Driving the Ford GTs that won Le Mans 50 years apart unites digital and analog

On an unseasonably toasty afternoon earlier this fall, the pit lane at Virginia International Raceway was suddenly shaken by the unmistakable crackling idle of a Ford big-block V-8. Every head snapped toward the cacophony, which was thundering from a black 1966 Ford GT40 Mark II splashed with a large “2” on both doors. As soon as the car came to rest, the mechanics, engineers, and Ford employees, who had assembled at VIR for their own event meant to showcase the much newer Ford GTLM race car, swarmed toward the 53-year-old relic. All the planned activities for the day came to a full stop.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/11/29/driving-the-ford-gts-that-won-le-mans-50-years-apart

What a great story! I am sorry that Ford is pulling out (once again!) from sports car racing as it was great to see the GT in action. Lucky author who got to drive both cars but, honestly, even if old race cars weren’t worth much back in the day it is incredible to me that Ford would have let the 1966 Le Mans winning car simply go, after pumping in vast amounts of money to win the race. It is in good hands, obviously, but indicative of how little American car makers have cared for their own legacies in the past.

I think it was Shelby who said “There is nothing more worthless than last year’s race car”. They were not as nostalgic back then, and had to get the old cars out of the way to make room for the new & improved. Plus, in most race programs, money was tight, and if you can make a little cash selling an old car to an upstart team, so much the better.

I was there at Le Man in 66 and 67. Have photographs of the 66 wrecked cars. Who would have thought of how significant Fords contribution was then with the GT 40’s. Still one of my favorite race cars.

A great story. That the GT40 appears to be so solid is a tribute to the engineers and also the thoroughness of the restoration as well. Your comparisons of the old to the new are well put.

I just watched F vs F at the movies, Great! Ken Miles was a character! How did they wreck so many GT’s in the movie? Henry Ford 2 was a strange man!
I have a friend, who sold his apt. complex for $8 million, back in 2007, the 1st thing He bought was a New 2006 GT! He hasn’t let me drive it yet? LOL!
Merry Xmas, to all car folk!

Your article says that McLaren did the testing for Shelby yet what I have read is that Ken Miles did the testing until his death. And that McLaren jumped in front of Miles (who had the fastest lap times near race end) in the three car show at the finish of the LeMans race reflects poorly on McLaren’s legacy . . . . sigh.

@jdmurphy47 McLaren didn’t “jump” in front of Miles. The race ending was orchestrated so that all three cars would come to the finish line together. The French race managers then said that Miles did not win because his car started in such a position as to have not traveled far enough to be #one and he was relegated to #2. I just recently saw a Carroll Shelby interview, made shortly before his death, where he said that the idea to bring them in together was his. In the movie it’s shown as a Ford corporate idea. 'Not sure what the real story is…Shelby was more expansive in his memory near the end apparently.

McLaren admitted much later that he got excited and accelerated past Miles just before the finish. This one momentary lapse denied Ken Miles the Triple Crown back then - Daytona, Sebring and LeMans as he died two months later.

Interesting. I’d not heard that before.