Watch This Le Mans-Winning Ford GT40 Being Restored to Perfection

Almost 50 years after it won the trophy, Ford’s champion is back in fighting shape.

byBen Keeshin|
Ford News photo

What happens to an old racecar? Often, a warhorse—minus many original parts and bearing the marks of hundreds of scrapes and slap-dash fixes—is demoted down a racing series or three, until its valuable components wind up stripped and recycled into a new racer. But when a car is as special as P/1046, the 1966 Ford GT40 that won Le Mans, it often finds a way to escape that tragic fate.

Owned by southern vintage car juggernaut RK Motors, the Ferrari-beater has spent 20 months being fixed up by Rare Drive, a restorer in Kingston, New Hampshire. The shop went over every nut and bolt, repairing, polishing and painting the car back to fighting shape over the course of 4,000 man-hours. When they needed a part no longer being manufactured—like the windshield or exhaust—it was fabricated by hand. They even kept the 1960s-era mistakes with the care of a remastered Grateful Dead album. When painting the iconic "2" on the side, they made sure to leave it imperfect as the original, complete with the exact same drip marks; the exhaust, when remade, was kept slightly asymmetrical

The GT40 known as P/1046 was delivered to Shelby American's California headquarters in January of 1966, the 47th of an 87-car run by Ford's special projects division. During qualifying at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Bruce McLaren-piloted car (yes, that McLaren) finished fourth in the field, behind Dan Gurney's pole-winning car. A day later though, the McLaren car took home the gold, leading its two Ford brethren across the finish line by mere moments. The Ferraris, who had been expected to win? All fourteen were parked the paddocks, having been mechanically whipped.

After its win, P/1046 went on to be a test mule and ran the 1967 Daytona 24, but never finished the race. Stripped of some parts, it was passed around between collectors, finally ending up sans much of its identification in a storage unit in Ghent, Belgium. Collector George Stauffer found and restored the car in 1983 and enjoyed it for decades, before selling to Aaron Hsu for $10 million. Hsu, in turn, sold it for $22 million in 2014. Today, the car is restored and in new hands, ready for a parade at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans—and then, undoubtedly, a multimillion-dollar sale. Not bad for an old gal.