This stunningly beautiful car represents the beginning of the modern GT and will be extremely competitive in high-level vintage racing

His groundbreaking Anglo-American competition coupe, with its two sisters, marked one of the most significant landmarks in the entire history of world-class endurance racing. This rear-engined Lola GT is the second sister of the original Lola-Ford Mark 6 GT, which competed at Le Mans in 1963.

That car's evident potential persuaded the Ford Motor Company's management-recently rebuffed in its attempts to buy Ferrari-to take on Lola founder Derek Broadley's design as the basis of its epochal Ford GT racing program.

While that legendary four-time Le Mans-winning Ford program is so familiar today, here we offer something of a maverick daughter of that project. For while the original Le Mans coupe and its other sister car were absorbed into the Ford GT development program, this particular example had already escaped, having been sold to oilman-cum-racing team owner John Mecom Jr.

This is a magnificent mid-engined monocoque coupe with a fascinating history. It is unique in combining the chassis design that initiated the entire Ford GT 40 program with the rival Chevrolet V8 power unit. It's a car that won twice in the legendary Bahamas Speed Week, and it was raced by two of America's most iconic road racing drivers of the era-Augie Pabst and Walt Hansgen.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1963
Number Produced:3
Original List Price:unknown
SCM Valuation:Not listed
Tune Up Cost:$700
Distributor Caps:$20
Engine Number Location:Right side above water pump
Investment Grade:A

This 1963-64 Lola-Chevrolet Mk 6 GT sold for $694,373 at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival auction September 1, 2006.

Evolution in competition car design doesn’t happen uniformly across the sport, and often for surprising reasons. By the end of 1962, mid-engined design was utterly dominant in Formula car racing and the writing was on the wall for sports-racing cars, with early designs like the Cooper Monaco and Lotus 19 already being supplanted by second-generation mid-engine cars like the Ferrari 246SP and Lotus 23.

In spite of this, the endurance racers of the GT class were still front-engined. The obvious reason was that the GT class was, by definition, for production cars. Porsche was the only performance car manufacturer selling anything but front-engined cars (OK, Renault too), and they were in the under-two liter class. High-powered, mid-engined road cars didn’t exist, and there was serious doubt as to whether it was a viable concept.

A major impediment to experimentation was that a mid-engine layout requires a transaxle (combination transmission and differential) and there wasn’t anything commercially available that could handle more than about 2.5-liter engines.

In order to provide more exciting racing, the race organizers had long insisted on an “experimental” (later Prototype) race group that met the GT rules but without the production requirements. These were the marquee cars that provided the flash and sex appeal to big race events. In the early ’60s, Ferrari dominated the prototype class first with their mid-engined 246SP and then with the 12-cylinder 250P cars.

Ferrari had the advantage because they, with the help of Colotti, built their own transaxles, so they weren’t stuck looking for a source. One of the side effects is that Colotti, an independent company, learned a lot about transaxle design.

Across the Atlantic, the Americans were fully committed to the idea of high-horsepower, mid-engined race cars, but were up against the same problem, creating a market need. In late 1962, Colotti rode to the rescue with the Type 37 transaxle, the first one designed to handle serious torque loads. Coincidentally or not, this became available just about the time Eric Broadley was starting to think about a V8-powered mid-engine racing coupe. It wasn’t a new idea; designer John Tojeiro had already built a Buick V8-powered coupe (with a Hewland HD transaxle), but Broadley was able to assemble a ground-breaking package.

Technically, Lola broke new ground in that they used an aluminum monocoque chassis structure. Jaguar had pioneered the concept in the ’50s with the D-type and was now producing the E-type. Monocoques had become standard-issue in Formula racing, but I think Lola was the first specialist builder to adapt it to racing two-seaters. Lola also recognized the dawn of the tire revolution and its implications.

Dunlop was beginning production of a new, wider tire that needed to be kept square to the road to work well, and the GT’s suspension was designed to take advantage of this. Colotti’s new transaxle allowed a very neat, dependable power package with a 256-ci Ford engine and very central mass distribution (unfortunately, the center shift lever with cable actuation was a disaster).

From the beginning, Lolas had been characterized by beautiful design, and the Mk 6 followed up in spades. The car was the undisputed star of the Olympia Racing Car Show where it was first displayed in January 1963. I recall as a high school kid being stunned when my car magazines first printed photos of one. It was just gorgeous and somehow it looked like the future.

The sensational introduction posed some problems for Lola because the world was now watching with high expectations. Lola was at the time a tiny company with very little money and getting from a non-running show prototype to competitive racer in a few months was daunting. My understanding is that they worked out enough bugs on the prototype to get it running and laid down two chassis (LGT1 and LGT2) to become the real racers, the intent being to field two cars at Le Mans.

Even that proved to be a huge strain, and when John Mecom came by and offered real money for the second car, the deal was quickly done. Shortly thereafter Ford came knocking, looking for a way to compete with Ferrari in the international arena, and found the same situation. Broadley was very aware that Lola didn’t have the resources to make a production GT, and the market was clamoring for it.

Selling out to Ford was a reasonable solution and the GT 40 was born. In the end it didn’t work too well, and by mid-1964, there was an amicable split with Lola back under Broadley’s control and Ford Advanced Vehicles (FAV) building GT 40s nearby.

The three Lola GTs were the beginning of mid-engined GT cars generally and the Ford GT 40 in particular. The show car was shipped back to Dearborn for “testing & evaluation” and was eventually sold. Last I saw it was living outside Portland, OR, attending occasional vintage car shows. The second raced for Lola at Silverstone, Nurburgring, and Le Mans, then went back into the factory to become the basis for the GT 40, and I don’t know what happened to it subsequently.

The subject Lola-Chevrolet Mk 6 GT escaped and followed an independent path with the Mecom team, quickly acquiring a small block Chevrolet (lighter, more power), wider wheels, etc. It showed great promise (and remains to this day one of Augie Pabst’s all-time favorite race cars) but never got the development it needed, so it was not consistently successful. After a huge crash at Riverside it was put away, eventually being restored and put into a museum until this auction.

So what makes this 1963-64 Lola-Chevrolet Mk 6 GT particularly collectible? Pretty much everything; the car is extremely rare, iconic, the beginning of the modern GT, and is stunningly beautiful. On top of that, there is reason to expect that with contemporary race preparation, it will be extremely competitive in high-level vintage racing. It thus holds historic, aesthetic, and competitive trump cards. The cars it raced against (Corvette Grand Sport, Cobra, Ferrari) as well as its spawn, the GT 40, all carry far higher market values than this brought. Valuing any one-off is tough because there’s never a perfect comp to look at, but to my mind this one is clear. I’d say very well bought.

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