Tag: LeMans

Ken Miles Record @MotorSport

Ken Miles Record @MotorSport


Ken Miles was key in Ford’s triumph at Le Mans in 1966, developing and racing the Ford GT40, as depicted in the film Le Mans ’66. He also developed the Shelby Cobra. But Miles is also known for missing out on the Le Mans win in 1966; he gave up a dominant lead in an effort to ensure a tied finish with the second-placed GT40, driven by Bruce McLaren, which went on to be awarded the victory.

Early life

Ken Miles was born Kenneth Henry J Miles on November 1, 1918 to Eric Miles and mother Clarice Jarvis in Sutton Coldfield, England.

In 1929, Miles began riding a 350cc Trials Special Triumph bike, resulting in a crash that broke his nose and the loss of three teeth, but Miles persevered and fixed up an 1100-cc Salmson motorcycle.

At the age of 15, in 1933, he met his future wife Mollie and purchased an Austin 7 Special that she painted in British Racing Green. It was this year when his engineering prowess was realised and he quit school to become an apprentice at Wolseley Motors.

When World War II dawned, Miles was posted to an anti-aircraft unit in the British Territorial Army with just eight weeks of his apprenticeship remaining, becoming a driving instructor at Blackpool a year later. He was promoted to staff-sergeant in 1942, and was a part of the D-Day landings as part of a tank unit in 1944.

While in the army, he wrote to Motor Sport and his letter was published in the August 1943 edition. He waxed lyrical about the “great promise” of American vehicles “from a sporting point of view”.

After the war, Miles was hired as an engineer at Morris Motors, and his son was born.

Racing career

Miles’s racing career began in earnest after WW2 – first racing at Silverstone on April 23, 1949, when his name appeared in Motor Sport once more as the driver of a  Mercury V8-powered Frazer Nash that he took to various hill climbs and club races.

He found himself in the United States in 1951, working for Gough Industries, and entered races for the company in a stock MG-TD. In 1953, Miles won his first race in the United States, at Pebble Beach and won every race in the under-1500cc class that year.

The MG was later modified to carry a 1500cc engine and dubbed the “Flying Shingle”, which brought him success in the SCCA Modified class against the likes of actor James Dean. Miles graduated to a Porsche 550 the following year, in 1956, and in ’57 he fitted the Porsche engine and drivetrain to a Cooper chassis.

Ford vs Ferrari

Between 1958 and ’63, Miles won 38 of 44 races he entered, also driving part-time for Sunbeam distributor Rootes. He was swiftly picked up by Carroll Shelby to test and race the Cobra – a partnership that was immortalised on screen in the 2019 movie Ford vs Ferrari. He also had a hand in developing the Sunbeam Tiger for the Rootes Group.

While synonymous with Ford, Miles did race Ferraris from time to time including a 375 Plus Spider in 1955, which he took to third behind Ernie McAfee and Phil Hill. Hill would later join him at Shelby’s squad alongside Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Bob Bondurant, Chris Amon, Bruce McLaren and Roy Salvadori among others. However, Miles was renowned not just for his driving, but engineering expertise.

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A sparsely worded newswire release was issued on May 22, 1963 noting, “Ford Motor Company and Ferrari wish to indicate, with reference to recent reports of their negotiations toward a possible collaboration that such negotiations have been suspended by mutual agreement.”

The GT40s entered in the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The flurry of negotiations between the companies had ended, but Ford’s desire to become a player in performance motorsports remained strong. A month later, the High Performance and Special Models Operation Unit was formed with the mission to design and build “A racing GT car that will have the potential to compete successfully in major road races such as Sebring and Le Mans.” The unit’s resulting work, the GT Program book, circulated internally on June 12th and contained the initial design concepts for the GT40.

The high performance team included Ford’s Roy Lunn, who already developed a preliminary design in the GT Program Book, along with Carroll Shelby and a few other Ford officials. Their first job was to identify a team that could build the cars. As project engineers, they chose Eric Broadley, whose Lola GT was considered groundbreaking, and John Wyer, who had won Le Mans with Carroll Shelby driving for Aston Martin as the race manager. This established a four-pronged team with Lunn and Broadley designing and building the cars, Wyer establishing the race team and Shelby acting as the front man in Europe. With ten months until the 1964 race, a workshop was established in Broadley’s garage in Bromley, south of London. But when established as Ford Advanced Vehicles moved the operations to Slough.

