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A Kiwi Le Mans legend brought back from the past

17 December, 2014


Recreating a Kiwi Le Mans legend is no minor feat and Grant Aitken explains the reasoning behind why he took on the challenge

Some five years ago, in a discussion with a significant New Zealand motorsport personality, the topic of the original 1966 Le Mans-winning Ford GT40, as driven to victory by Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren came up. The person involved in the discussion was adamant that the original car was stored in a garage in Tauranga although, personally, I had my doubts as I believed that the value of the original vehicle would be beyond the resources of most Kiwis.

A fruitless search resulted in me making contact with a known previous owner of the original car, a certain George Stauffer — a globally recognized race car restorer. I tracked him down and boldly rang him. He told me that he had in fact owned the original car (chassis 1046), and restored it to its original 1966 livery. 

Further to confirming his ownership, he also advised me that he’d recently sold it to a New York collector for a modest US$16 million. However, he told me that if the notion of building a clone of the original interested me, I should talk to Lee Holman, as he still had some of the original parts that made up the MKII GT40.

I commissioned manufacturer Holman Moody to build a replica of #1046. The body shell was sourced from a recognized current replica builder in South Africa and shipped to Holman Moody in Charlotte, North Carolina in the US.

Eighteen months went by and the car was completed with a dry-sump 427 FE engine, built but the original engine builder, Jimmy Tucker. The car features the correct T44 transmission, period-correct gauges, seats, interior, and luggage compartments. It is believe to be the closest reproduction of the original car in existence. 

During the build, Chris Amon’s assistance was invaluable, with his supplying of pictures of the original car, including dashboard layout among other things.

chris 1.jpg

The car was completed in 2012 and shipped to New Zealand, where on December 10, 2014 Chris Amon was introduced to the car. We drove several laps of the Taupo Motorsport Park circuit and Chris was quite emotional about the visit to the past, speaking very highly of the car.

I am delighted to have reconstructed a car to commemorate one of New Zealand’s greatest sporting victories — one that has gone largely unnoticed in New Zealand. However, I want to ensure that the upcoming 50th anniversary of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon’s win — the first ever for a Ford at Le Mans — is celebrated and given the recognition it deserves.

The gallery below has been captured by Graham Sword.

Taipan – surpassing interest

“It’s merely a passing interest,” insists Selby — despite owning three variants of the classic VW Beetle, including an unusual VW van that was sold as a body kit for a Subaru. In his defence he points to a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, a car that he converted to right-hand drive. However, on the VW side of the ledger, since he opened Allison Autos in Whanganui 27 years ago, Selby has built 15 VW-powered Formula First cars, followed by a beach buggy, restored a derelict Karmann Ghia, and hot-rodded a common or garden Beetle into something that has to be seen to be believed. As speed is not something generally associated with classic VWs, though, Selby is still waiting for this particular modification to catch on amongst the hot rod faithful.

Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.