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Ford GT 40 America’s First and Last World Sports Car Champion at the Simeone Automotive Museum

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Ford GT

SEE ALSO: Reinterpreting a Living Legend: Ford Unveils the New GT40 Concept Car

Ford Racing Legends
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Ford Motor Company entered world endurance racing in 1963 with the express intention of winning Le Mans. Three years later they accomplished that mission, coming in first, second and third. They also succeeded in winning the World Sports Car Championship from 1966 to 1969.

On a somewhat moderate temperature recent January Saturday, after the mind-chilling polar vortex visited us, Shelby American Automobile Club Historian Greg Kolasa warmly captivated a rather large gathering of enthusiast and provided an in-depth discussion about the ground-breaking GT40s and the story of how they came about.

This was the Simeone Automotive Museum’s first 2014 event in its new Racing Legends Day series. Both of the Simeone Museums GT 40s, a Mk II and Mk IV were on display. This Racing Legends Day is part of a significantly expanded schedule of events at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in 2014.

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Greg Kolasa is an acknowledged expert on the Ford GT40 as well as Shelby American cars. Greg is a historian, registrar and author of the “The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide:1965 to 1970.”

Although competing in motorsports events had been around Ford in its early years, the real interest in performance and completion was stimulated by the large influx of GIs returning from WWII around 1945 who had witnessed some of what was going on in Europe. Ford’s first efforts were with Lincolns in the mid 1950s. Following the 1957 AMA ban on direct support of racing by the Detroit car companies, a ban that was never really followed since underground support continued, Ford decided it wanted to win at LeMans.

With virtually no expertise in motorsports, Ford at first worked on a deal to buy Ferrari. That fell apart. So Ford went to the UK and ended up cutting a deal with Lola Cars and Eric Broadley. Ford hired the ex-Aston Martin team manager John Wyer. And, Ford Motor Co. engineer Roy Lunn was sent to England. After much trial and tribulation with this team the whole program was turned over to Carroll Shelby in 1964.

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It was Shelby’s team and Ford that finally won in 1966 with a GT40 Mk II similar to the one in the Simeone’s exhibit. However, the chassis of this car had more English origins than American, although the engine was pure Yankee V-8. It wasn’t until 1967 when Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt won in a Detroit-built Ford Mk IV, exactly like the one in the collection, that America truly conquered Le Mans.

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The Simeone Musuem has had enormous success with their monthly Demonstration Days events. Because of this, the Simeone Museum will be expanding the event schedule for 2014. With this first event in January, the museum will also have a "Racing Legends" series on the second Saturday of each month at Noon.

These events will be more technical in nature than the Demo Days, which take place on the fourth Saturday of the month, and will feature a lecture on the designated topic for that day. Cars from the collection, and from other collections, will be used to illustrate the presentation. Afterward, one or more of the cars will be demonstrated, weather permitting.

The Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia is one of the greatest collections of racing sports cars in the world. Assembled over a span of 50 years by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Frederick Simeone, the Museum contains over 60 of the rarest racing cars ever built.

The Simeone Museum now has a mobile phone app that features over four hours of audio about the cars and exhibits in the collection. Dr. Fred Simeone narrates the tour, which includes fascinating details about the history and the significance of each car.

The Simeone Museum mobile app includes 86 stops on the tour, each accompanied by a photo of the car or venue, and a brief text description. The audio length varies for each stop, but averages several minutes.

The mobile app is free and is available for either Andriod phones (Google Store) or iPhones (Apple Store). To find the app, just search for "Simeone Museum."

The Simeone Automotive Museum was selected as the Museum of the Year by the International Historic Motoring Awards.

Start planning your road trip to Philadelphia and take a look at:

Larry Nutson