“Is it a real one?” The question everyone who turns up in a GT40 dreads. A supercar sensation when launched, a ground-breaking racing car and finally (after some development) a Le Mans winner, the mid-engined GT40 and its MkII follow-on steered a path that every sports-racer since has followed – give or take the odd Lister or Panoz. It also looked amazing, so it’s no wonder that an entire generation grew up lusting after this car, and that it inspired a whole industry of replication, continuation and lookalikery. Hence that question, and many replicas are so obsessively good that it takes an expert to figure it out. If you’re taking bets, look at the livery. If it’s in Gulf colours, statistically speaking the chances are slim that it ever started a Le Mans race…
Which is why the 1966 MkI on offer at Max Girardo makes a refreshing change. Not only has it been restored to its original and unusual opalescent maroon, but it has been kept as the road car it always was. “Not another Le Mans lookalike,” says Max. “It was built for the road, with Weber carbs and Borrani wire wheels, and that’s how it’s been restored. No one has ever tried to race it in between.”
During its no-expense-spared restoration in Italy, every effort was made to maintain originality: all the panels are those that left FAV in the Sixties, and the wheels went to Borrano for rebuilding.
From the outset, and despite its 289 High Performance motor, chassis P/1059 seems to have spent its life as a promotion or display car, and if the comprehensive records accompanying it are right it has yet to cover 5000 miles. Not that it’s a beast on the road: “I imagined it was going to be terrible, but in fact it’s surprisingly nice to drive,” says Max. “It doesn’t get hot, the gearbox is pleasant to use, the steering’s light and visibility is surprisingly good. Except behind – you see nothing behind. With the proper road exhaust it’s not too noisy. We blasted out to Heathrow the other day and enjoyed the trip; in fact we stopped off for a coffee on the way back. It’s almost practical!”
At one point the car was fitted with the optional luggage boxes each side of the exhaust, so there’s a precedent should you want to set off for a continental tour.
“The gearing feels rather long for the road, says Max, “but the power is quite linear so you can potter along in second and third.”
Hardly what its designers planned, but what else can you do when half of a car’s performance is illegal?