It could be argued that the original Ford GT40 program acts as the datum for everything enthusiasts currently recognize as Ford Performance.
What the company and its talented cadre of engineers and partners achieved in the back half of the 1960s was not only unprecedented at the time, it continues to entertain and educate enthusiasts 50 years after the fact.
Already, within the Ford Motor Company Archives there is a literal treasure trove of documentation, design drawings, correspondence, and artifacts related to the genesis and development of the GT40 and its influence on subsequent performance programs. But due to the global nature of the original program, there are still gaps in the story that are only just beginning to be filled in.
Don Eichstaedt, is a retired engineer, who, before moving to work at Ford, was part of the team at Kar Kraft where he oversaw the build of the 1967-spec Mark IVs–including the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning car piloted by the legends Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt.
Eichstaedt contacted Mose Noland, another former engineer, regarding Ford GT40 documentation he had in his possession which he wanted to donate to the FoMoCo Archives. Noland proceeded to connect Eichstaedt with Ted Ryan, Ford’s acclaimed Archivist who says the documents have proved critical to filling gaps in the timeline. “The version of the parts list that Don donated was the first I had seen and will be a tremendous addition to our collection.”
Included was a Testing and Development Booklet from the GT and Sports Car Project for the Advanced Vehicles Division. The booklet gives first-person accounts and documents from each of the early trial runs of the GT, which, at that point in 1964 was still an unruly vehicle rife with fundamental handling issues, especially as it approached Vmax.
Ryan chose to highlight two test events, the initial trial of the car at the M.I.R.A Proving Grounds in England on April 8th, 1964, and the car’s first run at Le Mans just 10 days later. The documents make it clear the cars still needed considerable work before they could be considered race-worthy, let alone capable of winning the most prestigious endurance race in the world.
Also included in the haul is an Illustrated Parts List from John Wyre. After Ford Motor Company closed the Advanced Vehicles Division following the conclusion of the 1967 racing season, John Wyre, who had been working on the program, opened J.W Automotive Engineering Limited and was contracted to build the street version of the Forrd GT40. People sometimes forget that the road-going versions are almost as rare as their race-bred kin.
Ford’s archives include 16,000-cubic-feet of paper material, more than 1,000,000 photos, and countless films, and videos stored in an environmentally controlled space.
– by Michael Accardi