A surprisingly fast, authentic and usable tribute to the most evocative race car in history

What is it?

To all intents and purposes, it’s a genuine Ford GT40. Yes, it’s built new (in South Africa by the same people who make Noble’s chassis), but this is no ordinary replica.

Ninety percent of this car’s components are interchangeable with those of the original Ford race car; it’s technically called the GT40 (Mk I) “Continuation”; it’s officially licensed to use the GT40 name; it’s even eligible for the GT40 register, and the chassis numbers follow the same pattern. And it’s absolutely brilliant.

What’s it like?

At the risk of sounding obvious, it must be like driving a genuine Ford GT40. So it’s rather loud, for a start. In the back of this car is a Roush-tuned small-block Ford V8 tuned for 430bhp and 430lb ft of torque. All of which is good, considering the claimed weight is just 1090kg, which gives it a power-to-weight ratio a gnat’s shy of 400bhp per tonne.

We’ve timed this car and we know it’ll crack 60mph in less than four seconds (it would be quicker still if first wasn’t, authentically, out on a dog-leg) and, although we haven’t verified this, it will do the other side of 200mph. And this isn’t even the quickest one; you can get a 7.0-litre “mk II” with 120bhp extra horsepower. Gulp.

The power delivery from the Roush-tuned motor is fabulous. It’ll pull from idle if you want, but it sounds a bit tappety below 2000rpm, but from there, it’ll take full throttle and pull with magnificent, building linearity right through to 6500. And, if you’re doing it in second and you happen to have a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 at similarly full chat next to you, you’ll exactly match each other’s pace. This car is that fast.

It’s also beautifully finished. Well, so long as you’re expecting something finished like a race car from 40-something years ago. Panel gaps are not razor sharp like today’s cars, the doors leak and there’s the odd rattle here and there. But it feels solid, and every bit as authentic as the claims go.

The seats are soft, velour-esque and have metal hoops sewn in; the driving position is spot on – low, reclined (those doors slice in scarily, so mind your head); the steering wheel is big, unadjustable (though removable) and bears the magic GT40 logo; and the pedals are heavy. In fact the brakes, excellent as they are and adustable for front-rear bias, are unassisted, so you really have to stand on them to get results. This GT40’s gearshift requires a hefty touch, too, while visibility is not, as they say, ‘all that’.

So this isn’t an easy car to drive by any modern standards, but it rides better than you’d expect (the authentic tyres, on knock-off alloys, have high sidewalls) and, once you get some temperature into the mechanicals, it starts to flow from corner to corner rather more easily than you’d think too. The turning circle is never handy, and the unassisted steering is always heavy at town speeds, but low speeds aren’t the GT40’s forte. The original was built to go fast and, it follows, so was this one.

And it’s when you up the pace a bit that you really get the best out of the Superformance GT40. Its gearshift becomes much easier when you’ve a few revs wound on, the clutch is better if you’re just using it to flash through the gears and the throttle’s initial stiction becomes irrelevant if you’re using at least 50 percent of it.

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The engine’s positive, linear response and the brake pedal’s firmness make this one of the best cars in the world for heel-and-toe downchanges too, while the noise… Christ-on-a-bendy-bus, the noise. Twice I’ve been wrong recently about the best current production engine noise on the planet – which I first reckoned was the Aston V8 Roadster, then the Murcielage LP640. Now I reckon it’s this. And I’m sure I won’t be wrong again.

It handles, too. Our test car wasn’t set up for UK roads at all and it’s due to get new, high-end dampers. But even out of the box with a suck-it-and-see set-up, it’s pretty good. Most of our on-limit testing came in the wet, which is less than ideal, but at an airfield with lots of grassy run-off, which is very ideal.

The GT40 understeers at first, quite a lot if it’s damp, but the power can easily coax it back into, and beyond its line. This is not, with the engine in the middle and 60 percent of weight out the back, and with that enormous steering wheel and unassisted steering, an easy car to slide, but it’s communicable, adjustable and responsive to your inputs.

It even works on the road. It isn’t made for the twistiest B-roads but it’s less than 1.8-metres wide – wide by the standards of the day, but not by today’s – so can be threaded down narrower, bendier asphalt than you’d credit. Body control is exceptional, it’s brilliantly communicative and it has those wonderful responses.

In an age when car-makers move so much interaction away from the driver with over-assistance of all major controls, excess weight, too much sound-proofing and, well, just general sterilisation, this car is a revelation. How did things become so bad, that a replica of a 40-year-old racing car feels so good?

Should I buy one?

Too right you should.

The Superformance GT40 is expensive, of course, at £98,700, but if you’re in the market for a second car – maybe an F430, perhaps a 911 Turbo – and you’re only going to drive it occasionally, then, please, go and try one of these too. It’s intoxicating and responsive like no other car on sale today. And it’s no pastiche, either.

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With its monocoque chassis, thick GRP body and bona fide mechanicals, this replica feels wonderfully authentic (although the original, unlike this, didn’t have air-conditioning, which is lovely too). A Gallardo might make you feel a bit special every now and again. The GT40 makes you feel like a boy’s own hero every time you get within 50 yards of it.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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