of the MKII's lost their true identity.   As you will see, this car is no exception.  Since late 1967 this MKIIB resided in relative seclusion in private race car collections in France.  Most of the GT40 world believed this car to be serial #1047, although during this period very few people actually had the opportunity to verify its pedigree.

Fast forward to 2003...  this dusty icon of 1960's Ford racing history is quietly purchased by an American collector.  Understandably, whenever an old race car emerges after years of seclusion, a high level of interest abounds among enthusiasts as to its condition and historical details.  In this instance, there was also speculation that this MKII might not actually be #1047 (as was stamped on its FoMoCo ID plate) but perhaps another MKII.   Obviously, some interesting research was in order.

After #1047 arrived in the US, the first step was to find as much MKII documentation, including period photos, various race reports and Ford/Shelby American/Holman Moody documents, as possible.   (Since this MKIIB had never been restored, that in itself proved to be a huge plus in determining its true identity.)  With historical documents and photos in hand, the research began, using due diligence without any ulterior motives or agendas...

At first glance there were some obvious clues to the car's past identity.  The most visible were the twin DZUS fasteners on the cowl.  Original 1960's photos showed only two MKII's ever had these: #1016 at '67 LeMans test days and #1031.  Further inspection of the car revealed numerous electric pencil and hand stamped #1031 markings on suspension components.   Next, a small #1031 stamping was found on a rear structural member.  The evidence was quickly building that this MKIIB was originally #1031... but it was also clear that all of these clues could easily be explained away by one simple fact:  Shelby American and Holman Moody were known, during race preparation, to pull spare components/body panels from one MKII to complete another.  

Obviously, more definitive evidence was needed.   Inspection shifted from comparing the old MKII photos with #1047's "bolt-on" components (which could easily be replaced over the years), to comparing the photos with details intrinsic to the car (rivet/fastener locations, bracket locations, spot welds, paint layers).   After looking through dozens of old photos, it was confirmed that virtually every detail of this car matched with just one MKII:  #1031.   A final irrefutable example of #1031 "DNA" was found under the car's "greenhouse" weather stripping.   After carefully scraping away the top layer of light blue paint and each underlying paint layer, it was discovered the paint layers matched (in chronological order and color) with #1031's paint at races prior to 1967 LeMans.  This freshly uncovered evidence left no doubt that this MKIIB was originally serial #1031.  

The next question was: "Why and when did #1031 become known as #1047?" After looking through race records, the histories of MKII #1031 and MKII #1047 were clear until shortly before the 1967 LeMans race. Records show that both MKII's raced at 1967 LeMans, but there was some discrepancy about serial number plates... with some documents referring to this light blue #57 MKIIB as serial #1047, and others referring to it as serial #1031. At this point in time, it is still unclear exactly why this car's serial number plate was changed and if it was done before LeMans or shortly after LeMans. It could have been a slip up during preparation before the race or because Ford had promised to transfer a specific serial number MKII to Ford France after the race. Regardless, since both cars DNF'd at 1967 LeMans (gold #5 crashed & light blue #57 w/ engine failure), the historical importance of the actual serial numbers at that race tends to be a rather moot point.

One fact remains clear though: after 1967 LeMans this light blue MKII (originally #1031) was identified on paper, on its FoMoCo ID plate, and on the race track, as #1047.  This is substantiated by 1967 Ford documents.  They prove that, post 1967 LeMans, this light blue #57 MKII (originally built & raced as #1031) was legally re-assigned serial #1047 by Ford & Shelby American, and that ownership was transferred to Ford France.   Ford France continued to race the car (as serial #1047) in several more events in 1967, resulting in an important footnote in the annals of Ford GT history:  The last MKII (and the only MKIIB) to win a race.  

(Note:  RacingIcons.com recognizes the history of a race car never seems to be totally complete or 100% accurate.  Any corrections or additions to the discussion or to the "timeline" are welcome.)   

#1031/1047  TIMELINE

GT40P/1031 was originally ordered by Shelby American Inc. from Ford Advance Vehicles Ltd.   It was scheduled for delivery on TWA flight #581, Nov 5th, 1965 to Shelby American (S/A) for final build up as a MKII.

#1031 was initially scheduled to run the 1966 Daytona 24 Hour Continental as a S/A entry, but it now appears that its first race was actually the 1966 Sebring 12 Hour Endurance event.   Pre-race qualifying went well, with Dan Gurney setting a new lap record of 2 minutes 54.9 seconds.  He and co-driver Jerry Grant looked to be a dominant force in the medium metallic blue painted #2.   Records show that, after stalling on the starting line,  #1031 took over the race lead after approx 1.5 hrs and held it until the very last corner... when the engine blew.  With encouragement from a corner worker, Gurney pushed #1031 across the finish line... summarily disqualifying the car and costing him what would have been a 2nd place finish.  

