Rivet for rivet, I’m not sure you can find a car that matches the Ford GT40’s raw collectability. Ford’s mid-engine wunderkind exists at the intersection of historical importance, motorsport legend, iconic personalities, exemplary engineering, and sex appeal. Not every Ferrari race car is important, but I reckon every GT40 built is noteworthy by its existence alone. Despite that, many Ferraris of similar or lesser provenance trade for millions more. Could it be that the GT40 is undervalued?
Yes, we know there are plenty of zeros involved in the going rate of a finished GT40. It’s not an everyman car, but it is a storybook car, maybe the storybook car in America’s sports car history. That alone is reason enough to seek a better understanding of the GT40’s place into the collector market.
Prancing horse context
If we’re looking at raw numbers, despite all that appeal, it’s usually only a cluster of GT40s with heavy competition history that break the $10 million mark. The rest of the cars—regardless of generation—trade beneath the eight-figure waterline (the “average” GT40 transacts for just under $6 million), presenting a relative bargain compared to some of the superstars from Europe.
Indeed, values of the GT40’s Modenese contemporaries—the 250 LM and the 330/412 P family—have lapped the Ford more than three times over.
The 250 LM has traded in rare air for a long time: public sales dating back to the early-to-mid 2010s saw values as low as $10 million and as high as $17 million. According to Hagerty’s Price Guide, in today’s climate, $17 million fetches a rough 250 LM, while the cleanest attract an average of $24 million.
As for the ultra-rare 330 P bloodline, though modern auction data essentially doesn’t exist—a failed sale in 2009 appears to be last time one crossed the block—we can still provide some context. A source indicated a current owner of a GT40 and a Ferrari 412 P—apparently both purchased long, long ago—regularly fields private offers from interested parties. Of course, the numbers are significant for each, but according to our contact, the 412 P’s offers are up to three times greater than those for the GT40.
Tight supply combined with designs roundly considered some of the most beautiful and well-proportioned cars ever provides enough valuation firepower for these Ferraris to trounce the GT40 almost 60 years after the final checkered flag. But that merely describes the market the GT40 is playing in; it doesn’t explain the fast Ford’s own seemingly stunted values.
Like most everything in the collector car market, GT40s have enjoyed a solid value run-up in the tumultuous times between January 2019 and April 2023, with the biggest jump seen in October 2022. According to Hagerty Price Guide data, GT40s in Condition #2 from all generations—ranging from early prototypes to the final Mk. IV “J-Cars” —have jumped some 28%, with the road-focused MK. IIIs and distinctive Mk. IVs showing the largest boost at 35% each.
Compare this to Hagerty’s Blue Chip Index—a stock-market-style index averaging out the values of 25 of the most sought-after collector cars from a wide range of genres—which when set to the same 2019-2023 timeline, is down 2.1 percent.
It seems the market agrees with me; the Ford GT40 is—or was—undervalued, and collectors have taken notice in the last two years. But why did it take so long for this incomparable relic of automotive history to enjoy major appreciation, and what keeps the lid on the GT40's values compared to European sports cars with less historical significance?
According to experts, there isn't any one factor holding the GT40 back. Instead, several conspire to influence the GT40's place in the market.
To start, one of the foremost issues is a lack of public sales of great examples. “Most sales are private,” said GT40 owner and expert Johnny Shaughnessy. “They’re harder cars to sell, because like most cars on this level, you need the right buyer.” That means brokered deals—where the sale price isn't public—rather than auctions carry the day.
Researching GT40s, it quickly becomes apparent the “right buyer” means an “educated buyer,” as there is a dizzying amount of history you need to be familiar with if you’re serious about entering this market. “One of the reasons why the values of the GT40 are held down is because they’re so many series of them, made by so many people, at so many different times,” explains Hagerty Price Guide Publisher Dave Kinney. “It becomes confusing as to what you’re looking at.”
Differences without a distinction
Compared to other dedicated prototype race cars of the era, the GT40 was built in relatively large numbers—and that final production figure is tricky to pin down. If we’re sticking to the original Ford-sanctioned effort between 1964 and 1969 that encompasses the first 12 prototypes through the final run of Mk. IV “J-Cars,” estimates usually peg production around 105 cars.
Within that range, multiple assembly locations and bespoke competition set-ups diffuse those four basic generations into a daunting kaleidoscope of permutations. “There are many differences without a distinction,” says Kinney. “It’s an explanation to anyone outside of the club. With a Cobra, you either have the CSX serial number or you don’t.”
