Full feature :: ROCK STAR GT40_
hand formed. raw aluminium. street fighter_
Originally posted on www.SpeedNation.com.au.
Cars and Coffee is currently Australia’s East coast premiere car meet. Literally hundreds of the most amazingly, head turningly desirable cars all in one place at the same time. Ranging from the latest super cars on offer by dealerships to super rare vehicles you thought you’d never ever see in real life. Not surprisingly, the event always attract a massive crowd, so massive in fact that the events had to be shut down until a larger venue could be found.
To stand out in a crowd of this caliber is a tough gig, one car however caught my attention straight away. Parked across the road from the main concourse was one of my all time favorite machines, except this was unlike any I’d seen before. It was super raw. Literally. Wrapped in raw aluminum and race decals. The perfect hardened cafe racer / street fighter look.
It was a complete Rock Star of a car! It had a massive crowd around it. I don’t often get ‘fan boy’ for many cars these days, but I’ll admit it, this thing made me feel like a school girl at a boy band concert. I had to organise a back stage meet up and get some alone time with this incredible machine.
I needed to tee something up with this Rocker ASAP. The crowd was massive, and James the owner/builder looked like he was quite happy mid conversation. “I’ll come back” I told myself as I did a lap on foot of the concourse area. Sadly, the next time I saw the GT40 it was driving off into the distance.
Months passed before I had an opportunity to get out to another Cars and Coffee event (A new born baby takes a lot of time, and early starts are near impossible). Eventually though, with fingers crossed that I’d find the Street Fighter GT40 again, I jumped in the Evo at first light and trekked north. Arriving at the scene, I drove around the bend and BOOM, there she was! In almost the exact same spot as the previous meet. James and his GT40 had another steady stream of fans and admirers. James was leaning against a tree on hand to answer the thousand questions from the crowd. I waded my way through the crowd to the front of the mosh pit and finally, a private show was set.
To fully appreciate the build, it’s important to know the heritage of the original GT40.
I bet you didn’t know that Henry Ford II nearly bought Ferrari in 1963? The transaction looked like a sure thing, right up until it was time sign the final contract. Enzo Ferrari refused to sign over a few reportedly small details. To no surprise this really pissed off Henry Ford II.
So what was Ford’s response to not being able to buy a motorsport team? He decided to make one himself, and make it better. Ford demanded his R&D team build a Ferrari killer. Where would one choose to to battle with Ferrari? On their doorstep of course. The Le Man’s 24 Hour! Which at the time was without question the most prestigious motorsport event in Europe. It was also an event that Ferrari were tied to very closely. Ferrari had won the last four years in a row. Was Henry ‘the Deuce’ Ford insane?
It was a monumental task. Building something that can not only survive the grueling 24 hours of competition, but to also build something to utterly humiate the odds-on favorite. Is something like this even possible? Sure, why not…
Image courtesy Hemmings.com
The first couple of years were a harsh lesson. Not one Ford finished the race in ’64 or ’65. At this point failure was unacceptable. Up until this point in time, the main advancements in motorsport technology revolved around more horsepower. This was about to change though. The racing program was given almost unlimited resources and had some of the world’s sharpest engineers on the payroll, including one Carroll Shelby.
1966. The Ford GT40 program returns to Le Man’s and does the unimaginable. After two years of embarrassing years of DNF’s Ford dominated the podium with a clean sweep. Taking out 1st, 2nd, 3rd! They also went on to win ’67, ’68 and ’69! Mission accomplished.
Along with taking home all of the silverware, the car was also responsible for ushering in a whole era of innovation and speeding up racing advancements as the competition struggled to stay competitive. Thanks Ford!
Knowing all this, you can see why Jim’s raw interpretation is just so perfect. Nearly 50 years later and the GT40 is still out looking for brawls and kicking arse.
This particular build isn’t just limited to sharp looks, and it’s certainly no garage queen. She certainly see’s plenty of road, and even hits the race track on a regular basis.
In our age of mass produced, near instant perfection, it takes a lot to stand above the crowd. It takes a different approach. Jim’s hand crafted reproduction 1966 Mk1 GT40 has exactly what’s needed to be a star. Lovingly hand built from a frame, a steering rack and two rear uprights over a long 8 years in a tiny shed. When I say hand built, I don’t mean parts slapped together. I mean Hand Created. Crafted even.
Jim could have bought the fruits of someone else’s labour in the form of a kit car, of which there are several that produce out GT40 replicas, but like Ford he ultimately built it himself. And, to look at it, a case could be made that he also did it better. One of the things that separates a classic from a modern car is its character, and this car has it in spades.
From the smallest details like the laser etched interior labels through to the self cast rims, and all the way to the entire paneling on the car. Yep. The entire shell of the car was cut, beaten and formed out of aluminum sheets by Jim and a couple of mates.
A fairly ambitious project. But one that’s paid off. The attention to detail is apparent from as far away as across the street to right up close. Jim likes to call it the ‘Signature edition’. The aluminium body was something that Jim had thought about doing for a while, just for the hell of it. After a moderate sized mishap that saw half of the original fibreglass shell destroyed it was taken as a call to action. Sheet happens.
