My Car Quest

September 19, 2019

The Ford GT40 Roadster

They existed but they were rarely a winner….

by Wallace Wyss –

Most people know the Ford GT40 as a coupe but I’m here to tell you that there were in fact factory-built Ford GT40 roadsters. We haven’t been able to confirm how many, most say five 108; 109; 111 and 112 – all small block 289-powered versions. Actually there was a big block version, SN110; the aluminum-chassied version that won the Sebring 12-hour in ’66 with a GT40 Mk II nose and rear body section with a fastback roof, not the “targa” roof that was used on the small blocks.

Ford GT40 Roadster

Ford GT40 Roadster No. 108 – photo by Mike Gulett

That same car had earlier been a Can Am car, the GTX-1, nicknamed “Big Ed.” It was singularly unsuccessful in Can Am, even with the likes of Bruce McLaren working as development engineer and as part time driver (along with Chris Amon).

That car in fact won the biggest victory for the open GT40 genre, being a winner at Sebring in ’66, only to be rewarded with a trip to a landfill later. (We know the town it was reportedly interred in, but finding it would be an exercise to tax present-day treasure-hunting technology.)

There were actually two aluminum-chassied GT40 chassis made for big blocks but the second one was either built into a coupe or is still floating around depending on which hoary old rumor you want to believe.

Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype

Ford GT40 Roadster No. 108 – photo by Mike Gulett

Apparently Ford built some small block GT40s in roadster form just out of curiosity. The coupes were beastly inside on a hot day, and at the time Ford thought perhaps an open version would be easier for the drivers because of that. Or maybe it was just because. Ferrari had open cars like the 250P, so Ford figured “If we’re gonna copy Ferrari, let’s copy everything.”

Ford then built four with the small block 289, but they weren’t any faster, and you had to admit, during those 24 hour races at LeMans there was always rain and a wet driver was distracted compared to a dry one. One would think the coupe version would be more rigid, with less flex to the body and hence able to hold the line better through a corner. There was no temporary top you could put in place in the GT40 roadsters, though sometimes coupe owners ran their cars without the top half of the doors (which were part of the roof as well), so they were in effect T-top coupes.

Ford GT40 Roadster No. 111 – photo by RM Sotheby's

Ford GT40 Roadster No. 111 – photo by RM Sotheby’s

The story of what happened to the roadsters is still occupying historians today. One of the roadsters (the green one that Bondurant flipped on its side in the Targa Florio in ’65) was discovered cut in half in a breaker’s yard in England a few years back. Bought as-is, the two halves were welded back together and rebodied with a new body cast from a real original body found in storage in South Africa. It has since raced in the Goodwood events, where it’s every appearance causes embarrassment for those GT40 historians who had published books years earlier listing it as “destroyed” or “written off.” It was put up for auction in 2011 but was a no-sale.

Ford GT40 Roadster

Ford GT40 Roadster No. 111 – photo by RM Sotheby’s

Another resurfaced more recently in the estate of Dean Jeffries, a Hollywood stuntman who died a few years ago at the age of 80. He was given the car for free by Ford because they mistakenly thought he could get it in a movie. He was a stuntman as well as customizer, but never quite got the car done, spending some three decades and more installing a four cam Ford V8 to prove Ford should have run that engine instead of the pushrod.

Dean Jeffries Ford GT40 Roadster

Dean Jeffries Ford GT40 Roadster – photo by Mecum Auctions

The GT40 roadster inspired the GTX-1 version of the ’05-’06 Ford GT, a conversion done by a private firm in Wisconsin on privately-owned GT40s, but done to a Ford engineer’s design.

If Ford does another take-off on the GT40, let’s hope this time they make an open version as well as a coupe so they can be assured the program will be completed. (The aftermarket firm that was making the GTX versions seem to have lost interest in the conversions.)

How much are they worth? RM-Sotheby’s sold theirs for close to $6,000,000 in 2014. I’d argue that they ought to be worth $10 million except that only one of the five small block targas actually raced at LeMans (in 1965). But I’d say that’s quite a name to drop when you own a race car….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is one of the foremost authorities on Shelby racing in the ‘60s. He is known for his oil portraits of Cobras and GT40s. For list, write mendoart7@gmail.com

 
 
 
 

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Dean Jeffries Ford GT40 Roadster - photo by Mecum Auctions

Dean Jeffries Ford GT40 Roadster – photo by Mecum Auctions

Summary
The Ford GT40 Roadster
Article Name
The Ford GT40 Roadster
Description
Ford built some small block GT40s in roadster form just out of curiosity. The coupes were beastly inside on a hot day, and at the time Ford thought perhaps an open version would be easier for the drivers because of that.
Author

Comments

  1. mark nolan says

    awesome info.
    historians and the like. amazing things.

    i remember a local engineer petrol head in 70,s here in uk driving a kamm tail gt40 on the road with straight pipes. lathe swarfe in the footwells always..

    finding two pieces of chassis..didnt sell…goodwood eligible …..its the uk old boy network. the world would not be buyers of a wrongun.
    in uk…the government agency give owners clubs permission to stamp their own data to obtain title..making the owners club data Representative god like and most of time scum who collects titles.
    years ago lola where needing funds..i asked eric why he didnt build a few missing T70 and sell them..he advised as the owner and manufacture he could…but eric you own lola…..advised there was a data historian in sweden who had info on every T70 and more. BEYOND.

  2. Jim Smith says

    The ex-Dean Jeffries car was a no-sale at Mecum Kissimmee back in January at $10M

    https://www.mecum.com/lots/FL0119-359641/1965-ford-gt-competition-prototype-roadster/

  3. wallace wyss says

    Regarding T70 I was going to review a book on them, very well written but when I reached the tenth mention of making a new tub I threw the book away because to me the only real car is the real chassis, not a re-chassied car.

  4. Glenn Krasner says

    There IS a 2019 Ford GT40 with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine. It has been out for a while, and all the car magazines road-tested it. Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

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