My Car Quest

June 19, 2019

Barn Find: Yes It Is A Real Ford GT40

No kidding, except it was found in a garage…

by Wallace Wyss –

When I was in the Shelby club, back in the ‘70s, which met at Galpin Ford in the San Fernando Valley, one of the club members was a fireman who had come across the car when the owner, “Salt” Walther, had crashed big time in a Indy car and was recuperating.

The firemen knew that Walther owned the car, in fact the Walther family had two of them but one was left buried in mud (figure that?).

Ford GT40

If you were lucky enough to pass the garage when the door was open…

So the fireman bought the car AS IS, in rough cosmetic shape, and would bring it to the meetings, roaring off into the night after each meeting in a genuine certified Ford GT. It was a little confusing that it had a Mk. II rear body section. But it had a real SN–1067.

It was painted yellow and black by an owner previous to Walther, a man who had added Halibrand wheels as well. It is unclear who added the Mk. II tail but that could have been Salt’s father, George Walther, wanting to make it a copy of the Daytona winning Mk. II, even down to the no. 98 racing number. Another website says Ford sold it new in ’66 with a Mk. II tail, maybe at Ford Advanced Vehicles they were out of Mk. I tails, who knows?

Ford GT40

As found

DECADES PASS

Dennis Murdoch, by now a retired firefighter, eventually broke the gearbox and stopped driving it. One thing led to another and the boxes kept on piling on the car until it was totally buried in his Thousand Oaks garage.

The word spread it was there. One story is that the rocker, Rod Stewart looked it over, but maybe it was the condition, he didn’t go for it.

Then a man who claims to be a GT40 finder, and knows car histories by memory, Jay Cushman, published pictures of the car on an online GT40 forum in 2010, and that heated up the action. Sort of like throwing a hot dog into a pond at the zoo full of alligators (I did that once…)

Ford GT40

The treasure after the boxes were moved

But by that time vintage racing was big, and a GT40 was a desirable property. Even Carroll Shelby had made the mistake of letting his go, ditto Bob Bondurant. Now I heard the story that car finder Tom Shaughnessy found out about it when showing another genuine certified GT40, one he had bought in Australia, at a Chino Hills, CA concours. A man walked up to his son and said “I have a car like that.”

His son did not, repeat did not, sneer and say “And who made your replica?” Instead he said “What’s the SN?” and the number sounded right and his father bought the car, outbidding Cushman.

SAD END FOR SALT

The Hollywood version of Salt’s life would be he recovers from his injuries of a bad crash in 1973 at Indy and comes back, flush with cash, and buys the car. That didn’t happen. Instead he got addicted to painkillers, served time in jail and died December 28, 2012 at the age of 65.

I’d like to say the car is now restored and will be on the grid at Monterey this August but the word “divorce” curtails many a restoration plan and the car’s fate is currently in limbo.

I kicked myself in the keester many times for not making a serious offer to Murdoch every time I’d run into him over the 30-plus years since I met him at the Shelby club meeting. I should have known the Old Rule in car circles: “Everything is for sale eventually.”

Ford GT40

The car should have looked like this but had a Mk. II tail

But there is a lesson to be learned here for you barn-hunters. When you first hear of a real car, not a replica, make a note of the owner and his contact info in a hardbound notebook that you pledge to yourself that you will never throw away and periodically contact them–Christmas cards, birthday cards, whatever. People go through many changes in life and eventually the priority of getting that car restored takes a back seat. It did for two of this car’s owners and, for one brief shining moment each time, made the car available…

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has added some of his barn finding adventures to the resume of the hard boiled detective in his novel Ferrari Hunters.
 
 

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Summary
Barn Find: Yes It Is A Real  Ford GT40
Article Name
Barn Find: Yes It Is A Real Ford GT40
Description
A real Ford GT40 barn (garage) find right under my nose.
Author

Comments

  1. Michael Hipperson says

    I sold my 1965 GT40 SN/1005 to Walther in 1975

    It’s history then became ‘clouded’ but is well documented

  2. wallace wyss says

    Thank you for the update. I know the car is real because at the time nobody was making replicas.
    It’s sad that Salt couldn’t get the car out there but I’ve seen that before where a racer of
    current cars leaves vintage racing to pursue current racing, there was a guy in Orange County who had several GT40s including a Mk. IV but then sold them to race some common modern day race car
    which is worth nothing now compared to any of his former vintage Ford GTs. At some point do you want to race for current racing prizes or hold your classic for long range appreciation?

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