With the hatch removed – and not forgetting disconnecting the multi-pin plug for the headlamps either side – it’s two more screws and a bolt under each front wheelarch to remove the entire front clam. The rear clam (glassfibre, like the rest of the bodywork) pivots on a simple bracket at the very tail of the car, but the two steel wires that prevent it tipping over backwards obviously have to be removed first (one is sagging a bit – that’ll need attention). It’s a two-man job to lift it off, and a little bit heavier than I had expected. Sweaty palms ensue.
The doors are also removed. If you just so happened to have acquired a priceless Le Mans-winning Ford for your own garage, you’ll require a 5/16th socket on those…
What’s on the list chaps?
Colin and Ivan have a job checklist that stays with the car. That way they both know what the other has done to the vehicle, especially important given so many cars to look after, it’s not necessarily possible to work solidly on one car at a time.
You can’t beat cubic inches
The strength of the iron block V8 was a cornerstone of the GT40’s success in endurance racing. This particular 289 cu/in V8 (that’s 4.7-litres before you ask) is currently rated at about 380bhp, somewhere between road and race trim, and was recently rebuilt.
Today we’ll be making sure the oil is up to the correct level, checking the timing, the mixture on the imposingly gorgeous Weber IDA carbs, the points, changing the plugs, and generally having a good look for any leaks. With the hammock-like seat cushions lifted out of the way exposing the simple webbing underneath, the inspection hatch on the bulkhead can be removed, and it’s at that precise moment you realise how close the driver’s elbow is to the V8’s furiously rotating crankshaft.
Sorry, what was that?
Chunky silencers mean the V8 is loud, but not punishingly so, its fruity fumes more likely to render you speechless rather than any sonic assault. It’s while checking the static timing that the ferocity of it is brought home: I hold onto the roof section for support while I lean into the cabin with the timing light, and the V8’s percussive thuds at idle flow through the car and up my arm like a road drill. You don’t just hear each cylinder explosion; you feel it.
Time to torque
It’s an odd feeling hitting an impossibly valuable historic racing car as hard as possible with a mallet, but that’s what you have to do to free off the spinners that locate those gorgeous Hallibrand wheels. The rear of the GT40 is jacked up underneath the wishbone, so it’s now a case of checking the major bolts with a torque wrench, examining brake pads and discs, and making sure all the pipes are fine. The chaps have already checked the front end, including the steering and suspension, plus the coolant system.
Leave it to the experts
Colin and Ivan continue with their work, and given I’m clearly some way out of my spannering depth I perfect my entry into the cabin – there’s one way to do it, and one way only – and click the door shut, while remembering to tilt my head so as to not slice the top of it off with the leading edge of the door.
Laid prone inside the dark, snug cockpit, I’m soon lost in an evocative world of classic sports car racing. Is that Hans Hermann’s ailing long-tail Porsche 908 up ahead? Drop the hammer!
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