The next competitive event for #1031 was 1966 LeMans.  After Shelby American prepped and tested #1031 at Riverside in late May 1966, the car was shipped to France where Holman and Moody (H/M) assumed final qualification and race prep duty.  Painted in dark metallic blue and assigned race #6, #1031 was to be co-driven by Mario Andretti and Lucien Bianchi.  Prospects were looking good during qualifying, and a timing report states that Bianchi could have achieved a new LeMans track record of 3 minutes 29 seconds, had he not been caught up in heavy traffic in front of the pits.  Starting the race gridded 12th, #1031 moved up to 6th place, but a dropped valve in the sixth hour resulted in a disappointing DNF.

#1031's next chapter in history was far less exciting than LeMans.  After Fords impressive 1966 1-2-3 LeMans victory, they decided to do a "publicity tour" of GT's crisscrossing their USA dealer structure.  #1031 was shipped back to S/A from LeMans, given some show car prep, and on August 11th, 1966, was sent out to tour the central dealer region.  (Quite a status change for #1031... to go from running 200mph down the Mulsanne straight to sitting on a single car trailer behind a red 1966 Ford Ranchero on Route 66).

The next race for #1031 was the 1967 Daytona Continental 24 Hours event.  Arriving at Holman Moody in  December, 1966, #1031 soon acquired several new MKIIB revisions: interior/dash modifications, revised roll cage, 2-4 induction, K/H brakes, etc.  Repainted in a metallic bronze and wearing #5, the car was driven at Daytona by Mario Andretti and Richie Ginther.  With six MKII's entered, Daytona was to be an important showdown between Ferrari, Ford and Chaparral.  Unfortunately, shortly after the start, Daytona instead turned into the "MKII gearbox changing marathon", with every MKII using up all the T-44's on hand.   #1031 managed to survive for 12 hours before finally retiring.

In preparation for the April 1967 Sebring 12 Hours,  #1031 was updated by Holman Moody to full MKIIB specs with new bodywork, revised brake ducting, dry deck block and aluminum tunnel port heads.   #1031, repainted in dark blue and assigned #2,  had AJ Foyt and Lloyd Ruby as its drivers.  The car was gridded 3rd, with a qualifying lap time of 2 minutes 53.6 seconds.   After running in 2nd place for most of the race, #1031 finally retired after approximately 226 laps... good enough to claim second place (based upon distance traveled).  

LeMans, June 10/11th, 1967 was the next event for this car.  This is the race where it's unclear as to which serial number (#1031 or #1047) this car actually carried.  Documents show that the car was now light blue with roundel #57 and was entered by S/A with the driving team of Paul Hawkins and Ronnie Bucknum.   Records also show that #57 qualified 5th with a lap time of 3 minutes 25.8 seconds, and quickly jumped into the lead once the race started.  After numerous routine (and not so routine) pit stops, #57 was in ninth overall position when after 17+ hours it finally retired with a seized engine, on lap 254.   Incidentally, the gold #5 MKII (the original #1047), crashed/DNF'd 5 hours earlier and would never race again in 1967.

Less than 2 weeks after LeMans, Ford of France entered this light blue MKII car (originally #1031 but now officially known as #1047) in the Rheims 12 Hour race, June 25/26th, 1967.   Carrying roundel #1, it was driven by Jo Schlesser and Guy Ligier.  They qualified in 4th place.   After the traditional Rheims midnight start, the car ran strongly throughout the race.   It crossed the finish line at noon the following day in first place, recording what would be the final win for a MKII and the only win for a MKIIB!   Photos of this car at Reims show a small brass FoMoCo ID plate on the bulkhead, a plate that it still has today... stamped #1047.

Mugello, Italy July 23rd, 1967 was the next event for this car as #1047.  Entered by Ford France as #4 with Schlesser and Ligier as drivers, the light blue MKIIB finished the 38 mile long circuit in fourth place (on the same lap as the winner).

The Oct 8th, 1967 Montlhery Coupes de Salon was the next race entered.  Still painted light blue and under Ford France ownership, #1047 was assigned roundel #1 and driven by Jo Schlesser.   A punctured tire finally led to a DNF.

The final race for this MKII was the 1000 Kms of  Paris, Montlhery, on  October 15th, 1967.  The team of Ford France, Schlesser and Ligier once again campaigned the car, entered as #1047, roundel #1, in light blue livery.  After completing 128 laps on the unusual banked circuit, the race history of #1047 was finally concluded with a fourth place finish.  