As one of the major design features, Roy Lunn had lowered the height two inches from Broadley’s initial Lola to a mere 40 inches and work on the cars began. Interestingly, the first seven produced had a VIN number beginning with Ford GT, while the cars after those had a VIN beginning with Ford GT40. New Zealander Bruce McLaren was the initial test track driver as the car was put through its paces. Early issues with the car were apparent as the Ford Motor Company team tried to accomplish in 10 months what Ferrari had perfected over decades. By April the first car was completed, and was quickly shipped to New York to be used for a press conference prior to the Mustang launch. During the time trials in Le Mans in mid-April, the car’s speed was tremendous, but the aerodynamics needed work as it was difficult to control at high speeds. With McLaren doing the development driving, a spoiler was added and other modifications made. The car was now as ready for racing as it could be for the 1964 season.

Disappointments were soon to follow. While the Ford GT40s were undoubtedly fast, endurance was an issue at all of the races. The suspension let loose in Nuremburg, and while they led for a portion of the race at Le Mans and driver Phil Hill set a lap record, the Colotti gearboxes gave out under the strain of the speed and number of shifts required to complete the loop. All three Ford cars were out of the race 12 hours into the required 24. Further disappointments culminating in a disastrous showing in Nassau in December left the program in shambles, and the decision was made in Dearborn to move the work back to the US, with Carroll Shelby given operational control and Roy Lunn engineering control.

Source Ford Motor Company

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Ford v. Ferrari – Matthew Phelan @Slate


The racing movie plays fast and loose with the facts, but some of its most unbelievable details are straight from the record books.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari and Ken Miles with Carroll Shelby. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Bernard Cahier/Getty Images.

To say that Ford v. Ferrari plays fast and loose with the facts is arguably to miss the point. Nevertheless, gearheads, automotive historians, and former business colleagues of Ford Senior Vice President Leo Beebe will find a lot to quibble about in this dramatization of the Ford Motor Company’s historic first win over its Italian rival at France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, which takes its inspiration from A.J. Baime’s nonfiction book Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans.

In one of the many rousing sales pitches that Matt Damon’s race car driver–turned–race car maker Carroll Shelby delivers in the film, he solemnly promises, “We’re going to make history.” And although there’s not much evidence that Shelby actually delivered this pep talk in the 1960s, he certainly said it later when Shelby American and Ford teamed up again in 2008. So, when is Ford v. Ferrari remaking history, when is it at least being true to the spirit of the story, and when is it simply printing the legend? To use another (but sadly not the last) racing metaphor, let’s take a look under the hood.


Tracy Letts and Henry Ford II Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Hugo van Gelderen / Anefo.


Grandson of the founding Ford of Ford Motor, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), who really was nicknamed “Hank the Deuce,” is portrayed as both an imposing captain of industry and a neurotic beneficiary of his family’s largesse in Ford v. Ferrari. One factual aspect of the dynamic as portrayed in the film is that Ford II and his subordinate executives—including Ford’s then–vice president and general manager, Lee Iacocca—did see success on the European racing circuit as a shortcut to the kind of youthful mod glamour that might appeal to a new generation of American car buyers. And Ford’s plan to spare no expense on this project was indeed inspired by Italian car designer Enzo Ferrari’s showy and vulgar rejection of Ford’s acquisition offer and the restricted terms of its Ferrari-Ford racing team proposal. Ford II’s reaction to this slight, as reported in real life, “All right, we’ll beat his ass. We’re going to race him,” was somewhat more decorous than what erupts from the mouth of Ford v. Ferrari’s Ford II upon hearing this news: “We are gonna bury that greasy wop.”

Jon Bernthal and Lee Iacocca Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Bettmann / Contributor.

