Modified Mustangs & Fords
Factory Ford GT40 - Movie Magic
A former racer turned film prop is returned to its former glory
The star and producers judged that another dedicated camera car was needed, something fast of course, yet since it would not appear in the film, it needn’t be a current class legal race car. A Ford GT40 would certainly fill the bill, and somehow (likely through Mirage team manager John Wyer), Solar came in contact with Brown. Solar arranged to lease the car for use during production, and engaged Wyer to fettle it in France during that summer of 1970. It turned out to be one of at least three cars called into camera duty for the making of Le Mans, another being one of the Gulf–liveried Porsche 917s used on set.
No. 1074 required no performance modifications to keep up with the rest of the crowd, but needed major plastic surgery in order to accommodate the large, semi-robotic cameras. Most of the roof section was removed, which left a short, squat windscreen, and the rear deck area was modified to hold a rotating camera. Those who drove it, primarily racer Jonathan Williams, labeled it as aerodynamically unstable, but that didn’t matter as long as the car was fast enough to keep up with a 917 or 512 for a short burst of film. The doors were also cut down to match the now topless modified bodywork. They apparently didn’t latch too solidly, as several archival movie stills from the Le Mans set show 1074’s doors taped shut.
No matter, the roadsterized Ford delivered the goods, and successfully helped capture the authentic wheel-to-wheel racing action that features so prominently in “Le Mans.” The car also cruised up and down the pits prior to the start of the actual 1970 race, capturing the cars being readied for the race, and the pit action and crowd scenes.
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Post “Le Mans,” 1074 returned to Mr. Brown’s possession in Florida. He kept it only few years, then selling it on to Harley E. Cluxton, III, himself a notably capable racer, and ultimately race car builder, team owner, and entrant. Mr. Cluxton’s influence has touched many Ford GT40s over time, and he continued to further the Mirage legacy. Mr. Cluxton’s GTC Grand Touring Cars, Inc., (www.gtc-mirage.com) in Scottsdale, Arizona, buys sells, restores, services, and supports a wide variety of classic car and vintage racing activities, most particularly these special Fords. Mr. Cluxton also previously owned GT40 1075, sister car to this one, and the much hallowed back-to-back ’68/’69 Le Mans winner. In fact, the two were often housed next to each other in the GTC shop and showrooms.
In 1974, Mr. Cluxton elected to move the car on, selling it to noted British collector Sir Anthony Bamford. In spite of 1074’s unique appearance and iconic movie status, Mr. Bamford rightly felt the car deserved to live in its original racing livery, and it was consequently restored to its original GT40 body configuration with replacement bodywork provided by Abbey Panels, Ltd. Original GT40 doors were sourced, and replaced the irreparably “cut down” units used to facilitate filming. There were subsequent sales, although it was later purchased by its most recent owner, (who had it fully restored again in 2002) who recently consigned it to RM Auctions, for sale. The car has seen modest vintage racing activity over the years, but still appears fresh and proper with only the mildest of patina from its use at many display appearances and a few runs “up the hill” at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. No. 1074 has spent much of the last several decades in Cluxton’s care at GTC in Arizona.
The car as presented here was sold at RM Auctions’ Monterey, California, sale on August 18, 2012, wearing its “standard” GT40 bodywork, although the lightweight and historic Mirage panels are crated for transport and included in the sale of the car, plus an assortment of extra wheels. The price was a seemingly staggering $11,00,000, a world record for a GT40 or Mirage, but perhaps somewhat of a bargain given 1074’s history, provenance, and in light of Ferrari 250GTOs now bringing more than three times that amount.