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June 16, 2013

Die-cast: LeMans-winning Ford GT40s

by Mark Savage

Ixo’s Ford GT40 models offer good detail, value in 1:43 scale

Ford’s GT40 is the most beautiful enclosed race car ever made, and one of the most successful too. That’s my design bias, but the GT40’s success can’t be argued.

Ixo's version of the 1967, '68, and '69 LeMans-winning Ford GT40s.

Ixo’s version of the 1967, ’68, and ’69 LeMans-winning Ford GT40s.

Funny thing, it was created to settle a score at the highest levels of the automotive world. In the early 1960s Henry Ford II was rebuked in efforts to buy Ferrari and declared war on the Italian sports car maker and race team. The GT40, originally with a Lola chassis and various Ford V8 engines, was his weapon. By 1964 the first GT40 was raced at the Nurburgring 1000km endurance race and then the 24 Hours of LeMans, where three were entered and one led. All failed to finish. Yet ultimately the GT40 would win four straight LeMans 24-hour endurance races from 1966 through 1969, a remarkable run that ended Ferrari’s reign as the LeMans champ. Ferarri has not won LeMans since.With the annual endurance race being run in late June, this is a good time to look at what the diecast world offers regarding the only successful U.S. manufacturer’s race efforts.

Ixo wins the battle for high-quality, moderate cost. It offers the complete LeMans set of winning GT40s in 1:43 scale and in special LeMans packaging, bright blue sleeve with red “24 Hoeures du Mans” printed on top and an open slash in the sleeve that resembles a stylized outline of the racetrack. That opening in the sleeve allows you to see the car and a special cardboard insert photo of the Dunlop bridge, a track icon, is inserted between the acrylic case and sleeve. In a group these make a spectacular visual display in any collection.

The set, each sold separately for $34.99, includes the black 1966 winning Mk. II driven by Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren, the red 1967 Mk. IV, driven by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt, and the blue and orange Mk. I racer (the first GT40 version) that ironically won last, gaining wins in 1968 and 1969.

Ford GT40 Mk. I that won the 1969 LeMans endurance race.

Ford GT40 Mk. I that won the 1969 LeMans endurance race.

The Mk. I was the same car, but with slightly different markings, and remains the only individual car that has ever won LeMans twice. In 1968 it was driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi and in 1969 by Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver. The Mk.I used Ford’s 4.9-liter V8. Note that in 1966, the Fords finished 1-2-3 at LeMans in what turned out to be a controversial photo finish that gave the win to Amon and McLaren.For this review I had the ’67, ’68 and ’69 winning cars, which all look spectacular, especially for 1:43 scale. The red Mk. IV has a radically different body style from the Mk. I models in their Gulf livery, but there are subtle differences among them all.

The Ford GT40 Mk. IV that Americans Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt drove to victory at LeMans in 1967.

The Ford GT40 Mk. IV that Americans Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt drove to victory at LeMans in 1967.

Detail on the ’67 winner is impressive, with red spinner wheel nuts, Goodyear labeled tires, a big windshield wiper (it always rains during LeMans), chrome mirrors and the appropriate body air vents for the big V8. In back are four stacked lights and twin pipes, while in front are twin enclosed headlamps, the Gurney bump in the roof (because Gurney was a tall driver and needed the headroom), plus white stripes that run the length of the car and along its sides. At this point, sponsorships were minor, so only a Ford logo graces the car.As expected, the ’68 and ’69 winning cars are nearly identical, but a few details separate them. For instance, the screening on the trunk lid is drastically different in each, the ’68 model looking like a simple grate to let heat out, while the ’69 model’s screen has 9 symmetrical holes. Both include Gulf logos, but the ’69 Mk. I includes one with a checkered flag behind it, plus Firestone, Autolite, Koni Shocks and Girling decals on its sides, plus S.E.V Marchal logo over the rear wheel wells with Trico and Ferodo logos behind the wells. The ’68 model has fewer logos overall.

The 1968 LeMans winning Ford GT40 Mk. I in its famous Gulf livery.

The 1968 LeMans winning Ford GT40 Mk. I in its famous Gulf livery.

For the record, the ’68 is No. 9 and ’69 is No. 6. The paint jobs are good and colors vibrant. And yes, they appropriately have Firestone labeled tires. None of the cars have detailed engines, but do have a representation of their muscular V8s showing through the rear windows, which include riveted trim that looks like it’s holding the windows in, and decals on the side windows to approximate the sliding insert windows drivers could use to increase air flow in the cockpit.I’ve only seen pictures of the 1966 Mk. II and its 7.0-liter V8, but imagine its quality will be up to the other Ixo models. Note too that Ixo offers a variety of other notable GT40s, including versions that won the 24 Hours of Daytona, and several that were competitive at both LeMans and Daytona, but didn’t win. All are expertly detailed and include proper markings.

These are good looking models that are affordable and easily can plug any LeMans racer holes in your collection.

FAST Stats:
Product: Ford GT40
Maker: Ixo (available thru Replicarz and better hobby stores)
Scale: 1/43
Stock Nos.: LM1967, LM1968, LM1969
MSRP: $34.99

Rating: 3.5 stars

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