The movie also streamlines the Ford team to a size more suitable for a feature film. Ford’s first two defeats at Le Mans in 1964 and ’65 were overseen by another persnickety Brit, John “Pappy” Wyer, Shelby’s former boss on Aston Martin’s racing team, but Pappy did get into heated arguments with Ford exec Beebe over the firm’s micromanagement by committee—similar to the ones shown between Shelby and Beebe in the movie.

Josh Lucas and Leo Beebe Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox and Bernard Cahier/Getty Images.

Though the scenes of conflict within the team, pitting sleazy marketing guys against maverick racing savants, have some basis in reality, they are embellished. Shelby never locked Beebe in an office to get a private audience with Ford, according to Frank Comstock, a journalist and former student of Beebe’s. That said, Beebe did object to risks Miles took at the 12 Hours of Sebring race in Florida and later at Le Mans that he felt were unnecessary—although not to the extent that Carroll Shelby ever felt the need to bet his entire business on Miles’ success, “lock, stock, and brand,” or walk onto the shoulder of the track with a sign reading “7,000+ go like hell.”

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This Is What Everyone Forgot About The 1966 Le Mans – Arun Singh Pundir @HotCars


The Matt Damon, Christian Bale 2019 hit, Ford v Ferrari (also titled Le Mans ’66 in some countries), made one thing very clear and memorable. The year 1966 marked an important change in racing history when a hitherto mass-passenger-carmaker managed to produce a racecar that beat the competition and emerged the winner.

The car was the GT40, the main people behind its success were Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca, Leo Beebe, the indubitable Carroll Shelby, and of course, the lanky Brit racer, Ken Miles. Not only did the Ford GT40 win the Le Mans in 1966, but also did a 1-2-3 photo finish, the three cars that came in at number one, two and three, were all Ford GT40s.

24 Hours of Daytona, so this was the ultimate triumph for Ford, and the ultimate salt rub into Ferrari’s wounds.

So sure, the movie did dramatize some stuff, delete some other boring details and overall turn the Ford GT40 and its makers into heroes. A lot of it was true, some of it was fudged. So here’s what the world forgot about the 1966 Le Mans, and all that went down it…

The First Win For US Amidst Ferrari Drama

The 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans came to be the 34th Grand Prix of Endurance and was the seventh round of the 1966 World Sportscar Championship season. This was the first win for an American constructor overall, and the first win for the Ford GT40 as well.

The rules changed for this season with certain kinds of cars being deemed ineligible, so to let a certain amount of competition in, more cars were added into the rules.

The one thing that worked in Ford’s favor was that they copied Ferrari’s strategy of introducing copious amounts of cars in the same race, and this swayed the statistics on the whole. Ferrari on the other hand, had less time of preparation for 1966, because of a worker strike in Italy – although they too had the new Ferrari 330 P3, as well as NART P2 in the contending. That said; Ferrari did not even show up for the test weekend in April.

Another drama that unfolded in the Ferrari camp was the storming out of lead driver John Surtees, Ferrari’s 1964 F1 champion. While he was recovering from a bad 1965 crash, it was decided that he would break the Fords, and in case he needed backup, he would let Ludivico Scarfiotti takes the lead. But FIAT’s new chairman, Gianni Agnelli, who was Scarfiotti’s uncle, put Scarfiotti in the lead. Surtees tried to sway Enzo Ferrari but when he was overruled, he quit the Ferrari team.

Ford Was No Fairer To Ken Miles

Ford’s Leo Beebe was no fan of Ken Miles and Miles was not known for his political correctness. Miles had already won the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona for Shelby American – and he was now aiming for the 24 Hours Of Le Mans as well, something no driver had ever been able to achieve.