The GT40 was retired back to the shed for some time. The fibre glass shell was used as a reference and the painstaking process of building the body was underway. This was the first time that Jim or anyone else in his crew had attempted something like this. Naturally they learnt a lot along the way, and would probably do a few things differently on any subsequent builds. There are a couple of rough areas when you get your nose up close, but frankly that’s part of what makes this car so appealing. Overall, the build quality is phenomenal.
You’d never believe it was built by 4 guys with little experience with sheet metal in a small workshop. The raw and rough details that you’d never see from a factory build are what set this car apart. After all, they’re a true byproduct of overall intention of this build..
Staying true to the heritage and bully nature of the car see’s very little in the way of modern convenience installed. Non era-accurate equipment is limited to an almost unnoticeable reversing camera. The amount of effort to create an authentic experience is crazy. If parts couldn’t be found that reflected the time period replacements were hand made, or for some of the more intricate and complicated parts, designed up and sent away to be manufactured.
Inside and out, it’s an automotive time capsule. Well, it feels like one. Sitting behind the wheel and staring at the switch gear those dials, you start to feel naked without a pair of open backed tan leather driving gloves and goggles. While the gauges are modern VDO units, they’ve been modified to the original and period correct faces.
Lifting the bonnet, you’re presented with an old-world view of industrial-looking pop rivets and those 8 glorious intake trumpets, with nary a plastic cover in sight. Funnily enough, when we asked what stereo was in the car Jim just pointed out that the octet sitting atop the engine was all the audio system he needed. A deep, throaty burble down low and more of an angry roar up in the top half of the revs create a very memorable sound track indeed.
The engine itself is a modern Ford Modular V8, displacing 4.6L. Aside from the individual throttle bodies the engine is mostly standard, but benefiting from a dry sump. Many of the ancillaries, such as the extractors and radiator, were hand made. The pipework is outstanding and as amazing as the whole system looks great, sounds amazing and most importantly, goes hard.
The engine connects to a 6 speed Getrag transaxle featuring a torsen differential, with the adaptor also designed from scratch by Jim.
The car sits on made to order Bilstein dampers, working in concert with custom springs. The rest of the suspension is of course hand made.
In true race car style the 15” wheels are centre locked. The centres themselves are custom. As you may have already guessed, they too were created by Jim who owns the casting dies. The barrels were made to order.
Wrapped around them are Avon tyres, measuring a reasonable 225/60 R15 on the front and the faintly ridiculous 295/50 R15 on the rear. That rear tyre is so wide it practically looks like a cube.
It was certainly a tough build, especially since so much of the build was a first attempt for Jim and the boys. Nothing great comes easy, and this is proof. The GT40 has won numerous awards at different car shows and motorsport events. It attracts a massive crowd where ever it goes. Jim’s currently planning his next complete ground up build. A Ferrari 206SP. We’ll be looking forward to seeing it come together!
Jim would like to thank Rick and Albert for their help throughout the build. He’d also like to thank their wives for motivating the boys to hide in the shed with him!
4600CC COBRA MUSTANG (MODULAR ENGINE).
8 X 50mm CUSTOM THROTTLE BODIES. FACTORY INLET.
2 ROW CUSTOM RADIATOR JC.
HANDMADE EXTRACTORS JC
SS HOT DOGS
VT COIL PACKS ,CUSTOM LEADS
approx 260 RW HP
GETRAG 6 SPEED TRANSAXLE.
3.8:1 TORSEN BIASING.
ALL HANDMADE FRONT SUSPENSION, H/MADE REAR ARMS AND LINKS, CAST ALLOY REAR UPRIGHTS.
CUSTOM ORDER BILSTIEN SHOCKS.
FORD ESCORT R&P.
FRONT GM VE COMMODORE.
REAR VT MONARO.
Wheels and Tyres:
3 PIECE WHEELS , RIMS METAL SPUN TO ORDER, CUSTOM CENTRES CAST IN 601T6.
FRONT: AVON 225/60/15. ON 15X 7.5″ CUSTOM SPUN RIMS.
REAR: AVON 295/50/15 ON 15 X 9.5″ CUSTOM SPUN RIMS.
MINAMALIST, RUBBER MATS, SUEDE LOOK CANVAS BACKED CLOTH.
NICKEL PLATED EYELETS PERIOD LOOK.
PERIOD LOOK ON THE DASH, SWITCHES AND GAUGE PLACEMENT.
ALLOY DOOR POCKETS AND PANELS.
VDO REFACED TO ORIGINAL SMITHS, SHIFTER CUSTOM JC
8 THROTTLE BODIES AMPLIFIED THROUGH 4600CC.
Trophies and Achievements:
ALL FORD DAY: BEST SPORTS CAR.
ALL AMERICAN DAY: 1ST PRIZE SPECIAL INTEREST.
NULON NATIONALS: YOU CANT TOUCH THAT TROPHY.
NULON NATIONALS: THE GREAT ESCAPE.