2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Ford Motor Company’s historic 1-2-3 finish at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was the first overall win at the legendary race for any American manufacturer. The victory achieved Henry Ford II’s goal of ending Ferrari’s dominance on racing’s biggest stage after a deal for Ford to acquire Ferrari fell through. The challenge of creating the GT40 was immense, and much of that challenge was met by former Ford engineer Roy Lunn.
Born and educated in England, Lunn was selected as head of the GT40 project after he led the team of engineers that developed the mid-engine Mustang I prototype. The GT40, which was named for its roofline that was only 40 inches off the ground, would humble some of the world’s best racing machines, winning Le Mans consecutively four times from 1966 to 1969 and claiming an additional four FIA international titles. Lunn was also instrumental in birthing other iconic Ford vehicles such as the 1970 BOSS 429 Mustang. He would leave Ford in 1971 to join Jeep as the head of engineering after it was acquired by American Motors Corporation.
While at Jeep, Lunn began work on the first unibody four-wheel drive vehicle, the ‘XJ’ Cherokee and Wagoneer, which became some of Jeep’s best-selling models. Lunn’s accomplishments at AMC also include the creation of the AMC Eagle, a conventional car with a raised ride-height and 4WD that begat today’s modern crossovers; and the Sports Renault Spec Racer; a low-cost race car built for the Sports Car Club of America. Though Lunn’s career was filled with impressive achievements, he will be forever remembered as the mastermind behind the legendary GT40.