The story of the Ford GT40 is the stuff of legend. The true, non-mythical kind. An icon both on and off the track, the car’s dominance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans—where it won four consecutive races from 1966–69 after Henry Ford II declared war on Ferrari—continues to resonate today at concours and at auction, where sales have soared as high as $11 million.
So what might a prototype be worth? We’re about to find out. On January 12, a 1965 Ford GT competition prototype with some Le Mans history of its own will cross the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction. You’ll have to call for an official estimate, but the average value of a GT prototype in #2 (Excellent) condition is $7M—and this one, GT/109, is the only roadster to race at Le Mans.
“The roadsters are certainly rare and are among the earliest GT40s built,” says Hagerty auction editor Andrew Newton. But he warns, “That doesn’t necessarily make them more valuable; they didn’t have any major competition successes. And provenance is often the deciding factor when it comes to race car values.”
Prior to the GT40’s historic 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in 1966, Ford of England built 12 prototypes between January 1964 and April 1965, five of which were roadsters. Only one roadster, GT/109, raced at Le Mans. Prepped by Shelby American and competing for Ford of France in the 1965 event, the car was to be driven by French stars Maurice Trintignant and Guy Ligier, but only Trintignant got a turn behind the wheel. GT/109 completed only 10 laps before dropping out with a failed gearbox.
Following Le Mans, GT/109 was returned to Shelby American along with a simple work order: “Rebuild after Le Mans GT/109.” It was later sent to Kar Kraft (Ford’s skunkworks R&D race outfit) to be used as a development vehicle. Later it returned to Shelby American, where it was rebuilt and stored before being transferred to a Ford warehouse in Detroit. In 1968, stuntman, pinstriper, and car customizer Dean Jefferies joined A.J. Foyt for a meeting with Ford Racing Director Jacques Passino, and when he saw GT/109 he immediately asked if he could purchase it. According to Mecum, Passino replied, “No problem, you can have it. We’re done with the GT Roadster program.”
Jeffries immediately began a long restoration that included installation of a four-cam Indy engine. Then Carroll Shelby gave him a Shelby-built Hi-Po 289-cubic-inch racing engine, which he informed Jeffries had powered GT/109 at Le Mans. Bye, bye, Indy engine.
Following Jeffries’ death, auction house head honcho Dana Mecum becamethe car’s third owner when he purchased it from Jeffries’ son in 2013. Mecum commissioned Harley Cluxton III of GTC Mirage Racing to perform a concours-quality restoration to its original configuration, incorporating the correct bodywork and its Ford of France racing livery of white paint with a dark blue center stripe bordered in red. The 289 racing engine was also rebuilt and dyno tested; the Indy engine is included in the sale.
GT/109’s sister car, GT/108, is the only other surviving roadster prototype. It sold for $6,930,000 at RM Sotheby’s 2014 Monterey auction, and Newton says it has a few things going for it that GT/109 doesn’t:
“It’s a better-preserved, no-excuses car, plus it’s the first prototype built.” But GT/109’s competition experience at Le Mans and its removable Targa-like rollover section (which GT/108 does not have) may balance things out.
It’s important to note that GT/109 carries a (probably hefty) reserve and may not even sell. But there’s no arguing that it is unique and historically significant, serving as a blueprint for Ford’s 1960s domination of Ferrari on the world stage.