A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to spend some time with a special car that had just been restored by our friends at Legendary Motorcar, a 1966 Ford GT40 Mk1 road car.
Not just any GT40 (as if there were such a thing), chassis number P/1028 has a unique Canadian history. The first road car delivered to North America, P/1028 did a short stint as a test car in Michigan before being put into service as a PR vehicle. You know, the vehicles that are sent out to auto journalists to flog. It also found its way onto the pages of Mechanix Illustrated and Playboy.
The car was sent north, to the care of Comstock Racing Team Manager Paul Cooke, where it was to be used to build buzz for the team’s P/1037. Cooke, who was on hand when the freshly restored car was unveiled at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, says that P/1038 lived in his Toronto garage during that time. It was his job to ensure that the car was visible at events all over, so Cooke drove it to media events, restaurants and the like during the week. Come race weekends, Cooke and the GT40 would arrive at host tracks a few days early in order for the local press to have a go at the exotic machine.
Shelby specialist Peter Klutt, owner of Canadian restoration house Legendary Motorcar, says that he actually wasn’t aware of the P/1028’s Canadian connection when the car was acquired. It wasn’t until the restoration began that the early history became apparent.
Not only was P/1038 the first North American road car, but it was the only one to be fitted with a full host of creature comforts like air conditioning and leather trim, making it truly a one of a kind car.
When the time came to send the car back to Ford, Cooke requested first right of refusal should the car ever go up for sale. That time came later, when Cook says he was deeply involved with a team that was racing McLaren cars in the Can-Am series. The asking price was around $2,500 at the time, which Cooke felt was a bit too steep to justify the purchase, so he let it go.
Last night at the Mecum Auction in Monterey, P/1028 sold for a whopping $4.4 Million.
Talk about the one that got away!
Mecum Auctions lot description
GT40 no. P/1028
Built at the Ford Advanced Vehicles factory in Slough, Buckinghamshire, England, P/1028 was the first road car delivered to North America. When P/1028 landed at the Ford Division headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, it was briefly used as a test and evaluation car on Ford’s test track. Shortly after, it served as Ford North America’s official Promotional GT40.
In many ways, these early road cars were production racing coupes slightly converted for the street, but they still carried many of their competition features, including only driver-side seat support, two fuel pressure gauges, battery-mount brackets in passenger foot well, lighter fiberglass, etc. At the same time, they developed P/1028 to be as comfortable and luxurious as possible to show the U.S. market, and it is the only GT40 outfitted this way. Fully optioned and fitted with leather upholstery and trim, padded dash, air conditioning, centered rearview mirror, heated windscreen and luggage boxes. In addition, the build sheet noted “undersealed chassis” and a “High Performance” 289 with a single Holley 4-barrel carburetor and Sunbeam Tiger air cleaner and rated at a healthy 335 HP. Using the same ZF 5-speed gearbox as the race GT40s, the road cars employed special exhaust silencers, softer brake pads and shock absorbers that were 25-percent softer than the race units. Making these road cars much more suitable for the street, still, the road coupes were capable of astounding performance, very similar to the production racing coupes.
Before P/1028 left Ford to go on its promotional tour, a series of photos were taken at Ford’s styling studio dated 3/9/1966 showing just more than 1,000 miles on the odometer. The first stop on the promotional tour was to the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida. It was paraded around the event all weekend and was parked in the pit lane prior to the race, for spectators to get a closer look. After Sebring, the GT40 traveled through the United States to dealerships, car shows and exhibits. In the July edition of “Playboy” magazine, P/1028 appeared in a four-page spread discussing the car. Its next magazine appearance was in “Mechanix Illustrated,” September 1966, where Tom McCahill tested the GT40 at Ford’s test track in Dearborn.
After six months of traveling around the United States, P/1028 was sent to Comstock Racing in Toronto, Canada to continue its promotional outings in Canada. Comstock Racing was Canada’s most successful racing team and had a great relationship with Ford and Shelby. On one occasion, Ken Miles was loaned to Comstock to race the group’s 289 Cobra at Mosport. P/1028 followed around Comstock’s Racing Coupe P/1037, and the rest of the Comstock racing team for the remainder of the 1966 season, traveling to tracks like St. Jovite, Mosport, Westwood, Watkins Glen and more. There is film of Eppie Wietzes driving P/1028 around St. Jovite during the Can-Am weekend, where it was used as the pace car.
After the 1966 season ended in Canada, P/1028 was shipped to Kar-Kraft, painted blue and was used as a Ford VIP car for Ford Executive Fran Hernandez. Sometime in 1967, P/1028 was finally sold to its first owner David Tallaksen a former 12 Hours of Sebring class winner. By 1969, the GT40 made its way to Monterey Historics founder Steve Earle and was featured in “Sports Car Graphic” magazine. After spending time with another California owner, P/1028 was purchased by the Schroeder family of Burbank in 1975. During their stewardship, the car was relatively frequently shared with the public. It was repainted in the famous Blue-and-Orange Gulf livery for a Gulf television ad in 1981 and was then displayed at the Justice Brothers Racing Car Museum in Duarte, California. It was exhibited at the 2003 Monterey Historic Races marking Ford’s Centennial.
After nearly 40 years of ownership, P/1028 was sold and a complete ground-up restoration was started. After completely disassembling the car, everyone was happy to find an extremely original car, the way an approximate 11,000 original mile car with an undersealed chassis should be. The original metallichrome silver paint was found under the Gulf, and dark blue layers of paint, almost all of the hard-to-find original pieces that came off the car for the Gulf commercial came with the car in boxes, and as Ronnie Spain states, “it is impossible to get a cleaner bill of health than this as far as originality of a GT40 chassis is concerned.” With the help of Ronnie Spain, Mark Allen, Jay Cushman and Graham Endeacott, Legendary Motorcar was able to finish P/1028 to an extremely high level of detail, sourcing as many original parts, pieces and material as possible. Today, P/1028 looks the exact same way it rolled down to the pits in Sebring 50 years ago. Between the historical significance, originality and quality of restoration, P/1028 is certainly one of the most important road-going GT40s in existence, and it is publicly for sale for the first time in its life.