Ford reveals rare GT40 documents recently added to its archives
Ted Ryan may have the greatest job in the world. Ford’s heritage and archives manager spends much of his time buried in the past—figuratively speaking—as the caretaker of Ford’s treasure trove of historical documents.
“Few [outside Ford] have ever seen this stuff,” Ryan told us in July. “We’re the memory of the Ford Motor Company.”
That responsibility provides Ryan with the opportunity to share some of his fascinating discoveries. Yesterday we told you about unpublished 1968 archival photos of Santa Claus and an iced-over, first-generation Bronco inside Ford’s extreme-weather testing facility. Today, we’re bringing the heat with never-before-seen GT40 development documents that were recently donated by retired Ford Motor Company engineer Don Eichstaedt.
Eichstaedt’s donation came after a referral from another retired Ford engineer, Mose Noland, who had been part of the winning GT40 team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. The GT40 program received national attention in last year’s hit movie Ford v Ferrari.
Among the items from Eichstaedt is the Testing and Development Booklet from the GT and Sports Car Project for the Advanced Vehicles Division.
“While the story of the initial test run at Le Mans has been told many times, this booklet gives first person accounts and documents each of the trial runs of the GT,” Ryan says. “Via the project summary of the beginning of the booklet, we can track the development and refinement of the cars throughout 1964.
“I have highlighted two test events, the initial trial of the car at the M.I.R.A Proving Grounds in England on April 8, 1964, and the first trial at Le Mans on April 18, 1964. As you read through the reports, it becomes apparent that the cars still needed considerable work before they could be considered race worthy.”
Ryan says “the most glaring issue was the car’s instability at high speeds—not what any driver wants to hear on a track where top speeds could be in excess of 200 mph.”
The second document Ryan shared is the John Wyer Illustrated Parts List.
“Many people forget that while the racing versions of the GT40 were winning the headlines and races at Le Mans, a passenger version of the GT was also being produced,” Ryan says.
After Ford Motor Company closed the Advanced Vehicles Division following the 1967 racing season, John Wyer—who had been working on the program—opened J.W. Automotive Engineering Limited (cofounded by Wyer and his partner, John Willment), to produce the street version of the GT40.
“These vintage vehicles are extremely rare and quite valuable,” Ryan says. “The version of the parts list that Don donated was the first I had seen and will be a tremendous addition to our collection.”
Ford’s archives include 16,000-cubic-feet of paper material, more than 1,000,000 photos, and countless films and videos stored in an environmentally controlled space, but Ryan says there’s always room for more. And thanks to Eichstaedt, “we now have some new treasures to add.”