You won’t believe what MWR owner Rob Kauffman drove to Loudon
Rob Kauffman wears a lot of hats — former investment banker, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing and a sports-car racer of some renown.
Kauffman is also a car guy of the highest order. His RK Motors Charlotte dealership is like a Disney World of jaw-dropping original collector cars, resto-mods and race cars.
And there’s a new star to Kauffman’s collection: The 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning No. 2 P/1046 Ford GT40, the first American-built car to win endurance racing’s most prestigious competition.
Driven by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, the No. 2 led a 1-2-3 Ford GT40 sweep of Le Mans, a stunning upset over Enzo Ferrari’s heavily favored Italian race cars.
Right now, the No. 2 GT40 is undergoing a comprehensive, 20-month restoration that will culminate with a formal re-introduction at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, California. That event will mark the 50th anniversary of the Le Mans victory.
Once restored, the car will be worth millions of dollars — almost certainly north of $10 million. But Kauffman told FOXSports.com he has no intention of selling it. This bad boy will become part of his permanent collection.
"It survived through the years," Kauffman said in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com. "It passed through one or two different collectors. It was owned by a collector in Europe, so I found it potentially available."
And then in a moment of profound understatement, Kauffman added, "I thought it was a fun and interesting car, and one of the cooler American race cars out there." Not to mention one of the most historical significant of any era.
"Step No. 1 is to restore it," said Kauffmann. "It didn’t survive through the years in its original form. After Le Mans (in ’66), they took the car apart for testing and they changed it. Then it ran Daytona and then they changed it (again), so it wasn’t like they took it off the track and just put it under a bubble. It was an old race car and it had a tough life."
The No. 2 P/1046 Ford GT40 was restored once already in the 1980s, but it’s ready to be redone again. "Because it’s such an important and historic car, we decided, ‘Let’s go back through and really try to make it exactly how it crossed the line at Le Mans,’" said Kauffman. "There’s tons of photos and stuff and figure out as best you can from a preservation standpoint how to have that car as similar as it was back in the day."
The car is being restored by New Hampshire-based Rare Drive Inc., a shop that specializes in high-end vintage restorations.
"I visited on New Year’s and there’s a lot of parts across the floor," Kauffman said. "But it’s pretty cool. You can see where Carroll Shelby put in the little extra braces, where this dent happened and that. It’s pretty cool to see how history unfolded."
Asked if he planned to enter it in any historic races, Kauffman said it was too valuable to enter into competition, but it definitely will get driven.
"One of things I like about it is it’s a big-block, bad-ass V-8, so when you fire that thing up, it’s a lot of fun," said Kauffmann. "In fact, before we restored it, we got it running and we drove it to the NASCAR race at New Hampshire last fall. You can definitely drive it on the road. Toll booths are pretty hard, but it was a lot of fun."