The Ford Mark IV was the culmination of Ford’s determination to crush Ferrari on it’s own turf, after Enzo had bailed out of selling his eponymous company to the men from Dearborn at the last minute in 1963.
What started out as an Eric Broadley designed Lola GT powered by a Ford Indy spec V8 in 1963 had been developed into the Ford GT40 with input from Ford’s designers led by Roy Lunn. The GT40 was the subject of two humiliating failures at Le Mans in ’64 and ’65 but then blossomed into the Shelby developed 7 litre / 427 cui Ford GT40 Mark II that swept to a 1,2,3 victory at Le Mans in 1966.
Unable to convince Ford that they needed to build the GT40 with an aluminium frame to save weight Eric Broadley left the GT40 project in 1965 and returned to Lola while Ford and Shelby got to grips with producing a steel framed car that was both powerful enough and strong enough to last 24 hours at a race winning pace.
Ford soon realised that Eric was right about the extra weight carried by the steel framed cars and before the steel framed GT40 Mk II’s romped to victory, in ’66, they set about building an aluminium framed version of the GT40 with the same drive train and suspension components known as the J-Car featuring an innovative aluminium honeycomb monocoque manufactured by Brunswick Aerospace.
The J-Car was subject to much experimentation with body shapes and even crash testing after Ken Miles had been killed in a freak accident testing a J-Car. By 1967 Ford had four of the new Mark IV’s ready for the Le Mans 24 hours powered by 7 litre / 427 cui motors.
According to Dan Gurney the Mark IV’s were fitted with suspension shims to ensure they passed the scrutineers / tech inspectors minimum ride height test held in the middle of town, these shims then “fell off” on the way back to the race track to ensure the Fords had some aerodynamic stability when they hit 200 plus mph on the 4 mile Mulsanne straight.
Dan Gurney set the winning car up then he and Le Mans rookie AJ Foyt then set about winning the race, during the middle of the night Dan over slept forcing AJ to do a double stint behind the wheel but other than that their car had no problems on it’s way to a four lap victory over the Ferrari P4 of Ludovico Scarfiotti and Mike Parkes. The sister Shelby run Goodyear shod car of Bruce McLaren and Mark Donohue came forth behind another Ferrari P4 after loosing time with a tale piece that was ripped off.
On the podium Dan Gurney started a tradition of shaking up the winners bottle and spraying champagne all over the gathered revelers which has been repeated by race winners around the world countless times since. The day after the race the Mark IV’s were effectively banned from racing in 1968 and Ford withdrew from any further factory participation on the spot.
Ferrari ended up winning the World Sports Car Championship in 1967 but it hardly mattered since everyone remembers who won the signature event of the series the Le Mans 24 hour race.
The car driven by Gurney was different from the three other Mark IV’s in the race because to accommodate Dan’s 6’3″ frame a blister was built into the roof and the seat was lowered. After the race all four Mark IV’s, the two Firestone shod cars run by Holman Moody had crashed out, returned to the States were overhauled and all four painted to look like the winner complete with a blister in the roof.
The winning car chassis #J5 has been kept at the Ford Museum however I am led to believe this is the same car that appeared at Goodwood last year, but I maintain an open mind since Ford sold chassis #J6 to New York collector James Glickenhaus believing they had sold him the 1967 winning car until closer inspection revealed otherwise.
Thanks for joining me on this “Shimmying Past Scrutineers” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !
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