Eric Dean grew up in Detroit, a Ford guy. He was a veteran racer of vintage Formula Fords. His daily driver was a 1967 Ford pickup.
“All my life,” he says, “I had wanted to build a GT40. I think it is the most beautiful car ever made.” So when he dropped out of his corporate life as an advertising creative director and bought an inn near Joshua Tree National Park in California, he began to look for a way to make his GT40 dream real.
This story originally appeared as a sidebar in Volume 7 of Road & Track.
Dean was back in Michigan in 2012 when he stumbled into RCR, a shop in Fraser that manufactures replica GT40 chassis and bodies that are molded off an original Sixties specimen. “I was amazed at the the level of engineering,” he says. “Within 20 minutes I’d signed a contract.” He didn’t start from scratch. From there, however, he built out his GT40 as a one-of-a-kind example.
His vision was to create a private-entry Le Mans car, circa 1968, with a few modern twists. Some parts are period correct, like the Marchal headlights, Lucas mirror, and aluminum shift knob. He used the steering wheel from his Formula Ford,“because it felt like home,” he says. He didn’t want the weight of the 427 that most people imagine when they think GT40, so he went with a 331-cubic-inch V-8, tricked out with Ford Performance everything, that puts out 440 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. Since he wasn’t pushing 700 hp, he chose a lighter Porsche transmission over the ZF unit that the original GT40s used.
With the help of an Oakland engineer named Dave Lyman, Dean fabricated a lot of parts—a floor-mount pedal assembly, a rear spoiler. There’s Wilwood disc brakes, a roll cage, and Willans five-point harnesses. (Psst: He even hid a Vintage A/C unit under the dash, a necessity for California summers.)
Dean now hammers his GT40 all over Southern California. Should you spot this Eric Dean vintage 1968 race car motoring by, don’t blink or it’ll be gone.
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