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The vilification of Leo Beebe: Ford’s mission to win Le Mans in 1966 – Frank Comstock @Hemmings


Frank Comstock, a friend of the late Leo Beebe.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford

 “Great leaders inspire a sense of mission. Good people with a proper sense of mission will find a way to get the job done.”  Leo Beebe

Fifty years have elapsed since Ford Motor Company’s overwhelming victory at Le Mans in 1966 and the controversy over who did win, or who should have won, the race. Ford and its Director of Special Vehicles, Leo Beebe, were both praised and vilified in the motor sports world and press at the time and, in some ways, nothing has changed. The Internet teems with comments about the way the race ended, while online and print publications have returned to the fray in recent years, undoubtedly looking forward to this 50th anniversary.

 to have a particular driver or pair of drivers win. He was told in simple terms by his old friend Henry Ford II to put a Ford car in the winners’ circle at Le Mans. He also had to do the same at Daytona and Indianapolis, but there is no doubt that Le Mans was the main attraction. Henry Ford wanted to beat Ferrari and Le Mans was the place to do just that.

As one of Ford’s most trusted trouble shooters, Leo was known as a man who could bring order out of chaos. He knew that with each new challenge, he needed to assemble a team of experts and guide them to success. He knew he had to give credit to the team when success was assured and he understood he needed to take responsibility when failure or controversy happened.

The start of the 1966 race.

In the final hours of the 1966 Le Mans race, with only three of Ford’s eight team cars (and none of the five independent Fords) left in the fray, the squad began talking about how the race should end. The Miles/Hulme car was leading as the hours wound down, with the McLaren/Amon car initially a lap back, although they made up that lap when the Miles/Hulme car took a late pit stop. The Bucknum/Hutcherson car was several laps back, running in third place. Ford officials had their eyes on a win for the team, not on a win for any particular pair of drivers. A win for Ford as a team was the primary mission.

The infamous staged finish to the 1966 race.

Opinions went back and forth during team discussions, but the decision ultimately rested with the leader of the team and Leo understood it was his responsibility. In an unpublished interview with noted automotive historian and author Dr. David Lewis, Leo said,“Ken Miles, who later died, regrettably didn’t win the race that year. I had some real difficulties over that. But, he was a daredevil and I pulled him in and literally engineered the end of that race—-one, two, three… I called Ken Miles in and held him back because I was afraid the drivers would knock one another off. All you need is one good accident and you lose all your investment.”

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A Stock Car at La Sarthe – Andrew Miles @DriventoWrite


NASCAR comes to Le Mans

June 1976: The United States of America is about to celebrate its bicentennial. And what better way to mark such an auspicious event than conquering a certain French motor racing circuit with some all-American iron?

Three years before, the oil crisis affected the pockets of Joe Public and racing teams alike. Budgets were slashed, ideas sidelined but racing continued if perhaps not as freely as before. The Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO), fastidious organisers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans were struggling to fill the fifty-five-place grid for the ‘76 event. They turned to Big Bill France, owner of Daytona International Speedway, home to the Stateside version of the twice round the clock endurance[1]. In a spirit of International Exchange, the ACO would allow NASCAR entries from across the pond under the ‘Grand International’ class. 

The Grand National series cars could maintain their hallmarks; namely, a stock body with tubular frame and protective rollcage, body panels in steel, stock suspension components and of course a dirty great big block V8 up front. The only provisos being functional head and taillights, wipers, tow hooks and side view mirrors on both sides. Those low down and darty prototypes might just attempt an overtake on either side. Bill France chose two NASCAR teams – a Winston Cup Ford Torino under the established Junie Dunlavey team alongside a more prosaic entry from one Hershel McGriff. Together, they earned the French nickname, Les Monstres!

McGriff was a privateer but a veteran racer from the late 1940s. Buying an Oldsmobile 88 for under $2,000 he entered and won the inaugural Carrera Panamerica in 1950 propelling him into NASCAR stardom. However, Hershel ran a lumber mill back home in Oregon. Together with a growing family led McGriff to park his racing ideas for over a decade before the racing bug bit back.

Keeping things familial (father and son), once finished at the mill of a Friday evening, Doug would head out to compete in the regional Winston West Cup, the weekend mechanics being lumber mill workers. Their weapon of choice, a Chevrolet Chevelle sporting Olympia Beer sponsorship. The set-up proved successful with victorious campaigns reaping rewards. The Chevelle was replaced by a 1972 Dodge Charger that had been built and prepared by Ray Nichels, linked to future NASCAR royalty Richard Petty.

