The Ford GT40 owes this Lola GT Mk6 its very existence
We love a goodWho do you think you are story at GRR and what better celebrity of motor racing lore than the Ford GT40. The whistle-stop story is of course legend with few other cars being born of such rage and hunger for revenge.
Ferrari’s last-minute back-pedal on Ford’s purchase of them set the American giant on the warpath and the GT40 was to be this relative interloper’s hammer-blow at the 24hr. The GT40’s 1966 1-2-3 domination at Le Mans is the net result and is of course what informs the Ford GT legend today but lesser-known is the struggle Ford went through on the road to that win.
It would take them almost four years of trial and error for the GT40 to go from shambles, to competitive, to peerlessly dominant. They found themselves staring up the same impossible incline that first inspired the idea to purchase Ferrari: They were a company that wanted to go racing, without any experience of racing. Ford needed another sportscar stalwart that they could take over and have build their car into a Ferrari-beater. They found that in Eric Broadley and Lola, whose clever and rapid MK6 GT had made a lasting impression.
This is the very first Mk6 GT – the culmination of Broadley’s clean-sheet design labours based religiously around both the FIA’s new regulations for 1963 and the then-new 260 cubic-inch Ford V8. This was the very car that Eric presented to the world at the London Racing Car Show in January 1963. This low-slung slippery design draped over what was at the time a highly advanced monocoque chassis would inform that of the GT40. The silhouettes are hauntingly similar but the truth of the family relation hits home when you open the doors and half of the roof follows them.
Owner Allen Grant isn’t your typical bottomless-pocketed monolithic collector you’d catch nonchalantly nodding millions away at a Ferrari 250 auction. Far from it, in fact. In Allen, the MK6 GT prototype finds a custodian close to home. He is a veteran of Shelby’s and Ford’s racing programs, having followed Daytona Cobras and Ford GTs around the globe both in an engineering and at times a driving capacity.
Allen found the MK6 under a cover at the Ford Advanced Vehicles compound in Slough in 1965, when Lola cars were sharing a warehouse with the Ford GT squad with which he was working. It was as simple as Allen making an offer and Broadley accepting, albeit on one condition: that the car be gone before the next time he came in, for fear of backing out and keeping it for himself.
Allen bought the car, moved on and lived his life. The car was broken up and stored and it wouldn’t be until 50 years later that it would be meticulously restored and reassembled as was at the 1963 London Racing Car show. It’s as close to unmolested as you could hope for any historic racer, let alone a forgotten piece of history such as this. The original plexiglass rear window, soft silver hue, bespoke magnesium wheels complete with the original Dunlop green-spot tyres and the 260 CI single four-barrel Weber-carburetted Ford 260 engine – all are miracles of preservation or replication in service of its original form.
It’s something of a shame the Lola-Ford relationship went sour. We were very close to getting a Ford-built Lola GT road car, Lola would have been a forefront credit at the moment of Ford’s victory and this gorgeous diminutive little car would be better lavished in the worship it deserves. As it stands, Eric wouldn’t allow Ford to soil his meticulously perfected design with an excessively heavy steel construction, Ford would laud the GT40 as a triumph of their own creation and the pretty little MK6 would be relegated to the developmental archives and the stewardship of an old-guard enthusiast.
If you found yourself perplexed at the little silver sportscar with the face of a T70 and silhouette of a GT40 at FOS or Revival last year, now you know that was the prototype for one of Lola’s lesser-known triumphs – the genetic taproot for both of those much-lauded legends of motor racing, here to celebrate the memory of the late Eric Broadley.