1966 Ford GT40 Le Mans Race Car Restoration

This 1966 Ford GT40 (Chassis number 1032) Le Mans race car is the subject of a nut and bolt restoration on racing.ford.com. It’s epic 4 1/2 year project was a 100% volunteer effort by current and former Ford engineers to be completed in time for the 2013 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40’s racing program celebration. The car had been sitting on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum unused since Ford had donated it in 1968, where it remained until 2006 when the group started the preservation style restoration project. To us, this is the automotive equivalent of a tragic war crime. How has a car of such epic proportions been left to rot as a static exhibit without exercise for so long? Do athletes after the Olympics just plop down on a couch, never to work out again? We were horrified, until we found out the rest of the story that justice had been restored, for the moment…


Mose Nowland, the former Ford Racing engineer who had originally built it’s 427 side-oiler dry-sump engine, rebuilt this GT40’s motor using his original build notes from 1966, no less. Although this number 4 car had never actually reached the finish line of the 1966 race that year, the other Ford GT40 entrants went on to win the race, sweeping 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes.


It can be said that this particular car was a direct contributor to Ford’s future Le Mans wins because when it’s race engine was returned to the U.S. in 1966, it was used for analyzing of it’s dimensional data history to see how the parts endured in the 24-hour race,  better preparing them for their 1967, 1968 and 1969 victories. It was an absolutely heroic feat to have accomplished this for 4 years in a row, and a true testimony to the Ford GT40 racing program’s strong team effort, a triumph worthy of celebration for their 50th anniversary.



Since the original engine had been separated from 1032’s chassis many years prior, the engine used in the museum display car was a look-alike replacement. After the race, the car had been painted to replicate one of the winning cars and then it was sent on the tour car circuit until it was finally sent to it’s final resting place at the Indianapolis Speedway Museum in 1968.



Since so many of the parts had deteriorated over time or were not present at all because it was not the original race engine, some new parts had to be fabricated, including a new dry sump system. The whole project was completed pro-gratis by the Ford engineer volunteers, with only the parts costs covered by the museum. Every single part, rivet, screw, nut and washer was removed, photographed and documented before they were placed in Ziploc bags so that they would know where all the parts went back upon re assembly. It’s uni body chassis was taken to the Ford GT assembly plant in Norwalk, Ohio where it was dipped, acid etched, washed, painted, primered and coated among the assembly line of the new generation GT 40’s.


We would love to see pictures of this historic race car on the assembly line with the new generation Ford GT, as it must have made for a perfect photo opp. Maybe one of our viewers knows of one that they can share in the “Comments” section below?


Next, all of the components from the car were either cleaned, re plated, repainted or rebuilt as needed, and then it was painted back to it’s original 1966 livery and taken to the 2011 St. John’s Concours d’Elegance of America car show in Plymouth, MI. There, it was honored with two awards: the Lion Award, and the “Most Significant Ford” award . Immediately after the show, they loaded the race car back onto the trailer and gave it back to the Indianapolis Speedway Museum, where it resides on display today.



This Le Mans GT40 racer is only one of three cars known to still exist. It is an awesome accomplishment to have been taken apart and restored by some of the same men who built it back in 1966.  An epic tale of a true historic racing gem that is now ready to be returned to battle, if that opportunity arises once again. We hope that it gets exercised this time around instead of left to wither away as it had…



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