TIMELINE SUMMARY... #1031/1047

There is no doubt this MKII was originally built and raced as serial #1031.  It is also fact that after mid 1967 Ford re-assigned the car with serial #1047 and the car was officially raced with that serial number in several major events.  

With the unusual history of this MKII finally established, the question became how to most accurately identify this car today.  What takes precedence: Three years with a Ford Motor Company affixed serial #1031, or thirty four years with a Ford Motor Company affixed serial #1047?  After consultation with other automotive authorities, the general consensus was a compromise:   #1031/1047.   Even though this MKII still carries the #1047 ID plate,  calling this MKIIB #1031/1047 most accurately denotes the rich racing heritage this MKII earned under both serial numbers.  

(Note: adding #1047 as an addendum to #1031 does not diminish or infringe on the race history earned by the original #1047... its owner can continue to take full pride in the significant race history that it earned in 1966 and early 1967.)

Now that we have discussed the unusual, but historic "timeline" of this MKII, let us review its present condition and the best approach to maintaining its unique place in racing history.

PRESERVATION OR RESTORATION?

While often a complex question, in the case of #1031/1047 the answer is simple: Preservation, tempered with a prudent amount of restoration.  

Making the case for preservation is a no brainer in the case of #1031/1047.  In a world of cars that have either been restored to "Pebble Beach standards" or morphed into "modern day NASCAR racers" for vintage racing, this car is a refreshing example of neither.   Considered by many to be the most original surviving MKIIB, good stewardship dictates that it should not undergo a full bore restoration.  Nor should it now be turned into a weekend warrior to satisfy a latent "Walter Mitty" desire.  

As the most original MKIIB left in existence, #1031/1047's unrestored state holds many unique and historical details that may already have been lost (or unknowingly changed) on some of the other MKIIs.  It is no surprise that, due to the unintentional parts swapping of the 1966/67 race seasons, and some 35 years of subsequent restorations (using parts culled from Shelby's and HM's leftover stockpiles),  the majority of MKIIs have come to rest with another MKII's suspension components, body panels or serial number plate.   Such anomalies are precisely what makes the preservation of #1031/1047 so important:   Preservation gives us an accurate insight as to the machinations of 1960's Ford MKII race preparations.  

While it is not the intention of RacingIcons to offer definitive reasons for the twists and turns in each and every MKII's identification lineage, it is our hope that through preservation and the proper examination/documentation of this unrestored MKIIB, the knowledge base of all MKIIs will be enhanced.  

Now that the main reasons for preservation of this car have been discussed, what about the "prudent amount of restoration" mentioned earlier?  Here we need to clarify why any restoration is needed in the first place... and again the answer goes back to good stewardship.  As caretakers of these old race cars, our most  important concern is simply making sure the cars physically survive into the future!  

Like most race cars, the lifetime of a MKII was expected to be measured in the number of races entered and laps completed, not in the number of subsequent owners and decades of survival.  To satisfy performance parameters, the original builders made ample use of lightweight steel panels for the tub and aluminum and magnesium to produce water tubes, suspension uprights, wheels, radiator, etc.  Some 35 years later, these critical parts are succumbing to internal corrosion, rust and galvanic reaction.  This is where the "prudent amount of restoration" aspect becomes so important... if this MKII is to continue into the future as a survivor.

Rest assured, both RacingIcons and #1031/1047's present owner fully recognize the need to carefully preserve these critical areas for longevity, while simultaneously minimizing any disturbance of the car's well worn patina.   When the preservation aspect is done properly, there is little evidence that any work was done to the car...  it only shows up on worksheets and photographic documentation.

We'll have more pictures from preservation process itself but, in the meantime, we thought you would enjoy these from the car's public debut...


For the first time in 38 years, #1031/1047 was presented to the public at the 2005 Amelia Island Concours.

[GT40 MK2 1031/1047 @ 2005 Amelia Island Concours]
Original GT40 MK2 at 2005 Amelia Island Concours, seen in public for first time in 38 years!

[GT40 MK2 1031/1047 @ 2005 Amelia Island Concours]
The car was driven on and off the field.
Open exhaust 427 sounded great!

[GT40 MK2 1031/1047 @ 2005 Amelia Island Concours]
The car was a time warp. This is the unrestored interior.

[GT40 MK2 1031/1047 @ 2005 Amelia Island Concours]
The original 1967 French "customs clearance medallion" was still hanging by a string on the steering column.


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