The Simeone Museum’s Ford GT40 Mk IV, constructed by Kar-Kraft. Photos courtesy Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum.
Kar-Kraft was the independent Michigan contractor behind such legendary Ford performance products as the Boss 429 Mustang and the GT40 models that won at Le Mans in 1966 and 1967. On January 20, the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will play host to a seminar and signing of Charles Henry’s book, Kar-Kraft; Racecars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Specialty Vehicle Activity Program.
Ford originally looked to England for help in developing the car that would become the GT40, which was based upon the existing Lola Mk 6. Lola seemed like a natural choice, and the blue oval brand established Ford Advanced Vehicles, Limited, headed by John Wyer, to oversee the GT40’s genesis in the U.K. The car debuted at the Nürburgring in May 1964, and when its rookie season failed to meet Ford’s (perhaps unrealistic) expectations, the automaker brought the program back to the States, replacing Wyer with Carroll Shelby.
GT40 Mk II (L) and Mk IV. Kar Kraft played a role in the development of both variants.
Kar-Kraft was tasked with assisting in the development of the 427-powered Mk II and construction of variants that would become the ill-fated J-car and the Mk IV, which blended the aluminum honeycomb chassis of the J-car with the 427 V-8. At the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, a trio of Mk II GT40s topped the podium, finishing first, second and third. The following year, 1967, a GT40 Mk IV took the win, its second of the year following a victory at Sebring.
Ford’s focus on racing shifted to other series as the decade came to a close, but Kar-Kraft remained an important part of the automaker’s strategy, preparing cars for the Trans-Am series, NASCAR, NHRA and even Can-Am competition. The contractor was also responsible for production of select high-performance street cars, such as the Boss 429 Mustang, and prototypes like the Boss 302 Maverick and the Mach 2C.
Kar-Kraft closed its doors in 1970, but its legacy lives on. The upcoming presentation at the Simeone will feature author and former Kar-Kraft employee Charles Henry; Mike Teske, an authority of the GT40 Mk II and Mk IV; and Karl Kainhofer, the first employee of Penske Racing and a former Kar Kraft staffer who was there for the start of the Mk IV program. The day will also feature the museum’s GT40 Mk II and GT40 Mk IV, both of which ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The event runs from 12:00 to 3:30 p.m., and will be capped by a book signing, with copies of Kar-Kraft; Racecars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Specialty Vehicle Activity Program available for purchase. For additional information, visit SimeoneMuseum.org.