Motoring review: Superformance GT40

 
Peter Burgess
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The Superformance GT40

Supercar or historic racer? Or another one of those pastiches, built in a workshop by enthusiastic but ultimately misguided engineers who don’t know a business case from a briefcase?

The Superformance GT40 is none of these, though it’s easy to see how it could have been. This is a road-going version of the famous GT40, the car that Ford made to prove it could build a better sports car than Ferrari.

The plan worked, too. The Ford GT40 won the Le Mans 24-Hour race not just once, but four times on the trot in the mid-60s. Ford built around 100 GT40s, mostly race cars, but some designed for road use. Today, at auction, they sell for £3m.

This Superformance model is officially sanctioned, and so true to the original that more than 90 per cent of the parts are interchangeable. Also – and this is very important – it’s classed as a Continuation Model, with chassis numbers that run on from the 1960s original. So it’s like the real thing, but one twenty-fifth of the current price.

Le Mans Coupes, based near Gatwick, bring the GT40 in from South Africa, fit the engine and transmission over here and get it through the UK registration process. The buyer then has a supercar that’s rarer than any recent Ferrari. Indeed, it’s little more than half the price of most new Ferraris, and the GT40 owner won’t have to fend off sarcastic comments about their glitzy motor. This car causes genuine interest, not simple envy.

There are some options regarding the engine and transmission but the simple facts are this car is powered by a big American V8 engine coupled with a very physical manual gearbox. If you really insist, the gear lever can be mounted by the door, as in the race cars, but it’s not compulsory.

This car is low, 40 inches tall to be precise, which is where the “40” in GT40 comes from. To help you get in and out, the door cuts in to almost the centre of the roof, which means you need to be very careful when you slam it if you’re to avoid being scalped.

It’s snug inside and pretty comfortable, with the welcome addition of air conditioning – something the original never had. It’s not an especially pretty interior though. Ferrari and Aston Martin drivers might choke at the simplicity of it all.

Yet crank over the V8, hear the rumble that emanates from immediately behind your kidneys, and realise that you are in for a very special experience. This is no sanitised supercar, where you simply slot the transmission into Drive and head off like you would in a VW Golf. You need to drive the GT40, grab it by the scruff of its neck and, gradually, get the better of it. It’s indecently, thrillingly fast.

That won’t be for everyone, certainly, but in a world where much arrives pre-digested on a plate, this is old-school motoring. Slip on your best lumberjack shirt and off you go. Just don’t bring any luggage.

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