The first cars—Mk. I and assorted prototypes—were developed and built in Slough, UK at the Ford Advanced Vehicles workshop. When the 289ci-powered Mk. I proved mostly unsuccessful, Ford contracted with Kar Kraft to fit the 7.0-liter (427ci) big-block V-8 into the Mk. I. Chassis were then shipped to Shelby American and Holman-Moody, Ford’s contracted race teams supporting the program.
Simultaneously, U.K-based Alan Mann Racing continued work on the Mk. I platform at Ford's behest; five lightweight aluminum-bodied small-block Mk. Is were ordered for Ford’s 1966 Le Mans warparty. Two were built before the remaining Alan Mann cars were shifted to the burlier Mk. II platform.
All this variation didn’t stop entirely with the introduction of the road-going-only Mk. III; just seven of these GT40s were built, each finished with subtle production differences and options. Even when Ford brought development almost entirely in-house with the Mk. IV, race cars were almost always seen as a modular canvas to slice, swap, and snip to fit a particular track or race.
Naturally, this diversity makes them one of the more challenging and thus expensive cars to restore. “They are very complicated to restore correctly,” says Shaughnessy. Fresh from a multi-year comprehensive restoration, his 1966 GT40 Mk. I took home a second-place class finish at the 2021 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
It takes time and the right team to get things just so. “You probably only really have a handful of guys who can do them right. And, two years of my restoration was primarily just research. We ended up digitizing some never-before-seen [GT40] archive photos from Ford, which hadn’t been done before,” Shaughnessy says.
Much of the challenge comes from pinning down those differences in production and preparation, both major and minor. As is the case on most vintage race cars, effective GT40 restorations pick a particular era of the car’s history to return to; meaning, it doesn’t always have to be the car’s first or second phase of use.
Shaughnessy chose to return his Mk. I back to its original street-spec, requiring an inordinate amount of detail-oriented research and planning. He tells me of the herringbone-pattern brake lines he had special ordered and recreated in India, and of $4000 wiper blades, $10,000 headlights, and $16,000 wheels.
Even how the engine was originally dressed is up for interpretation. “They really just used whatever they had on the shelf,” he explains. “Take the exterior finishes on the motor. Some GT40’s blocks were black, others were blue, or heads were blue, heads were black. Cera-coating on the exhaust, no cera-coating on the exhaust. Every car changed.”
In the hot seat
So, you’ve figured out which specific GT40 to get, and persevered through the agonizing restoration process. What’s next?
Well, if you’re like most GT40 owners, you’re probably not going to drive it all that much—especially not on the road. “On the track, they’re fantastic. On the road, not so much,” says Gary Bartlett, longtime enthusiast, collector, and current Mk. III GT40 owner. “They’re small, noisy, and hot. Road tours are maybe not such a great thing.”
Like Shaughnessy’s Mk. I, Bartlett’s GT40 is also a well-restored example—but that doesn’t make it any more friendly to use. Bartlett tells me of his first post-restoration drive, when he and his wife picked up the fresh car from the U.K-based shop, planning on driving it a few hours down a coastal highway to Dover. “It was probably 50 degrees outside, and I thought my wife was going to pass out, it was so hot inside,” remembers Bartlett. “It was brutal. I had to stop to get a water bottle at a gas station, and then turn right around and go back. We didn’t make it to Dover.”
Shaughnessy’s experience isn’t much different. “They’re exhausting cars. You have to deal with greenhouse effect—that’s the biggest problem. That wears you out,” he said. “And, you simply won't fit in them if you're six-foot-plus.”
And this is just for 289-powered cars; the big-block 427 Mk. IIs and Mk. IVs are different animals entirely—emphasis on “animal.” Prior to the completed restoration of his Mk. I, Shaughnessy got his GT40 kicks in his 1967 Mk. IV, which, like all Mk. IVs, had the 7.0-liter. “Driving a Mk. IV is tough,” he tells me, quite seriously. “it’s a car you need to approach with a certain level of comfortability and respect.”
Want to race?
Not that you’ll be overwhelmed by events in which to drive your very hot, very cramped toy. Outside of a handful of major classic car rallies, using your GT40 in a vintage racing capacity isn’t that easy, either—at least if you’re in the States. Outside of Monterey Motorsports Reunion, Classic Daytona and Daytona Historics, and the newly minted Velocity Invitational, there aren’t many opportunities to use your GT40 in a competitive environment in the U.S.
In the U.K. and Europe, it's a different matter altogether: the vintage racing calendar is packed full, with Le Mans Classic, GT40 classes at Goodwood events, and a GT40-only series hosted intermittently.
