LOLA GT – The DNA of the Ford GT40
Lola GT - spawning Ford’s challenger for LeMans, the GT40
LOLA GT – The DNA of the Ford GT40 joins several other books written by John Starkey, who with his passion for all things Lola, has chronicled the development of all the Lola cars thru the years, and most noteworthy the Lola T70.
By Don Taylor
Thu, Jun 16, 2022 07:54 PM PST
All photos are from the publishers, or detail shots from the photos in the books.
"LOLA GT – The DNA of the Ford GT40" focuses on a car that came before the T70, which spawned, pretty darn directly, Ford’s challenger for LeMans, the GT40. Despite this episode being scrubbed from the public story told by Ford at the time. We all knew that the car was based on the Lola GT, but now we know to what extent. Starkey has accessed copies of the internal letters and proposals from the Ford Archives. They describe Ford’s identification of Eric Broadley’s car as what they needed to develop into their own LeMans contender, after being rebuffed in Ford’s attempt to purchase Ferrari, and what happened next.
Ford made a deal with Broadley, brought the funding, provided a new building, and sent several engineers to England to help the process. However, the Ford engineers were seen as these "guys in shiny suit" who had never designed a race car before, but thought they were in charge. Having worked for Ford in Dearborn myself, I had some of those suits, and know exactly where they bought them.
The corporate documents that Starkey has unearthed provide fascinating details of Lola’s connection to the Ford GT40. There’s a letter from Lee Iacocca briefing Henry Ford II on the racecar/roadcar “Ford G. T. project” from December 1963 which names Broadley and Lola, plus copies of test reports, and photos of modified Lola GTs being used to evolve the design. With only three Lola GTs having been built, and two already in hand, Ford wanted to buy back the third one which had already been sold to powerful race team owner John Mecum. The latter had Chevrolet connections which made the Ford guys nervous. There is a letter telling how Mecum in turn tried to use that car as leverage to get the first customer Ford GT40 when it was ready, and near term, for Ford to pressure Colin Chapman to deliver a Lotus 19 he had ordered. Great documentation of that little subplot!
Also fascinating are the first-hand comments about the management of the project, with included clashes between Broadley, John Wyer, and Roy Lunn. Wyer was the wily team manager behind Aston Martin’s win at LeMans in 1959 and who by then was working for Ford in the UK. Roy Lunn was a British engineer working for Ford in the US, and the man who had fathered the Mustang I concept car, who was looking for compromises in the design to make the GT40 suitable for road and track.
Beside the papers from Ford’s files, the other great reference in the book is the collection of photos of one of the Lola GTs undergoing a recent restoration. Those are thanks to former Shelby Cobra team driver Allen Grant, who spotted the first protype, by then discarded and sitting in a corner at Lola in 1965, and who bought it for $3,000. Studying the details one can make their own judgement of how much carried over to the GT40, and later, the T70.
Although many of the photos, and stories, have been published before, this compact book - by bringing forth the revealing Ford documents - pulls the story all together and connects the dots so many years later. I found it to be quite enjoyable reading.
About The Author
Don Taylor formerly ran the NASCAR program for General Motors, worked as a car stylist at the Ford Motor Company, and as a National Tech Director for the NHRA. He currently serves as Director of the Stand 21 Safety Foundation, and for the UK’s Motorsport Industry Association. Taylor also writes articles for the UK’s Racecar Engineering magazine. Don currently lives in Boston, but makes frequent trips to Charlotte and to the West Coast, still owning a home in Pasadena.