VIDEO. The car that inspired the Ford GT40. Jay Leno’s Garage

Racing royalty joins Jay Leno’s Garage, as the 1963 Lola Mk6 GT that inspired the original Ford GT40 makes an appearance with owner Allen Grant. Who hasn’t driven it in 51 years…

Can you imagine owning a car – a legendary racing car at that – and never driving it?

Actually I’ll make that question even more difficult: can you imagine owning a car – THE Lola Mk6 GT that would go on to inspire the legendary Ford GT 40 – for 51 years, and never driving it? If your answer to the above question is ‘yes’, then congratulations, you are clearly not human, and the FBI are surely hunting you down. Such is the story of Allen Grant though, the Jurassic Park namesake who went to work for a very young Carroll Shelby back in 1963 at the age of 23 (having left college to do so) and, as an engineer, becoming an integral part of the Ford GT40 two-fingered salute to Ferrari that would follow. But more on that later. First, the Lola Mk6 GT that inspired it…. 

Despite only three being made, the Lola Mk6 GT remains one of the most influential mid rear-engined sports cars of its era. Boasting a space frame chassis, lightweight aluminium bodywork as well as a 5.7-litre Chevrolet V8, the Mk6 was the first to truly crack the ‘low weight, big engine formula’ that would become a sports car racing stable over the coming years (previous experiments led only to torque-related rear axle failure). Following its Olympia Racing Car Show, Lola prepared two prototypes for that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, chassis LGT-2 running as high as ninth overall with event regulars Richard Attwood and David Hobbs behind the wheel, despite limited resources, a back-row starting position, and the MK6 being driven, on the road, from the Slough factory in the UK to La Sarthe ahead of the race. It was enough though to tweak Ford’s interest.

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With the prototype bought from designer Eric Broadley and his collaborative partner John Frayling (who would later go on to design the Lotus Elite), Ford set about dumping the Chevy V8 in favour of its own 4.2-litre example, remodelling the chassis, and optimising the bodywork yet further. It’s a venture that, despite a false start at Le Mans in 1964, would lead to four victories in a row from 1966 to 1969 and the birth of arguably sports cars’ most heated rivalry to date. The Lolas that begat the GT40 project meanwhile would be returned to Broadley shortly thereafter, ‘only’ going on to inspire the build of the T70. But that’s another story….

As for Allen, his career with Shelby would lead to a works drive at the ’65 Monza 1000km among others, having first spent time dealing directly with AC Cars in the UK as part of the AV Bristol’s Shelby Cobra transformation stateside. In 1963, with only three having been made, Allen bought chassis LGT-1, albeit without an engine or transmission, for ‘just’ $3000 with a view to restoring and racing it. Future business ventures would stunt that plan, and it would be another four decades before the Lola was brought back to life, Allen having never turned a wheel in anger in all that time. Even the tyres are the same examples that rolled out the Slough factory five decades earlier… 

Again, we ask you, dear reader, would you have had the strength to withstand that temptation? Hell, does Jay get the opportunity to break that 51-year duck? Dream on…

Enjoy this 1963 Lola Mk6 GT video?

You can check out more Jay Leno features HERE, and more Ford stories HERE

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