2018 marks 50 years since the most iconic of Ford’s mighty GT40s won at Le Mans and to celebrate Scalextric are releasing the C3896A Limited Edition Legends Ford GT40 Le Mans 1968 Gulf Triple Pack.
These slot cars are so new that the Scalextric site doesn’t even have pictures of the actual cars, just the production drawings. Which, thankfully though, looks reassuringly awesome:
The triple pack contains models of all three Gulf Oil GT40s entered by John Wyer into the 68 race: the No.9 car driven by Pedro Rodríguez & Lucien Bianchi, the No.10 car driven by Paul Hawkins & David Hobbs and the No.11 car driven by Brian Muir & Jackie Oliver.
It’s hard to pass any judgement on the cars themselves as, well, we haven’t seen them but… If they’re as beautifully authentic as the previous C2403 Gulf GT40 then the set will just about justify its £130 price tag.
The GT40 is a model that’s hugely popular with slot car fans, with a mind boggling number of versions and variants (just by Scalextric let alone the other makers) so I’ve no doubt that these will go like hot cakes.
There’s been a huge amount written about the 1968 Le Mans so I won’t go into too much detail.
What’s important to remember is that prior to the ’68 race a number of changes to reduce the speeds of the cars and improve track safety, including the banning of engines over 5.0L were banned. This rule change saw the return to Le Mans of modified Mark I GT40s and resulted in Enzo Ferrari doing the motorsport version of taking his ball home in a huff and boycotting the event.
The absence of Ferraris made the 68 race a battle of attrition between the Fords, Porsche and Alfa Romeo. After a particularly gruelling 24 hours and with 331 laps of the French countryside, Lucien Bianchi and Pedro Rodríguez were victorious in the No.9 Ford GT40.
’68: In Photos
The 68 race was especially well documented and here are some of the particularly evocative photos of the event.
I especially love the black and white photo capturing the sea of faces in the enormous crowd, that’s just an arm’s length away, all watching Rodríguez & Bianchi sat on top of the car still with champagne in hand as they’re pushed away. The atmosphere jumps out at you. And then, in complete contrast to the race, a moment of tranquility captured: the No.9 car parked nonchalantly in front of the Hotel de France.
’68: On Film
If the pictures weren’t good enough here’s a magical half-hour film of the race which begins with Stirling Moss guiding us round the Circuit de la Sarthe:
FORD GT MKIV – LE MANS 24HRS 1967 – C3951
Turning the clock back one year, here’s the Mark IV GT40 driven by Mario Andretti and Lucien Bianchi at the 1967 Le Mans:
Like the 2018 Nurbergring Lightweight E-Type, this 2018 Mark IV is effectively last years Mark IV from the Legends 1967 Le Mans Triple Pack with a new livery.
On that new livery, Scalextric very kindly describe it as being “uniquely coloured” – my children would call it “sparkly brown” – I suppose it is “bronze”. And while it might be accurate to the colour of the original, there’s a reason why you don’t see many bronze cars. Collectors will find it hard not to buy but this model but it’s not a nice colour and, judging from the pictures, not particularly close to that of the actual car.
It’s difficult not to mention the size of the drivers head too – it seems to be a little bigger than 1:32. In real life, if Dan Gurney’s head was this big in comparison to the car, they wouldn’t have had to install a perspex dome he would have need an ‘upper deck’. But I shouldn’t be too harsh, what can you really expect for £40, and you don’t buy these cars for the accuracy of the drivers faces (although note Graham Hill’s moustache!), and these ogres’ heads are, I suppose, even part of their charm.
After finally sealing victory in the 1966 Le Mans, Ford returned to La Sarthe in 67 with the Mark IV. Based on the experimental J-Car, designed to adhere to Appendix J of the Le Mans rule book, the Mark IV was sculpted by Shelby’s Phil Remington a longer, leaner GT40.
The 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans took place on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June:
Ferrari dominated the early part of the ’67 season – taking a 1, 2, 3 in the Daytona 24 Hours while Ford saw each of its GT40 MkIIs retire from the race with gearbox issues. Defeated but not deterred, Ford introduced the MkIV later in the season and took the win at the Sebring 12 Hours with Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren behind the wheel.
Ford took 4 GT40 Mark IVs to Le Mans that year, with the number 3 car driven by Mario Andretti and Lucien Bianchi:
The No.3 car qualified 3rd in 3:25.3 behind Bruce McLaren in the No.2 car, and Spence/Hill in their Chaparral 2F (with its distinctive oversized rear spoiler). After a sluggish start due to a technical issue, Andretti picked up the pace and equalled the race lap record (3:26.6) as he powered the No.3 car to 2nd.
As the darkness of night fell, the car still in 2nd pitted for what was to be a fateful stop. A distracted mechanic fitted a front brake pad back to front which had disastrous consequences. Andretti accelerated out of the pits and under the Dunlop bridge, and braking for the first time into the Esses, the front wheel locked sending Andretti first in to a spin and then into an earth bank. The heavily damaged car ended up int he middle of the track causing two Mark IIs to crash as they avoided the stricken Mark IV.
The Development of the Ford GT40 Mark IV
Warning! The sound is pretty dreadful and there’s an almost insufferable number of diabolical adverts. But stick with it, because it’s worth it.