We recently visited the Blackhawk Automotive Museum which has to be on any car enthusiasts list of things to do. One of my all time favorite race cars is the Ford GT40 Mirage in the Gulf Oil livery. This is #10001 the first of the Gulf Oil cars. The description that follows is provided by the Blackhawk Museum.
The 1966 racing season saw a much-needed turnaround in Ford’s fortunes with domination by the GT40’s with top three finishes at the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, wins at Spa and the Nurburgring and, at the third attempt, a Ford grand slam at the Le Mans 24 Hours. When Ford closed the UK based Ford Advanced Vehicles at the end of the season, famed team manager John Wyer, who was overseeing the launch of the GT40 racing program, and who had taken Aston Marin to their Le Mans 24 Hours win in 1959, launched J. W. Automotive to support private GT40 owners in international competition.
In 1966 Gulf Oil Company executive Grady Davis, a SCCA racer and a GT40 car owner, wanted to promote Gulf Oil by launching a motor race program. He contracted with John Wyer to build the Race team. That year, the FIA introduced a revised “Appendix J” to the rules that covered, amongst other things, minimum dimensions for the car and various components. This allowed Len Bailey, one of the GT40’s chief designers, to redraw the car with a slimmer roofline which reduced the frontal area. Gulf Oil wanted a car that looked a little different from the GT40, and John Wyer acquired the Len Bailey narrower roofline design as the basis for the 67 season car. The car would be named Mirage, and just three would be built.
In Mirage’s first season and, in the hands of Jacky Ickx, it was very quick but for 1967 it contested only five World Championship events. With drivers such as Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman, David Piper, Dickie Atwood and Jo Bonnier at the wheel, they would achieve a win at the championship race at Spa in their third race, and score a total of five wins overall during 1967.
Of the three original cars, 10001, 10002 and 10003, one was destroyed, one would be rebuilt into the new Gulf Team GT40 specs by JWA for the 1968 season, and the car on display is the only surviving example. It was driven by Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman to a win at the Kyalami 9 hours race in South Africa, and by Malcolm Guthrie and Mike Hailwood to win at the 1968 3 Hours Lourenco Marques race.
The Davis-Wyer partnership/friendship that was Gulf Racing would last nine years, and perhaps become endurance racing’s most successful commercial partnership in the golden years of sports car racing. All of which started with the Mirage-Ford M #10001 – the very first race car to be liveried in the now famous powder blue and orange colors.