's Great British Cars – Ford GT40

Fri 29th Mar 2019

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Ford GT40
You’re one of the biggest motor industrialists in history, you believe that you have just negotiated a deal to buy one of the most famous supercar brands, spending millions in the process to get close to sealing the deal, but at the last stage of negotiations, the deal falls apart. That was the story of how Ford Motor Company almost bought Ferrari, but having failed, decided to build a sports car in Britain to rival the famous prancing horse of the Italian sports car manufacturer.

The sticking point on the Ford-Ferrari deal in 1963 was the fact that Ferrari wanted to retain their motor sports division, but that deal would have put them in direct competition with Ford at the Indianapolis 500, both sides refused to budge and Enzo Ferrari pulled the plug on the deal.

Henry Ford II was enraged and set about finding a company that could build a GT (Grand Tourer). Britain was seen as the motor racing capital in the 1960s and three companies were shortlisted, Cooper, Lotus and Lola.

Cooper had no experience building GT and were falling short in Formula One, Lotus asked for a high price and insisted that the project be named Lotus-Ford, so the project was handed to Lola -  a company who had already used a Ford engine to build their own GT.

Lola’s GT40 was based on the Mk6 and delivered the success that Henry Ford II craved, becoming a serious player on the European motor-racing circuit. The GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four consecutive times from 1966 to 1969. British car design and know-how, helping a legendary American brand gain payback on the Italian powerhouses.

Years of manufacture: 1964-1969 
Price when new: £5,200
Price now: £2million-plus
Engine: 4,737cc 8cyl petrol, 306bhp

Top speed: 164mph