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Car and Driver: The Taking of Le Mans One-Two-Three: Shelby’s 50th Anniversary GT40


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Shelby 50th Anniversary GT40 Mark II


Conveniently, Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale hootenanny and the 24 Hours of Daytona—er, Rolex 24 at Daytona—fell on the same weekend. What’s more, Ford’s new GT made its transmission-lunching competition debut at the race, the 50th anniversary of the 1966 inaugural running. An event which, not-so-oddly enough, was won by a GT40 Mark II driven by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby. Later that year, the GT40 scored a memorable 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans, beginning an era of Ford dominance of the race that continued until Porsche ironed the kinks out of the 917 in 1970. The folks at Shelby American decided to celebrate with 50-car run of their continuation GT40s, unveiling the car at the storied Arizona auction.


Shelby 50th Anniversary GT40 Mark II


Shelby was heavily involved in the original Mark II’s development. While the 289-powered Mark I cars were initially worked up under the direction of John Wyer from a design by Lola’s Eric Broadley (and would later see success with Wyer’s team at Le Mans in 1968 and 1969), the program got off to a shaky start. Meanwhile, Carroll Shelby’s homegrown Cobra Daytona Coupe program had fared well, and the Texas chicken farmer got the nod to see what he could do with the British-American hybrid racecars.


Shelby 50th Anniversary GT40 Mark II


After a rough season with the Mark Is in 1965, the 427-powered Mark II was sent into battle with memorable results. Shelby American had reworked the cars to handle the heavier FE engine and cope with its prodigious power output. The result was the gut-punch Henry Ford II had been longing to give Enzo Ferrari since Il Commendatore rebuffed FoMoCo’s offer to buy the Prancing Horse in 1963. Two Shelby American teams, Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon and Ken Miles/Denny Hulme, finished first and second, respectively, with the third spot on the podium taken by Holman-Moody’s Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson.


While the Mark II was a one-year victor — 1967’s race was contested by the Michigan-developed Mark IV, and new rules ultimately mandated the return of the small-block Mark I for the GT40’s last two triumphs at the Circuit del la Sarthe — it was the first to win Le Mans. And given Carroll Shelby’s hand in its competition career, these Superformance-built machines are a fitting tribute to an endurance-racing landmark.


Shelby claims that more than two thirds of the parts are interchangeable with an original GT40, and that the 163-inch length and 40-inch height are true to the original. The run of 50 anniversary cars will be available in left-hand drive or the historically correct right-hand drive, with a choice of three color combinations: black and silver, blue and white, or red and white. One major difference between you and Dan Gurney? Gurney didn’t have air conditioning in 1966. You will. The price of the rolling chassis—$169,995—would buy you a decently equipped 911 Turbo, and you’ll still need to shell out for a nicely built 427. After all, you’re not gonna buy a Mark II, yank a 390 out of a tired Country Sedan, and run it like that, are you? Because if you are, we’ll totally buy you a pizza. If you’re Dan Gurney and you do this, we’ll buy you four pizzas. Heck, Dan, just give us a call. We’ll have three pizzas sent right over. It’s an election year, after all.


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