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From the Archive - One man and his GT40

  • Published March 20, 2018

Graham Crawley had long wanted to build a kit car. But, which one to choose? Thinking back to when first he saw a beautiful silver GT40 at Ford’s Swansea plant, there was no longer any doubt in his mind!

I am 56, have been married to Suzanne for thirty-two years, and have two sons (Ben, 24 and Alex, 27) both through university and now in jobs. Since getting married I have lived in Billericay, Essex, in various houses - apart from a couple of years in Detroit!

What work do you do (or did, if you’re now retired)?

I have worked for Ford as an engineer for forty years, starting as an apprentice, later completing an Engineering Degree and Diploma in Management Studies. During all those years with Ford I have been responsible for manufacturing, but primarily Product Development for Body Exterior, Interior, Electrical and now Powertrain Diesel Systems Integration. I also had ten years in Ford’s component manufacturing division, designing interiors for Aston Martin, Jaguar, and even Mercedes and others.

What sparked your initial interest in GT40s?

My first sight of a GT40 came when, as an apprentice, I was sent in a development Transit to Swansea plant, to have the axle changed. While I was standing there a silver GT40 came burbling around the corner. It was part of the small museum the plant had at that time. The GT40 had a service and it was being checked out, a fantastic first sight.

Do you have any other interests, sports and hobbies?

I have raced sailing catamarans for over thirty-five years (although I sold my boat last year). This year is my year of golf, and at the end of the year I will decide if I like it enough to continue. I have been skiing once or twice a year over the last twenty years. I regularly go windsurfing with a full quiver of three boards and five sails. I have a carbon road-racing bike, although both the cycling and windsurfing have taken a hit due to the golf. I have started another car project, building a Lotus 11 replica with an aluminium body, although it’s not moving along as fast as I would like. I recently started watercolour painting - of cars, naturally. One problem is that I need more time, because the work thing gets in the way of my interests; it’s a shame I need the money!

When, why and how did you obtain your GT40?

I started building my car around seven years ago, and it’s been on the road for nearly three years now. I had always wanted to build a car, when I had the time. It was a toss-up between a Cobra, a Lightweight Etype and a GT40. I chose the GT40 for three reasons: it was the best looking, my son loved the car and had a Scalextric model of the GT40, and it just seemed to be the right car to build, bearing in mind my long association with Ford. Also, I was fontunate to have access to the two original Ford-owned GT40s - a Mark I and a Mark III - during the build.

What other interesting cars have you had over the years?

I have had literally hundreds of Ford management cars of all sorts over the years. My hobby cars have been an MGB, followed by a V12 E-type, then a Lotus Elise before the GT40.

Tell us a little about your GT40.

It’s a reproduction of the Gulf car chassis 1075, wearing race number 4 that the original car wore on its first win at Brands Hatch. Bodyshell is glassfibre as original, from moulds taken from an original, so the righthand door is 5mm longer than the left-hand one, just as on originals. The body has the single front vent and wide wheel arches of the three lightweight Gulf GT40s built for the 1968 race season. The chassis is a steel spaceframe clad in aluminium; the original was a steel monocoque, of course. Naturally, the engine is a Ford Racing 302 (5-litre) V8 as original, with 350bhp and 350lb.ft of torque. Crossover exhaust manifolds are as original. The suspension is double wishbone front lower Aframe, and double radius arm rear as original. It uses four-pot billet caliper brakes with ventilated drilled discs, slightly uprated over the original disc brakes. The wheels are BRM-style, 15 inch diameter with 12inch wide rear and 8.5inch wide front tyres, again as original. The cockpit has vented seats, a glassfibre instrument panel, Smiths instruments, Lucas switches and 5-point harnesses, all as original. Weight comes out to around 950kg. I used parts from Tornado, Southern GT and a mix of other suppliers.

How many miles did you do in your GT40 last year and what did you use it for?

I did around 2,500 miles last year, and I had track days at Goodwood and Castle Combe driving with my son. I used it to go to the Goodwood Revival and a few other events and generally around town, using it to drive to work about once a fortnight.

Can you describe the driving experience of your GT40?

It’s astounding, I always thought the Lotus Elise was one of the best handling cars, and I was worried that the GT40 would not live up to that high standard, but it exceeded my expectations in every area. The car is geared for 150 mph, and therefore the acceleration is immense. The ride is

firm, but with the original profile tyres it’s not harsh. Handling is consistent with even weight-split front and rear, and it has great grip. Braking is fadefree and solid, although this is probably the only area where modern cars win, at least when on the track. With 15-inch wheels the brake disc size is limited to around 300mm, whereas modern cars can have much larger discs with larger wheels and low-profile tyres. The other thing you always notice when driving the GT40 is how people love to see the car out and about; the number of waves, thumbs-up and smiles is impossible to count.

What has been the best moment during your GT40 ownership?

Every year we have an enthusiasts-car show at the Ford Dunton Research and Engineering Centre, where I work along with around 4,000 other people. There are normally around 200 superb and exotic cars at the show. I surprised myself how pleased I was when I took the car along to the show last year and won ‘Best in Show’, a great recognition from my colleagues of the effort I put into the build.

And have there been any really scary moments?

The first track day I did was an MSVorganised day at Brands Hatch. I would not recommend MSV, as they have too many people on track at one time, with no policing of bad driving - twenty cars on the one-mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit compared to six on Goodwood’s two-mile circuit for Goodwood track days. On the Brands Hatch track day my son Alex was driving, with me in the passenger seat, and as we came over the blind right-hand Paddock Hill bend we found that an Alfa Romeo had spun immediately in front of us, and was now almost stationary across the middle of the road. Fortunately Alex kept his cool and drove round the back of the Alfa, but it was a memorable experience for me.

What was the most recent work carried out on your GT40?

I had to have the air-conditioning system recharged. I’m not quite sure why the gas had leaked out, and both the A/C man and I checked everywhere for leaks but couldn’t find any. He recharged the system, which came from Car Builder Solutions, and also put in a special solution that should cure minor leaks. On completion we measured the temperature coming out of the air vents at 1°C, so it’s now a super-cool GT40.

Do you have any advice to give to anyone contemplating buying a GT40?

Go for it, they’re great cars! Buy or build the best car you can - and make sure it’s got A/C, because you’ll certainly need it!

If you've enjoyed this you can read more articles from Issue 112 in our members area HERE.

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