Regardless of continent, a not-insignificant amount of owners commission detail-oriented, $500,000 replicas of their real GT40s and leave the genuine article tucked safely in the garage. Free from the constraints of preservation, these replicas can be tweaked for quality-of-life improvements, including seats, cooling, and ease-of-operation.
The real GT40’s road and track usability—or lack thereof—might never have really been part of the equation to begin with. “Most people that own them probably don’t even get them out on the track in the first place,” says Bartlett. “Most just put them in the garage and look at them.”
Whether for a fancy showpiece or a Goodwood grid spot, who’s buying the GT40? Superfans of the GT40's legend and its legacy loom large. Bartlett himself is an indicator: in addition to his Mk. I, he owns an '05 and a '19 GT. According to our data, 57% of GT40 owners have at least one 2005-2006 Ford GT in the garage, with an equal amount owning a 2017+ Ford GT. 42% have all three cars in the collection. It seems Ford's modern GTs are a bit like those replica race cars—a means to enjoy and express the lineage without hurting the real thing, or wearing yourself out.
Age demographics of the three cars aligns with our expectations. GT40 owners are the oldest of the trio at an average age of 65, with the 2005 GT dropping down to 59 years old. As a hot supercar of the moment, the 2017+ Ford GT lops almost decade off the GT40’s demographic, with an average age of 56 for the latest iteration.
Other than devout GT40 enthusiasts, Shaughnessy honed in on Shelby collectors as the primary overlapping demographic, and our data say he’s onto something. 71% of GT40 policy holders with Hagerty also have a Shelby Cobra in their garage, with a further 33% owning an original GT350 as well. The average GT40 owner also appears to be open to other marques, with a surprising 38% owing some variant of the Ferrari 250 GT family. So much for the Ford and Ferrari houses staying divided.
Ultimately, there's no denying the richness of the GT40's history or the Herculean efforts Ford and a trove of racing legends put behind honing the GT40 into the weapon it became. Those same efforts challenge restorers today with a mystery of intricate details, and befuddle buyers, who have a harder time discerning what's "correct." The driving characteristics and race car sacrifices that added up to victories can be a lot to handle, especially for those not named Miles or McLaren. At the end of the day, GT40's values reflect the overlap of modern realities with a legendary—albeit brief—folio of American motorsport victories on a world stage that remains unmatched.
The price difference between the GT40 and the Ferraris is simple to explain. Billionaire collectors of Ferraris are used to spending millions for rare road cars and they are a more global audience than billionaire Ford collectors, so there’s a lot more of them. So, a combination of price expectations and supply and demand.
Simple supply and demand. There’s a lot more Ferrari fanatics globally than Ford fanatics. I think this article looks at the market from a US-centric perspective, which is hazardous.
A chart comparing production numbers would have been helpful in this article as well.
Of all my collector cars, my Safir Mk V GT40 gets the least use. They are completely impractical cars. Basically they were built to win races, not to drive on the street. Shaughnessy mentioned hot and noisy. He is entirely right. Probably all GT40 owners are nuts. Whatever.
I’d gladly own all three. Having seen what the replicars look like it’s clear why you never even see those on the street.
I was at the Monterey reunion last August with LeMans being the focus. Hearing and watching them was the highlight of the entire week. When one started and left the exhibit tent for the track the entire crowd let out a cheer! Rarely do I see that level of respect and there are many fine race cars at that event. I think it was a “real” one but I am not even sure. Did not seem to matter either way.
GT 40s are like thoroughbred race horses – they are loved and admired by many but can only be maintained and used by a few.
While not detracting from the blue ovals commitment lets not forget that GT-40s beautiful shape came from Lola. That being said. Maybe it’s not that these cars are undervalued as much as the Ferrari’s are overvalued. Anything red. It must be a serious undertaking putting one back to just as original specs but should you always? I know these cars are often restored that way but should you really go that route with one that was modified and competed in Can-Am? Personally I’d do all the mechanical’s and leave the rest in as last raced condition unless we’re talking about something like the one AJ and Gurney won in 67. Speaking of, would you take the gurney bubble off of that if you had it? I thought the prices of GT’s and anything Shelby would go through the ceiling after Ford vs Ferrari (even with all its faults) regardless of how in the know potential buyers may or may not be. Then again I don’t understand while a Steve McQueen machine goes for more than a Paul Newman in the celebrity slash drove fast market. But if I could I’d pay twice the asking for a GT-40 if it included Caitrione Balfe who played Mollie Miles in the movie and I’d pick up an old Country Squire for her to drive while I was at it.
