18th August 2008
Regular contributor Andre Loubser fills in some background and brings us up to date on the rebuild of Allen Grant’s Lola MkVI GT.

When I was working for Porsche some colleagues and I went to the Nürburgring 1000 km race at the end of May 1963 and I first set eyes on the beautiful Lola MKVI. It was driven by fellow countrymen, Tony Maggs and Bob Olthoff, who I didn’t know then but we subsequently became friends. The styling of the Lola was very advanced for that time and I was again at the ‘Ring for the following year’s 1000 km race and saw the Phil Hill/Bruce McLaren Ford GT40 born of course from the Lola MKVI. I regarded myself hugely privileged that I was able to witness history in the making.

Moving on, many years later back in Cape Town I co-founded Cape Advanced Vehicles (CAV) in 1999 to build the GTD GT40 under licence. I brought the brilliant all-round technical man, Robbie Senekal, on board as chief engineer. In early 2001 I sold my shares to pursue my own interests and the following year I introduced Robbie to Jimmy Price, owner of Hi-Tech Automotive in Port Elizabeth, who at the time was exporting about 30 Cobra replicas to the US per month. The upshot was that Robbie and team for practical and strategic reasons developed a precise copy of the Ford GT40 MK2 for Jimmy in Cape Town. The car as well as a MKI version is now being built in Port Elizabeth, about 500 miles due east of Cape Town and is distributed in the US through the Superformance dealer network and in the UK through Rod Leach’s Nostalgia.
In early 2003, Robbie’s assistant, Ken MacLeod, a former JW Automotive employee, who with GT40 designer, Len Bailey did the drawings for Frank Williams’s first F1 car, FW01, told me of the existence of a dedicated Ford GT40 website, www.gt40s.com. I immediately joined and did various and regular posts about the development of the new GT40, historic tales, technical info as well as some nonsense! In 2004 I was contacted by Rob Beddington who told me that the original Lola MKVI was bought by former Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe driver, Allen Grant, in 1965 and was still in its original untouched state in Portland, Oregon. I immediately tracked Allen down, who told me that he knew all about us through the GT40 website. This contact resulted in Allen visiting us in August 2004 and staying with us at our house in Tokai, a southern suburb of Cape Town in the wine growing Constantia Valley. The reason for his visit was to ask us if we could develop a precise copy of the 1966 Sebring 12 Hour winning Ford GT40 MKII Roadster. During his visit I took him to meet Tony Maggs for lunch at a coastal Town about 80 miles from Cape Town. It was a memorable day at the restaurant, Under Milkwood, on the beach on a beautiful day with the waves crashing nearby listening to the original driver of the Lola MKVI and the current owner, swapping yarns
In February 2005 Allen was back with New Zealand born, Ron Butler, former Shelby crew chief, Ron Butler, who built the one-off Sebring winning Roadster and Jim Rose, well known British race car builder and one time Holman & Moody employee, who also built the Alan Mann Ford F3L. With Robbie present one evening, sitting around a table in our garden, it occurred to me that in our house we had the world’s three ultimate GT40 monocoque experts! Then Lord Strathcarron, the then president of the Guild of Motoring Writers, knocked on the door to invite me to join the Guild with him as proposer. Another memorable event with some luck witnessed by our visitors!

With one thing leading to another the GT40 MKII Roadster never happened and Allen Grant disappeared off the radar screen. In December last year I sent Allen Christmas and New Year wishes and in his response he asked me convey his wishes to Robbie, his wife Heather and the boys. The upshot of this renewed contact was that Robbie left for the US in February to assist Allen with the restoration of the Lola MKVI and the development of the new Grant Spyder. He was back recently for two weeks to make some parts and to have a wiring loom made for the car.

If a fairy godmother had popped up at the 1963 Nürburgring 1000 km race and predicted that the silver Lola MKVI flashing by would be restored by a South African friend in the United States 45 years later I would have fallen about laughing at the thought. Quite difficult when you are a mere 23 years old to image life if indeed there would still be life at age 68!