Dario's Lab

Restoration and Development of a 1970 GT40 Mk1

I’ve expressed my passion for purposeful elegant design in a variety of applications. In each instance the journey involved understanding the context, the factors that drive performance, and the evolution of solutions invented to improve outcomes with respect to those factors.

I’ve learned how design thinking can be generalised and applied to different contexts. The common thread is defining the things that will determine whether a design is successful. These start with obvious (high-level) ones like “must win a race”. Then broken down into necessary (and mostly conflicting) components such as “must be robust enough to finish, have a user-interface that minimises errors under pressure, be developed in time and on budget”…

Whether the goal is making a yacht sail faster, making an aircraft fly longer, making a facility more productive, making a team more effective, design thinking is a way to define the key requirements and set about optimising them using an effective framework.

Specifically in the car world, I have a fascination with lightweight high-performance vehicles focused on minimising time around paved circuits. I’ve explored various historic examples of solutions to this challenge, starting with the air-cooled Porsche 911 (described elsewhere on this site), then on to various Lotus models.

Learning about each vehicle is a way to understand how generations of designers and engineers thought. Studying their artefact is like reading coded text. Why is this part shaped and arranged like this? Because the designer’s intent was for it to function in this way… That intent speaks volumes about the progress of understanding of the physical world, and changing constraints associated with industrial and commercial development… And of course the effects of evolving rules and regulatory frameworks!

To truly learn about a vehicle, one must invest time working on it and driving it. This involves seeking out and spending time with experts who specialise in the type, and absorbing their knowledge and experience – which is a big part of the fun.

The next step after the Lotus 62 (also featured on this site) seemed logical: The visceral effectiveness of a 1960s mid-engine track car found its maximum expression in the Ford GT40.

The GT40 world has great variety. The type has been developed by countless builders over decades. There was so much variation and experimentation from the beginning that no two cars were ever alike (and even individual cars changed radically over their racing career). In my view, this makes period-correctness more important than originality.

The ‘production spec’ was a moving target as cars were built and developed by diverse players such as FAV, Holman Moody, Shelby, Kar Kraft, Alan Mann, Weslake, Bailey, JWAE… Later a spectrum of ‘privateers’ spawned various ‘continuation’, replica, and kit builders, some being active to this day.

This variability affords the freedom to modify and improve a car without detracting from its history and value (individual cars that won significant races such as the iconic 1075 are immensely valuable because of their winning history and tend therefore to be returned to their period race-winning configuration. But this only applies to maybe a dozen examples (and even these were altered before being restored to their most historically significant incarnation).

Which brings us to the quest of sourcing a car. Once one has been identified, researching its history is absolutely vital. It is vital to understand its origin, establish its identity, and determine its condition. Detailed specific research is an essential (and fascinating) step before committing.

This car was located in the UK. After some months of digging (revealing adventures in South Africa among other places), sufficient documentation was uncovered to establish its origin (and the validity of its 1970 VIN) and begin the import approval process.

Then came the challenges of shipping a container from the UK to Australia in early 2022. Another opportunity to learn about the world of logistics (and how it is affected by capricious arbitrary closures).

Eventually the car arrived and the process began to go over it for an in-depth assessment.

There really is no substitute for spending time with the car and exploring all its systems in detail.

Inevitably a task list begins to take shape which we then rank by priority in order to hatch a plan for ongoing work.

Once the critical safety items are checked off, driving the car is key to further refine the job list.

I want to document the process in order to share what can be learned (look out for social media links coming up).

The aim is to use the car to express a love for high-quality design and engineering.

Hopefully I can add value as the current custodian by implementing custom solutions that augment its character whilst maintaining its historical identity and significance.

I’m looking forward to sharing the process, the journey, and the resulting capability…