Chris Amon can still reunite with the fabulous Ford GT40 he took to Le Mans victory in 1966.
HEY couldn’t get together at Le Mans over the weekend, but Chris Amon is hoping he can still catch up with an old flame at an equally swank social occasion in California in August.
As MotoringNetwork related last week, the 72-year-old motorsport legend was denied by his state of health from accepting an invitation from Ford to be its guest of honour for the just-run 24-hour endurance car race.
The trip was to be a personal thank you from the brand – and the Ford family – for the famous landmark victory he achieved with his equally illustrious countryman and friend, the late Bruce McLaren, back in 1966.
It would have also been his first reunion, since the race, with P/1046, the GT40 Mark IIA that the Kiwis won in.
However, the date can still happen: This time in Californian sunshine, at the world’s most famous – and fabulous – classic car celebration, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on August 21.
The silver-striped black car will grace the greens at this year’s part of a celebration of race-winning Ford GT40s.
Pebble Beach has invited a bunch of famous GT40 pilots, Amon included, and Ford says it will take care of everything if he feels up to going.
Amon says that is his aim: “I’m not up to it at the moment, but I have set this as a goal to aim for. It would be fantastic if it happens.”
What was a secret last week has gone public now, with Pebble Beach concours chairman Sandra Button saying other GT40 racing greats on the guest list include Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx, David Hobbs, Brian Redman and Sir Jackie Stewart. Every one of them were Amon’s contempories and several were team mates.
Pebble Beach has still to confirm which other race-winning GT40s will be on the greens this year, but it has said it is chasing cars victorious at Le Mans, Daytona, Watkins Glen, Sebring, Rheims, Montlhery, Silverstone, Snetterton, Spa, Monza, Kyalami, Nurburgring and Zeltweg.
P/1046 is set to be the standout for what is an “unprecedented gathering.”
As Pebble Beach’s publicists have pointed out, while the GT40s that won at Le Mans in successive years after that 1966 breakthrough are well-known, no GT40 is more famous, or more infamous, than the car that earned Ford’s first victory (and the first for an American automaker) at the legendary endurance race.
Now owned by an American rich-lister, Rob Kauffman, P1046 went to La Sarth fresh from a 20-month, no cost spared rebirth.
The car’s amazing current condition wowed the Le Mans crowd and has elevated its value. With an estimated worth of $37 million, it is now one of the rarest Ford cars on the planet – an irony given that, after the ’66 race, it was not given any preferential treatment by the factory whatsoever. Its provenance was only recognized after years of ignominy.
Collector George Stauffer is credited with having rescued the machine at the 11th hour but Kauffman, who bought it in 2014, is equally a hero.
He had the car sent to Rare Drive, Inc, a specialist in the US state of New Hampshire, in restoring uncommon sports and racing cars from the 1950s-'70s. It has extensive experience with the restoration of Ford GT40s.
Rare Drive went to great lengths to ensure authenticity throughout the restoration process. One example: In P1046’s 1966 Le Mans appearance, one exhaust pipe was a few millimetres longer than the other, so this was duplicated during the construction of a new “bundle of snakes” exhaust.
Ford’s 427 FE racing engines didn’t contain a stamped serial number, so labels with the engine number were pasted on the valve covers, with little care given to precise alignment; this, too, has been recreated in the restoration.
Also, the black number 2 on the car’s nose, applied by a sign painter at the Circuit de la Sarthe, featured a run that dripped into the boot, so even this was recreated.
Whether it wins recognition at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is largely irrelevant, as the car has already cemented its top-of-the-podium place in motorsports history.
Meantime, Ford has also released the video with today's story. It's of Amon meeting up with a replica of his most famous racing car, owned by New Zealand racer and Amon fan, Grant Aitken. Ford US bypassed its national distributor to arrange for the car to be taken to Amon’s home at Kinloch earlier this year so he try it out.