My Ford GT journey started in a one car garage in a Detroit or Dearborn suburb. This was a LONG time ago so my memories may be incorrect but the gist is fun to remember. It was the red Gurney/Grant #3 car in the garage of an ex or current (then) Kar Kraft or Holman Moody mechanic. As I recall the story, after LeMans, the car went on tour to Ford dealerships in as-raced condition. I don’t know how this guy ended up with it but he did and it was for sale. I probably found it in Hemmings. Long story short, it wasn’t running and according to the owner, it needed new fuel cells. Geez, I’m a 22 year old kid and the thought of sourcing GT40 fuel cells was a deal breaker … dumb kid.
Moving on but staying with the same theme, I ended up buying a Ferrari 250LM / #5903. Sitting next to it at the dealership was a Mirage version on the GT40 which was the same price and tempting, but the Ferrari won out after a short test drive. Something about the V12 Ferrari and 6 twin throat Webers about 4″ behind your head as well as left hand drive on this one. By the way, prior to 5903, I visited Joe Marchetti’s place in Chicago and was given a wild test drive through the streets of Chicago in an LM that he was selling. I don’t know how fast, but it was real fast and noisy.
So, back to the usability of the two cars. Those who have commented in the article pretty much summarized the non-suitability of the GT’s, but the LM was very streetable and I drove it regularly on the street and to work. Open door, sit down, turn key. The only unfriendly aspect of driving was the non-syncho transmision which required double clutching, especially going down. More times than I will admit, I had to pull over and start again when the nasty sounds of not getting the gear sounded too expensive to keep trying to find it.
God bless the rich man! Hopefully he or she donates to worthwhile causes.
These are exceptional cars for exceptional people. Hopefully the people who own them are worthy!
Provenance is certainly a factor in the value of various GT40s. These were mass-produced cars in comparison to most racing Ferraris.
Having driven one on street and track, these cars combine a sauna and a weight workout. But the look and the sound are still incredible. The guys who raced them in endurance events were truly athletes. BTW: Top picture is not a Mk II.
To clarify my picture comment. I was referring to the shop picture, not the top picture.
Hi Racer417, We sourced that photo from Ford’s archives, which labeled it as a Mk II. Is there a particular giveaway in the photo that suggests they tagged it incorrectly?
The stripes, the valve covers, the exhaust system, the gearbox, and most obviously the Weber carburetors.
Thanks! We appreciate you pointing that out. We reached out to one of the subjects of the story and he agreed with you and indicated it was a Mk I. We’ve updated the caption.
To suggest that opportunities to compete with a GT40 are limited in the US, is not correct. You cited HSR sanctioned events, while I have seen one or more GT40’s at any number of SVRA events, especially their annual hallmark September event, at Watkins Glen, which draws hundreds of racers, some more rare than others. I can’t imagine any of the more regional sanctioning bodies, i.e. VRG, VSCCA or VSCDA turning them away, either.
2 Eric Miller – So what you’re saying during this Easter/ Passover is – ‘ blessed are the rich for they shall..” Don’t worry they contribute to some worthy causes. How else can one appear appropriately philanthropic during casual conversation?
I think some of the value difference is due to the lack of understanding or appreciation of what was achieved by the GT40 on the world stage by the North American market. The car may have as much of a following in Europe, however it is not looked as highly upon by the Euro crowd either, when compared to some of their domestic marques.
In North America a rich GM guy probably doesn’t care about what a Ford race car did or drive a Ford. In Europe, much the same. A wealthy collector may not care as much about a car that is marketed as American dominance at Le Mans.
On a much smaller level mid engine sports cars do not have the same following as muscle cars in North America. There is still a group that hate the new Corvette and well some may argue that Panteras remain as one of the most under valued and under appreciated sports cars from the collector car segment.
& 2 Eckert-racer 417 I’m wondering if the picture in question might be one of the cars raced by Ford of France in 66/67. I think they stayed with the small block in 67 and the paint job stayed the same but the car had been revised in other aspects for 67. Perhaps this crossover small block and big block period has something to do with the Mk I -Mk II confusion.
I have personally owned 3 Mark 1 GT40s and 1 2006 Ford GT . As the article stated the early cars are not practical for street use . Noisy and hot , racing car only including so called street versions . Stunning cars to sit and look at with a glass of wine
The Ford GT was comfortable once seated but more than once hit my head getting in and out . As for any overnight excursion- no place for an overnight bag even if very small. Just my 2 cents for what it is worth.