So lets jump right into it, and talk about the history of chassis P1031/1047, why two chassis numbers, and why the hell is this project called Carolina Blue?
On November 5, 1965, chassis P1031 was delivered to Shelby America to be fitted to MkII spec. All GT40 chassis except for the MKIV, (a.k.a. J-Cars) ever made, were built by F.A.V. in England ( with the company becoming JWAE in 1967.) It was slated to race at Daytona in ‘66, but instead was readied for the 12hr. Of Sebring. It would have won right out of the gate had a slight problem not arised. Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant had a healthy lead in the final hours of the race, and was on the verge of victory, but coming out of the last corner, the engine blew due to failed connecting rod bolts. Gurney attempted to push it to the start finish line, but he was both passed by the 2nd place car, as well as disqualified for pushing it across the line, a tough break.
It’s next race would be Le Mans where it had a lack luster performance. Set up by Holman-Moody, and driven by Mario Andretti and Lucian Bianchi (Lucien Bianchi would go on to win the 1968 race, but tragically die at the next years Le Mans test day in an Alfa Romeo.) were running as high as 6th before dropping a valve.
For 1967, it recieved several updates. An enhanced roll cage, better brakes, a revised dash, and more importantly, dual 4 barrel carbs. Daytona was another bust. It was meant to be a “rabbit” car, and was running 2nd in the begining of the race, but after it, and 5 other MkII’s retired, all due to shaft failure in the transmission, Daytona went to a 1-2-3 for Ferrari.
It was returned to H-M where it recieved more improvements. It was now designated a MkIIB, a designation shared by three other cars (out of 12 MkII’s ever made.) At Sebring only P1031 and a MkIV were entered by Ford. In the end, both cars were so far ahead, that even though P1031 blew it’s engine, and was sitting in the pits, it was classified in 2nd place due to distance completed. So 4 races in, all physical DNF’s, but a 2nd place to it’s name. Next, Le Mans.
The 1967 Le Mans goes down in history as one of the greatest races of the 20th century, and of course our car was there, kind of.
This is where the story becomes a bit cloudy, and wasn’t until 2002 when things finally began to be figured out. With the help of photos, and inspection of the layers of paint thanks to it being unrestored at the time, it was discovered this car was infact P1031, wearing the #57, while chassis P1047 was wearing the #5 at the race.
P1031 got a fantastic start in the race, and led for 23 laps. Not bad considering the mighty MkIV’s pace to set a new distance record. Sadly it’s old enemy caught up with it, and had to relinquish the lead due to the engine overheating. It would continue on until it’s engine seized at the 18th hour, though it faired better, as #P1047 was involved in a heavy crash with two other GT40's earlier in the night.
After Le Mans, Ford called it quits, and cars were being sold, or used by other racing teams. Enter Ford France. They requested a car to race, with 12hr. of Reims coming up in two weeks. It was believed around this time the number plates were switched. Considering P1047 had heavy damaged, and P1031 only needed a new engine and a going through, it was a no brainer what to do, so H-M prepped the car and shipped it off. I’m not sure why they would need to switch the chassis plate, but my speculation is that they had agreed upon getting P1047, and back then you put a deposit down registering, and confirmed what chassis you were bringing. Should that chassis not arrive, you were to lose out on the deposit.
The next 4 races would be the turning point in this chassis career. Reims was a 12hr. Race that started at night, and had fallen out of the championship calendar, but was still a sought after race. Chassis (now) P1047 wore the #1, and even with failing brakes, a loose door, and a sticking throttle, it would go on to win! This would be the last MkII win, and the only win for a Mk IIB. After this, it would collect a 4th at Mugello, a DNF (tire) at Montlhery Coupes de Salon, and later again at Montlhery for the 1000km race, and a other 4th.
Now some of the unique upgrades this car received were confined to just the MkII, as well as receiving parts from the MkIV such as the engine and drivetrain, which also included the dual 4 barrel carbs, and turbine rims (although Shelby said they were used, I haven’t found a picture of Le Mans with them on)
The car also received a unique front end, which removed the lower section where the radiator sits, the front brake ducts were relocated and removed from the front, and a tail section revised for the new drivetrain, location of the spare tire, and brake duct snorkels removed. Probably the most unique was the left door modification. Since drivers didn’t need to get out on that side, the top half of the door was cut, and applied to the roof for rigidy.
And finally, why project Carolina Blue? Well the color of course. This color defines the car from it’s history at Le Mans and forward of that when in the hands of Ford France.