A Ford GT40 Mk I road car, though not the car to be shown in Atlanta. Photos courtesy of Atlanta Concours d’Elegance.
Ford’s GT40 may have been dominant on the racetrack, but in the new-car showroom, it enjoyed little success. A total of 31 “Road Car Specification” GT40 coupes were constructed to meet FIA homologation requirements, and most struggled to find initial buyers. Chassis P/1054 was no exception to this rule, but today the three-owner GT40 Mk I with a matching-number drivetrain is a highly desirable collector car, and attendees at the debut Atlanta Concours d’Elegance, taking place on October 8-9, will get to see the Pine Green Ford in person, fresh from a three-year restoration.
Features that make cars suitable for racing often make them difficult to live with on the street. Thanks to the GT40’s low height and wide sills, entry and egress in street clothing was, in a word, difficult. Outward visibility was suboptimal, and the heat (and noise) generated by the high-performance V-8 behind the driver’s head did little to improve cabin comfort. GT40s were right-hand drive, which made them challenging to operate on American roads and highways, and given a Ferrari-esque sticker price, it’s no wonder why GT40s were a tough sell.
Chassis P/1054 was shipped to America in November of 1966, finished in the same shade of green it wears today and equipped with Borrani wire wheels and a 289-cu.in. Ford V-8. Fed by four two-barrel Weber carburetors, the GT40 Mk I produced 390 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque, enough to propel the road-going race car from 0-60 MPH in roughly five seconds, on the way to a top speed just north of 160 MPH.
Initially, P/1046 was one of 20 cars selected to participate in Ford’s Mk I Promotion and Disposal Program, a concerted effort by Ford to get the cars off their books and onto dealer lots. One of seven Mk Is consigned to Ford’s Car Merchandising Department, P/1054 spent time touring dealerships in the Buffalo sales district before being sold to Brondes Ford in Toledo, Ohio, in November of 1967.
It isn’t clear how long the GT40 remained on the lot, but the car’s first owner of record was Bill Bostrum, the man who spun wrenches for sports car and Trans Am racer Ed Lowther. Unhappy with the color, Bostrum reportedly had the car painted in silver with maroon stripes, later fitting a Mk I tail modified with Mk II air intakes. Despite its limitations as a road car, Bostrum must have been enamored with the Ford’s performance, as he retained possession until 1987, when the car sold to Shelby enthusiast Francois Kress.
Kress opted to vintage race the car in exhibition classes, but first had it painted in Guardsman Blue with white stripes. The Borrani wheels were swapped out for a set of Halibrands, and a broader rear section was added to allow fitment of wider rear wheels and tires. Understanding the value of retaining original components, Kress set aside the car’s original bodywork, as well as its wire wheels.
Kress’s enthusiasm for the car is related in the World Registry of Cobras and GT40s, Fourth Edition, which tells the story of one ill-fated Watkins Glen outing in 1993. On the way to the track from the hotel, the Weber carburetors backfired and went up in flames, which Kress quickly extinguished before any damage was done, saying to spectators, “that happens all the time.” Later, on track, a knock-off worked loose, sending a rear wheel and tire on a trajectory independent of the car itself, but Kress maintained control and avoided a disastrous wreck.
Though Kress toyed with selling the car several times over the course of his ownership, going as far as listing the car with a few publications, it wasn’t until 2010 or so that he got serious about it. It appeared in a Hemmings Motor News listing, and word among Shelby enthusiasts was that P/1054 would soon be headed to auction. Instead, a private sale was eventually arranged, and Japanese businessman Minoru Aratani became the car’s third owner in 2012.
Wishing to return the car to its original condition, Aratani contacted Racing Icons in Ocala, Florida, a shop that’s got some expertise with GT40s, having previously performed restorative work on numerous GT40s, including P/1031, raced by Mark Donohue and Walt Hansgen at Daytona in 1966; P/1049, purchased new by a vice president of Gulf Oil and raced in-period by Dick Thompson, Ed Lowther, and Jackie Ickx; and P/1076, a Gulf Oil team car raced at Le Mans in 1968 and 1969. Following a meticulous three-year restoration to as-delivered form, P/1046 will be making its first public appearance at the Atlanta Concours d’Elegance.
This 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible will be on display in the “Barn Finds” class.
The event will take place at the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort, and roughly 170 cars are expected to be on display during Sunday’s concours. Classes include traditional categories, along with two honoring premier sponsor Panoz (Panoz Street Cars, Panoz Competition Cars), Barn Finds, Road Atlanta Race Cars, and Weird and Wonderful. For additional information, or to purchase tickets, visitAtlantaConcours.org.