Prototype Ford GT40, second oldest in existence, gets its date with the auction block

·Automotive Contributor
Prototype Ford GT40, second oldest in existence, gets its date with the auction block

Some automotive auction companies — they know who they are — stage events in hushed and polished settings that befit the transfer of four-wheeled Van Goghs and Monets. Those companies are not Mecum and Barrett-Jackson, whose raucous multi-car extravaganzas are made-for-TV affairs featuring booming voices, fun-loving crowds and bidders as apt to sport Hawaiian shirts and sneakers as they are Polos and loafers. But amid the hundreds of often unremarkable used cars that roll under their gavels, there are often gems.

Several vehicles slated for Mecum’s upcoming 1,000-car auction in Houston (April 10-12 at The Reliant Center; webcast at and partly televised on NBC Sports, check listings) are just such jewels. Shimmering in deep blue and white livery, the 1964 Ford GT40 up for bid is the fourth prototype created by the factory as it ramped up to challenge Ferrari in one of the most legendary marque duels of mid-’60s endurance racing.

“The GT40 represents one of the biggest American success stories of grit and know-how, and this particular car is the second oldest in existence and was driven by a lot of the top guys,” says John Kraman, Mecum’s consignment director, referencing legendary drivers such as Phil Hill, Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther.

“Right now, GT40s are red hot, just like (early air-cooled Porsches),” says Kraman, who estimates that this car, GT/104, could fetch $8 to $10 million. “The current owners felt it was time to take it out (to auction) and see if it could have its heyday.”

The car’s well-sorted appearance comes courtesy of a 2010 restoration at the hands of British GT40 specialist Paul Lanzante, who took the Ford back to 1965, when it was being readied for a run in the 2,000-km Daytona Continental race. Although GT40 creator Carroll Shelby was particularly keen to see how his four Cobras would fare on the track that day, he knew a good showing by the sleek, shark-like GT car was crucial to ensuring its further development.

The late, great Texan need not have worried: Cobras and GT40s outmuscled their Ferrari counterparts and took the top five positions on the day, with GT/104 taking third with Bondurant/Ginther at the wheel.

“This car was on stage during the golden age of motor racing,” says Kraman. “It’s the top car of our entire auction.”