In the McGriff hands, the Charger won the Oregon State Championship from ‘73-75 whereupon they sold the car, only to hastily retrieve it when the invitation to head to Le Mans came from France. In those far off, innocent days, it was widely considered the Charger’s shape was better aerodynamically for high-speed laps over any other current NASCAR fare.

Fettling the car as per the ACO’s strictures, spares, including engines were crated up[2] in preparation for the trip across the Atlantic. Petty and Nichels had discovered a power advantage by fitting Wedge heads onto (what became known as choaked) Hemi heads. Two spare mills came over – one stock Hemi head, one Wedge topped.

As a means of instilling some interest-class rivalry, teams McGriff and Donlavey were backed up by four IMSA representatives comprising a Chevrolet Monza and Corvette with a brace of 911s – one RS, one RSR. Also consider the Le Mans big guns consisted of a Porsche 936 driven by a victorious Jacky Ickx with Patrick Tambay in an Alpine (DNF). Henri Pescarolo and John-Pierre Beltoise in the Inaltera (18th) with Ford also providing power to both Mirage, piloted by Derek Bell (5th) and a Lola with fellow Englishman Alain de Cadenet, who finished a highly creditable third. Other notable entrants being a Lancia Stratos (20th), five BMW 3.0 CSL’s, the usual flotilla of Porsche 911s and a lone de Tomaso Pantera – sadly, a non-starter – engine fault.

With engine maladies we remain. A standard NASCAR engine was tuned to run on octane over 100. McGriff’s knew the French race ran on standard pump fuel thus the engines (both heads) had visited Seattle-based Precision Engines for a 93-octane tune. The Wedge Hemi had an 11:1 compression ratio – good for 630bhp and 215mph along the Mulsanne straight. The standard Hemi ran at 13:1 with broadly similar outputs.

The problem lay within a measuring anomaly. European and American octane ratings differ; the European style 93 significantly lower than the equivalent Stateside 82, which led to almost instantaneous trouble. During qualifying, such lean running led to burnt pistons after only a single lap – the time of 4:30 meaning a lowly grid start[3].  Short on time in as much engineering tooling, the only workable solutions were to retard the timing, enrich the mixture and even fit a second head gasket to try and reduce compression.

The Americans, though competitive were in holiday mood. Whilst miffed at the problems, the McGriff team thought nothing of filling the Charger with teammates and heading off into town, stretching the car’s legs along the Mulsanne. Fabled tales of a trip to the Tertre Rouge corner café linger long in local minds

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Ford’s secret weapon | The story of Alan Mann Racing | Goodwood Masters


When Ford of America wanted someone to run some cars, it turned to a British racing driver. He promptly turned up, beat the much bigger American Fords with his British Ford Cortinas, and went home. That is the story of how Alan Mann Racing was born, and pretty soon the team became the go-to place for Ford for help developing its racing cars. From the Cortina to the GT40 and F3L, they all went through Alan Mann racing and the driver roster is second to none, with Graham Hill, Jacky Ickx, Jackie Oliver, Jackie Stewart, Jack Sears, Jack Brabham and more all racing for the team. Now back out of a period of dormancy, Alan’s son Henry is keeping the AMR light going

In the latest part of our series of Goodwood Masters presented by Motul, looking at the people and firms behind some of the classic car industry’s greatest machines, we visited the modern Alan Mann Racing to find out about its history and how Henry and his team are keeping the legacy going.

How a Tiny Crosley Hotshot Beat Ferrari and Jaguar To Win the First Sebring Race – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


Briggs Cunningham prepared his stable of entries. Luigi Chinetti and Alfredo Momo looked over the Ferrari they would drive. John Fitch, Jim Kimberly, Fred Wacker, Phil Walters, and Bill Spear, they all circulated through the pits as exhaust notes from Jaguars, Astons, and MGs rapped, roared, and rumbled. The former Hendricks Army Airfield buzzed with activity as American sports car racing’s most well-known names of the time gathered for the first race of what was billed as America’s counterpart to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, each driver and car owner as confident as the rest of their abilities to win the race.

