GT40 Replication, LTD
Web site http://www.gt40.co.nz/
Manufacturers Web site http://www.gt40.co.nz/
I drove to Phil Ware's house in Auckland on Friday 23 March 2001 where he greeted me graciously and spoke enthusiastically about fulfilling his dream to build a GT40 replica after retiring at age 40. Dead drop gorgeous looks and a terrifically successful racing record made the GT40 a most tempting streetable car. However, the riveted sheet metal frame of the original would not last on the street and was subject to corrosion. An engineer by trade, Phil told me about the great care that went into the design of the chassis (frame to us here in the states). He clearly took great pride in designing his replica from the inside-out. The initial molds were taken from an actual GT40; phil said that the current molds are 'better', but didnt specify how. I am no expert on GT40 authenticity, so you will have to examine the pictures.
The suspension design copies the original, and only a few changes were made elsewhere. for example, the radiator was tilted so the entire front bonnet can be hinged forward. The smaller door in the front of the hood is recommended to be permanently fastened, although it can be loose for originality if desired.
Two gas tanks are monitored by two gas gauges.
The car he stills drives regularly for the past 10 years was the first, and initially the only car he intended to build. Phil explained that GT40 replicas are not his life, but a passion that he takes great personal pride in. New Zealand has many small shops of high quality craftsmen which Phil sub-contracts to produce the various components under his supervision. Some custom components are imported- for example the windshield is constructed exclusively for him in Australia.
After looking over his car i rode in it to the shop where the fiberglass work is done. A woman was coating a fender piece- the fumes were so strong I had to hold my breath but she was wearing no form of respiratory protection. Also at this shop i saw the number 27 car- the green car shown in the pictures. The owner, Bryan, owns the fiberglass shop and spent the last 3 1/2 years building his GT40. Experienced with building Chevy powered Trans-Am cars, he fitted the GT40 with a 350 Chevy from a Vette, complete with over-the-top custom exhaust, and using the Renault transmission. Engine tuning was not complete, but CSB's have good potential for power. What i did notice was how totally stable the car was under full throttle over a quite bumpy road. The owner, Bryan, had gotten koni shocks custom valved for his application and the result was an impressively good ride and unflabbleable road manners. i think the rear tires were a 305 size BFG on American Racing 15" wheels. Phil told me he is planning to supply custom valved Konis with some future kits.
I did notice a very pronounced fiberglass seam above the headlight, and some cross hatching on the upper part of the door on the green car. Phil's car didn't have any of this, and the body work looked superior on his car. Phil said that the fiberglass was sub-standard on Bryan's car. Since Bryan owns the fiberglass shop, i wasn't sure what to make of this. Phil assured me that any fiberglass shipped to the states would be the standard of his car, not the green car with the few flaws.
Phil's car with 10 year old off the shelf shocks didn't ride as well, but the small and lighter 3.5 rover engine felt more balanced in the car than the CSB, even if it lacked the grunt of an American V8.
Both cars felt extremely stable with no rattles or flexing. Phil told me his car weighs 1.1 tonne, which works out to about 2420 lbs, if i got the units correct.
On both cars the doors worked very well. they swung open very smoothly and shut with no drama. both owners claimed no leaks in the rain, although the door design makes that look challenging. the fit of the door and the body in general was excellent.
The dash is molded from fiberglass and covered with the material that makes it look like a dash. hundreds of holes are drilled in the bare dash and the material is sucked on. both Phil's 10 year old dash and the newer #27 car's dash looked perfect to me.
Phil and I then proceeded to the powdercoating shop where we viewed the bare frame. he told me that ordinary power coating often flakes off, and that his frames were treated to prevent this. The details escape my memory. There should be sufficient pictures to show the frame.
He made the point repeatedly that the chassis defines the car, all the stuff on top of it is relatively inconsequential- by which he means that those problems, such as which fuel pump to use, are easy to solve compared to the bones of the car.
We also discussed the philosophy of his car- that he solves the difficult problems, such as the chassis, windshield, door fitment, etc, and parts that can be easily sourced locally are omitted. There is no manual, and he says he needs to provide little follow up support as his customers have been innovative and resourceful. We also discussed how the Factory Five kit allowed many people without the skills and/or confidence to build a Cobra. Then perhaps they would be ready for a more complex car like the GT40.
After about 3 1/2 hours, and about 2 hours riding in Phil's car he dropped me off at my friend's place. You do get a bit of fumes in the cockpit, but it was not uncomfortable. IRS rules. There was no way to evaluate the track potential of the cars as both owners were very restrained while driving. (Well, compared to me and Borden anyway =) )
Phil struck me as sincere, honest, and very excited about his car- especially from an engineering point of view. He doesn't need to build cars, and doesn't do it for the money, but i got the impression he would be pleased indeed to have a few of his cars roaming in the US.
PS I have no material interest whatsoever in Phil's business; I was just in the country visiting family and went to visit his shop to help out some of the folks on cobraforum who have been so generous to me over the last year. (Plus i luuuv cars :))