Curbside Classic: 2010 Superformance GT40-R – Genuine GT, But Less Than 40

There are replicas and there are replicas. The difference is clear. Remember those Fieros dressed in unconvincing plastic Testarossa or Countach kits? The Superformance GT40 is the other kind of replica: built with care, almost indistinguishable from the original, improved in some discreet ways and worth a pretty penny, though not quite as much as the real thing.

I found this exceptional machine on yet another Sunday at the Jingu Gaien, the Tokyo equivalent of a unicorn parade ground. The concentration of Lambos, McLarens and Ferraris on this stretch of road is always unusually high, so the GT40 looked right at home size-wise. But it really stood out by its curvaceous and cleaner styling. Hypercars are so fiddly these days.

For those who want to know about the history of the original Ford GT40, CContibutor Aaron65 wrote up a very nice post about this absolute legend, illustrated by one of the hallowed survivors housed at the Ford Museum. But in a nutshell, the GT40 was created by Carroll Shelby in 1962-63 with the express goal of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it did in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.

Only 105 original Ford GT40s were made in both England and the United States over five years; if you absolutely want one, prices are currently in the $10 million range. This leaves a lot of pent-up demand, but luckily, there has been a cottage industry of GT40 replicas and kit cars pretty much since 1980.

But there was always one replica maker head and shoulders above the rest. Initially, that was Safir Engineering, who bought out the GT40 trademark along with three unfinished GT40 chassis. Safir made those into Mark Vs and then started producing new GT40s, with slight upgrades, carrying on from the original car’s numbering.

In 1996, Safir licensed the GT40 design to Superformance, a US-registered replica make whose products, which also includes Cobras and C2 Corvettes, are actually manufactured in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. These GT40s are tailor-made, so one can specify what “Mark” of GT40 is desired; engine options are also up to the individual customer, though classic Ford V8-based options are usually preferred. Prices currently run in the $250-300k range, depending on specs.

The interior is as whacky and as close to the original car as you’d expect. The humongous driver-side sill houses the right-hand lever to operate the 5-speed manual (the usual choice for these cars). The switchgear looks like it came off a late ‘50s Thames truck, that seat fabric looks totally BDSM and there is not supposed to be a tach among those dials – the big one is only for rpms. I didn’t check, but I assume they have that on this car as well. One mod con that can be added on the Superformance models is air-conditioning, which is apparently both very well hidden and direly needed.

Getting in to this car is apparently quite an art, one made much easier and graceful thanks to the removable steering wheel. That was standard on the original GT40s (except some Mark IVs), so it’s perfectly kosher. Not sure whether the mallet seen on the passenger seat is meant to help remove or attach the steering wheel or just for the knock-off rims – or both.

Superformance claim that at least 75% of the parts that are on this GT40 could be made to fit the ‘60s original – that’s one reason why they can ask for such a steep MRSP. This is like the real thing, only a lot more affordable, quite a bit more comfortable and a smidgen more usable. It’s still a street-legal race car, so practicality is not the name of the game here. But compared to the Lambos, Ferraris and McLarens that noisily prowl the pavement here, this is immeasurably cooler and rarer.

Now that GT40 production has resumed over the past couple of decades, the number of cars has gone up substantially, but remains pretty minute. According to Safir, two out of three GT40s now in existence are part of the continuation series that were made after 1995, when Superformance took over production. So there are a little over 200 “modern” GT40s to the hundred-odd ones Ford made over half a century ago.

I was present when this car’s owner returned, got in and drove off. This was preceded by the departure of Lamborghini in front, which did a U-turn and went down the avenue, wailing the usual F1-like V12 whine of present-day Italian blue-bloods. The GT40, in stark contrast, had the deepest, loudest bass line this side of a live rendition of Spinal Tap’s Big Bottom coming out of that child-bearing behind. I was apprehensive about it being capable of shattering glass – or triggering an earthquake. Race cars tend to leave me cold and modern supercars are just plain silly, but this brand new classic racer was really something else: beautiful in some angles, outlandish by any measure and altogether amazing to see (and hear!) in Tokyo’s tree-lined outdoor automobile museum.


Related posts:


Race Car Classic: Ford GT40 P/1075, by Aaron65

CC Outtake: Ford GT 40 Replica – Let’s Go Shopping, by PN

CC Cinema: The GT40 Gets The Hollywood Treatment In Ford V Ferrari, In Theaters This November, by Edward Snitkoff