Even the trio gathered around a 1949 Crosley Hotshot way down at the back of the 28-car field, a car that had only been entered in the race a day before and that had an advantage the far more powerful cars ahead of it didn’t: math.

Alec Ulmann had taken part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans many times before World War II and after immigrating to the United States looked for a place to replicate the famed race. Though its surface was bumpy and better suited to the B-17 bombers that flew out of the base during the war, Ulmann decided to focus his efforts on the runways and access roads of what had become Sebring’s municipal airport. His initial effort, slated for December 31, 1950, didn’t have the length of Circuit de la Sarthe (3.5 miles versus 8.4) or the duration (six hours versus 24) but it would have a Le Mans-style running start, the blessing of the SCCA, the aforementioned drivers and owners, and an index of performance.

At many other endurance races before and since, overall winners completed the most laps in the given amount of time. Different classes of cars might take to the track at the same time and have their own separate class winners, but the method of winning still boiled down to the same criteria of distance covered. With the index of performance, which set a target distance to cover based on the vehicle’s engine displacement and which would be the sole deciding factor for the overall winner of the race, Ulmann intended to level the playing field and ensure that smaller cars could compete against larger cars. As Sports Illustrated explained the index a few years later, the index actually favors small cars.

No. 19 in race trim. Photo via Bill Cunningham.

The small cars … can generally exceed their set minimum average by a wider margin than the big ones. Thus, if you are driving a 66 cu. in. machine and have to average 58 mph, it is easier to up this average by 10 mph than with a 330 cu. in. car which must average 70 mph, all pit stops included.

Nobody at the race seemed to realize the full implications of Ulmann’s decision to declare the overall winner based on the index of performance until Tommy Cole laid eyes on a most unusual car. Cole, who had entered a Cadillac-powered Allard J2 in that inaugural Sebring race and who had raced at Le Mans earlier that year, needed tires and called around Florida Cadillac dealerships until somebody at Vic Sharpe’s Cadillac dealership in Tampa answered the phone. Sharpe also held the local Crosley franchise, and his son, Vic Sharpe Jr., volunteered to drive the tires down to Sebring in a Crosley Hotshot on the dealership lot. Almost as soon as Sharpe arrived, according to Ken Breslauer’s account of that first Sebring race, Cole looked over the Hotshot, questioned Sharpe about its cast-iron overhead-camshaft 724-cubic-centimeter four-cylinder, and asked to take it around the track that Ulmann had laid out.

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The 427 FE Sideoiler: Powering Ford To Victory At LeMans And Reissued By Shelby Engines Today – Jonathan Bergman @HotCars.com


The 427 FE Sideoiler: Powering Ford To Victory At LeMans

Unlike other displacements in the FE-series, the 427 version – which was actually a 426, take that Chrysler! – was the only race engine in the lot.

With the “Ford v Ferrari” movie opening in theaters this weekend, it might help to review some of the details which delivered victory for Ford at LeMans in 1966. There’s the GT40 itself, of course, the will of Henry Ford II and his need to crush Ferrari, massive engineering and financial resources of Ford, renegade race car drivers, California hot-rodders, Carroll Shelby, and last but certainly not least the venerable Ford 427 FE Sideoiler engine. The motor that started it all.

The 427 FE Sideoiler: Powering Ford To Victory At LeMans

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Related – Part of Ford’s 1966 Le Mans podium sweep, this GT40 Mk II could set an auction record

Ford built five GT40 roadsters, but only one raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans – Kurt Ernst @Hemmings


After disappointing performances in 1964 and 1965, Ford’s GT40 coupes dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1966-’69. The automaker experimented with GT40 roadsters, too, building five prototypes for endurance racing before abandoning the project. Four of these open-top variants raced at various venues worldwide, but only one, chassis GT/109, ever competed at Le Mans. On January 12, 2019, this 1965 Ford GT roadster will cross the block in Florida, very likely the star attraction at Mecum’s 2019 Kissimmee sale.

Read the rest of Kurt’s article here on Hemmings