The origins of the Ford’s GT40 MKIV is marred by tragedy. It began in 1966 with the J-Car just after LeMans. Ken Miles was test driving the car when it crashed on an embankment, bursting into flames. The rest is heavy-hearted history. There were only 10 made, only half of which ever actually raced. However, the MKIV is known for breaking records both at home and abroad. It only ran in two races: the Sebring 12 Hours and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the most prestigious race events in all of motorsport. It won both.
These victories were no accident. Ford made sure of that. The car was specifically, painstakingly designed for endurance, designed for speed…designed to win. Each element of the MKIV was totally different from other GT40s, starting with where it was made. The MKIV was built from scratch in the United States, unlike its predecessors the MKI and ll cars which were built entirely or partly in Europe. A little “skunk works” company called Kar Kraft built the all-new J series chassis and newly designed long, streamlined bodywork for Ford’s Special Vehicles Activity. The MKIV was easily the most radical variant of all the GT40s.
Other modifications were made as well. A NASCAR-style, steel-tube roll cage was added as a direct result of beloved racer Ken Miles’ tragic death while testing the first J Car. Though it was significantly safer, the roll cage was incredibly heavy which hurt the car’s performance.
The J7 chassis was one of the MKIV renditions lucky enough to make it to the famous track at LeMans. Copper-colored and donning the #3, it sped through the raceway with Andretti at the helm. He’d held an impressive second place for most of the race when he came in for a standard pitstop. A teammate of Andretti’s who drove the #1 car arrived seconds after him. The driver, A.J. Foyt immediately began complaining about Andretti’s trademark aggressive driving and an argument ensued. Distracted by the kerfuffle, a crew member accidentally installed one of Andretti’s brake pads backwards. At 3:30AM Andretti left the pit. Upon approaching the first turn he hit the non-existent brakes and the car wrecked. Thankfully he walked away unscathed. And just like that, his incredible second place position was no more.
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