Whoever won the battle to own this car spent an absolutely scandalous amount of money to do so, presumably because the car is so historically


In April of 1964 the Ford GT40 was unveiled to the automotive press, and the journalists and industry executives alike were awestruck by the innovative monocoque design and dashing good looks. Sadly for Ford, the GT cars would quickly fall out of favor as the beautiful cars were racking up DNFs at a blistering pace throughout 1964. With Shelby already on the payroll and his abilities in the spotlight, it was only natural that Ford would send him the third and fourth prototypes, S/N GT/103 and S/N GT/104, at the end of the 1964 season to prepare to race in 1965.
Shelby and his mechanics' approach to the Ford GT40 was genius. Instead of being wildly innovative when they needed reliability, they simplified things and went with components they knew would perform and last on the race track. First, they installed one of their reliable and potent Ford 289 race engines. Further improvements included scrapping the wire wheels for larger yet lighter ones made of magnesium that offered more grip and better handling. They relocated several coolers, modified the ducting, improved the Colotti transaxle internals, and added extra venting to the front brake rotors.
The cars were shipped to Daytona Beach for the opening race of the 1965 season, where GT/103 raced into the history books. It was not only the first GT40 to finish a race, but it also finished first, with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby at the wheel. Following its victory at Daytona, the car finished second at Sebring, and third at Monza.
The example we offer today is that very same Daytona-winning prototype, S/N GT/103. Completed in June 1964, GT/103 is the earliest known serial number GT40 in existence. Fitted with the high-
performance 289 engine and mated to a ZF five-speed gearbox, the 1964 GT40 Prototype was sold in January 1966 to Mr. William Wonder of New York. He privately entered GT/103 in several races every year until 1970, when he decided to retire the car.
In order to remain competitive, Mr. Wonder had updated GT/103 with the latest factory parts when they became available to him. Modifications included the fitment of Ford Mk III brakes, modified single outlet front insert, Koni shocks, and even wider eight-inch front and eleven-inch rear Halibrand wheels.
A decision was made at a later time to begin slowly returning the car to its 1965 race-wining glory. The blue interior paint has been touched up at some point in time, but remains highly original. The GT40 Prototype is still fitted with an original FoMoCo windshield. Miraculously, some of the original 1964 components fitted still have their factory #103 markings today. GT/103 is currently fitted with a four-cam 255-ci Indy engine, the type of engine that could be found in Ford-powered Indy cars circa 1966/67.
While it is clear that GT/103's most significant point in time was its victory at Daytona, this highly original, early prototype example is ready for more track time.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1964 Ford GT40 Prototype
Years Produced:1964-69
Number Produced:102 (prototype, production, and Mirage)
Original List Price:$16,000
SCM Valuation:$800,000-$1,300,000 (competition cars)
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Distributor Caps:$15 (original 289 engine)
Chassis Number Location:various tags on chassis, also on ID plate
Engine Number Location:engines were not numbered
Club Info:GT40 Enthusiasts Club Ltd., Treetops, The Woodlands, Manor Road, Penn, High Wycombe, HP10 8JD, U.K.
Alternatives:1964-65 Ferrari 250LM, 1962-65 Shelby 260/289 Cobra
Investment Grade:A

This 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype sold for $2,502,500 at RM’s Monterey sale, held August 20, 2005.
This car is a prime example of one of the great dilemmas facing the collector car hobby: What is the “correct” specification for vintage race cars? While street cars come from the factory and don’t change, racing cars can evolve over time, particularly if they have long careers.
My favorite thing about racing is that it revolves around the accumulation of knowledge and the development of technology. A race car stands as a clear example of the best machine that a very smart, very motivated group of people could create using the knowledge, technology and materials that were available to them at that particular moment in time. As such, a race car is a cultural artifact, a relic of immense historical interest and value.
This is, admittedly, a purist point of view. In the days when race cars actually lasted for more than one season, they were not considered artifacts. They were tools, weapons for the battle, and anything that could be done to make them faster or better was done. This divergence in attitude persists in contemporary vintage racing, with some organizations (notably the FIA) trying to preserve cars to a “point in time” specification while the “I gotta run at the front” crowd tries to find ways to make a 1964 car go as fast as a 1970 one.
The GT40 Prototype pictured here started out as Ford’s original concept of what the GT40 should be-however flawed that was-but over its racing life was modified so that today little remains of the original car that left the factory, save its chassis number. Whoever won the battle to own this car spent an absolutely scandalous amount of money to do so, presumably placing far more importance on the history of the car than the current historical correctness of the vehicle.
So what was actually purchased here? There seems to be no question that this car really is S/N 103, apparently in single ownership since it left Ford Advanced Vehicles in 1966. There is no suggestion that it was ever crashed or seriously damaged, so the tub is original and serviceable. The car is back in its blue and white Daytona livery, and has a very nice patina.
Everything else, however, is just flat wrong, even using 1965 Daytona as your reference. This car never used a four-cam Indy engine in period, and there’s debate as to whether anyone did. The transaxle is incorrect, the wheels aren’t right, and the brakes have been modified. The body is even wrong-just look at the historic and contemporary photos in the auction catalog and you can see that they’re barely even similar.
What we’ve really got here is a 1969-spec club racer being sold as a piece of history, which the physical specimen is not. It is a real car that has come by most of its modifications honestly (except for the engine, which is very cool but doesn’t belong), but this is not a historically important artifact anymore (even though the chassis number will always carry historical significance), as it doesn’t tell us anything about what racing technology was like in 1964 or 1965.
Thus the new owner has a problem. Having spent a wad of money buying an important chassis number fitted with a body and drivetrain that is incorrect in most details, but still exotic, fast, and reliable, does he spend a pile more to return it to its original specification? If he does, he can be proud of his contribution to history. But at the same time, his car will be relatively slow and unreliable compared to lesser-storied GT40s costing a fourth as much. (Except in Europe, where the FIA runs a pre-1966 class where this car could excel.)
For $2.5 million, my assumption is that the new owner had the right experts by his side, and knew exactly what he was buying. He’s got a historical artifact that has the potential to be restored to represent a significant moment in automotive history. But if he just wanted a weapon, modified so that he can run at the front of the pack, he spent way too much.
(Thor Thorson has been hooked on race cars since the late ’50s and actively involved with vintage racing since the late ’70s. Historical and descriptive information in this profile courtesy of the auction company.)

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