Matt Stone
April 10, 2013
Photos By: Courtesy Of RM Auctions

Every factory Ford GT40 and Mirage is something special, yet some are more so than others. The dazzling example featured on these pages, chassis GT40P/1074, earns bonus points for at least three reasons. One is that it is the first car to win a major race wearing the now iconic “Gulf orange and blue” racing livery. Another is that it is a member of the trio of GT40s run by legendary team owner, race entrant, and team manager John Wyer. Those GT40s are chassis 1074, 1075, and 1076—the middle among them famous for becoming the first singular car to win Le Mans back to back in 1968 (with Lucien Bianchi and Pedro Rodriguez aboard) and in 1969 (with Jacky Ickx and the often under credited Jackie Oliver sharing the wheel). The amazing Ickx survived to take the flag after a breathtaking last lap duel with Hans Herrmann in a Porsche, vying for that marque’s first overall Le Mans victory, which inevitably came a year later.

And if all this isn’t enough to make a car a star, add to that a stint under the stewardship of Steve McQueen. Post an impressive racing career, 1074 was sold out of the JWA’s team stable and leased to McQueen’s Solar Productions Company for use as a high-speed camera car for the filming of his magnum opus motorsports epic, “Le Mans.” More on that in a bit.

Although it is dubbed a ’68, 1074 was actually constructed during 1967, and first raced that year as well; born as a Mirage M1, wearing lightweight post-GT40 Mirage bodywork. No. 1074 wasn’t constructed as, nor ever raced as, a big-block 427-powered car. The current engine is a 289ci Ford “Fairlane” small-block V-8 wearing Dan Gurney Eagle heads, and spinning out 440 horsepower at 6,800 rpm. The mighty motor wears a phalanx of 48 IDA Weber carbs, and the package is backed by a ZF 5DS25/1 five-speed transaxle, somewhat similar to the box used in a DeTomaso Pantera or a Maserati Bora.

In period, the car was constructed to meet the new 5.0-liter formula, and thus depending upon the series and race it was running in on any given day, would have likely been powered by a similarly spec’d 302, or possibly Ford’s new 351 cubic inch Windsor V-8. The suspension is de rigueur GT40: Unequal length control arms up front, and trailing arms and unequal length control arms out back, with Koni adjustable shocks and Girling disc brakes all round. It all rides aboard a 95-inch wheelbase. Rectangular Lucas driving lamps are aerodynamically encased in Perspex, while small dive planes just ahead of the front wheels help keep the front end pinned down on long, high-speed straights.

The cabin is standard issue GT40, with the driver on the right side, and a long flat instrument panel. The tach is visible dead ahead through the undrilled, aluminum-spoked steering wheel, with ancillary gauges and rocker switchgear stretching out to the left. The seats are spare, black vinyl-trimmed buckets, peppered with small metal ventilating dots. The ZF shifter is placed just to the right of the driver seat so shifting is accomplished with the righthand, more comfortable for the wide variety of drivers that piloted GT40s and Mirages. Small eyeball-socket-style vents, assuredly sourced from some compact European Ford of the period, likely did little to cool the cabin during long hot races, but provided a smidge of much needed fresh air. The wide sills and rollcage somewhat hamper ingress and egress, but fortunately, the doors are cut well into the roof and open wide to aid quicker driver swaps.

No. 1074’s racing career wasn’t world beating, but it was significant; impressive, even, as Porsche’s dominance in big game sports car racing was already asserting itself, and the GT40’s days were becoming numbered. The 1074’s debut victory came at Spa in 1967 at the hands of Dr. Dick “the racing dentist” Thompson and the magical Ickx. Besides Ickx and Thompson, 1074 always squired top pilots: David Hobbs, Mike Hailwood, Paul Hawkins and Brian Redman among them.

No. 1074 DNF’d at Daytona in 1968, but ran 28th at that year’s Sebring 12-hour event. Hawkins and Hobbs drove it to an overall win at the Monza 1,000 km in April, and Hobbs and Redman finished 6th at the Nurburgring. Unfortunately, it DNF’d to its sister winning car (1075) at Le Mans. It ran a few more races in Europe in 1969 with no particularly notable result. By this time, the fearsome Ford had pretty much run its course. It was becoming a bit dated and was no longer a front line competitor, so many of the cars were retired. In 1970, one David Brown (not to be confused with the David Brown of Aston Martin ownership and fame) purchased 1074 and 1076. He then leased the former to Steve McQueen’s Solar Productions Company for use as a high-speed camera car for the filming of “Le Mans.”

McQueen, ever insistent on absolute realism in his films, had already deemed that one of goals for “Le Mans” was that the racing action sequences feature numerous authentic race cars, including many of the Porsche 917s, Ferrari 512s, Lolas, and Mantras that competed in the 1970 race, and be filmed at full speed or as near to it as possible. Naturally, and old French lorry truck or rental car, racked and filled with large movie cameras, stood no hope of keeping up with the fast film fleet. Thus McQueen’s own 908 Spyder (in which he and Peter Revson finished second overall at Sebring in 1970) was suitably modified and pressed into camera car duty.

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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.