1965 Ford GT40 Roadster Prototype

Pawel Litwinski ©2014, courtesy of RM Auctions
Pawel Litwinski ©2014, courtesy of RM Auctions

Chassis number GT108 is one of just six open-top GT40 roadsters constructed, reflecting Ford’s experimentation with the open configuration to test for market appeal and salability. Built for Shelby American as a test and development vehicle, it was driven by Ken Miles, Lew Spencer, Carroll Shelby, Jim Clark and others. Documented by GT40 historian Ronnie Spain, it is the only GT40 roadster to have survived in its original form. This car was also a 2003 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance award winner and has enjoyed single prominent ownership for over two decades.

GT108 is notable as one of the 12 early prototype cars with the three-digit “GT” chassis number designations, as opposed to the “P” designation stamped on the Mark I production cars that soon followed. Painted white and fitted with 6½-inch Borrani wire wheels up front and eight-inch Borranis in the rear, the completed car was tested in March 1965 at Silverstone.

An American life

The roadster was then invoiced to Shelby American from Ford Advanced Vehicles in England, with a note of “temporary importation for test purposes.” Nonetheless, Shelby American brought the car into the country on a permanent basis. The car was shipped to Shelby’s Venice, CA, facility, where a Shelby American work order was issued on April 4, 1965, to “perform necessary repairs and mods to GT40/108.”

From April until November 1965, the car was utilized for numerous testing, development, corporate and publicity purposes, making appearances at Shelby American, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, at Riverside Raceway and at Watkins Glen, where it was driven on hot laps by newly crowned Grand Prix world champion Clark.

Mothballed and sold

The car was subsequently mothballed at Kar Kraft, the famed Ford tuning shop in Michigan, before being sold to George Sawyer, a young Kar Kraft employee, in May 1971. Mr. Sawyer, with help from the technicians at Kar Kraft, made the car drivable for the road. They rebuilt a 289 motor and installed it, as well as a ZF transaxle from the prototype Mach 1.

Over the next two decades GT108 changed hands several times and engaged in limited vintage racing. In 1992, GT108 was purchased by the consignor and has since occasionally surfaced at major shows.

John L. Stein

John L. Stein - SCM Contributor

John is the product of the 1960s SoCal car and bike culture and has been screwing around with Ducati motorcycles since he was 16. An interest in cars, bikes and boats saw him simultaneously owning a twin-cam Lotus Europa and Kaiser Special, NSU Super Max and Ducati 750 GT motorbikes, and a mahogany Chris-Craft runabout. After leaving his job as Road Test Editor at Cycle magazine, he had a short-lived career in marine biology before becoming Associate Editor at Automobile and then Editor of Corvette Quarterly, GM’s official journal for Corvette. He’s American Car Collector magazine’s Corvette Market columnist and a regular contributor to Sports Car Market.

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