The Ford GT40 was a high performance sports car and winner of the 24 hours of Le Mans four times in a row, from 1966 to 1969 (in 1967 with a different body, though). It was built to win long-distance sports car races against Ferrari (who won at Le Mans six times in a row from 1960 to 1965). That car used the Gurney Weslake engine with the special alloy heads made by Weslake.
The car was named the GT (for Grand Touring) with the 40 representing its overall height of 40 inches (1.02 m, measured at the windshield) as required by the rules. Large displacement Ford V8 engines (4.7 L and 7 L) were used, compared with the Ferrari V12 which displaced 3.0 L or 4.0 L.
Early cars were simply named "Ford GT". The name "GT40" was the name of Ford's project to prepare the cars for the international endurance racing circuit, and the quest to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first 12 "prototype" vehicles carried serial numbers GT-101 through GT-112. The "production" began and the subsequent cars, the MkI, MkIIs, MkIIIs, and MkIVs, numbered GT40P/1000 through GT40P/1145, were officially "GT40s". The name of Ford's project, and the serial numbers dispel the story that "GT40" was "only a nickname."
The contemporary Ford GT is a modern homage to the GT40.
Henry Ford II had wanted a Ford at Le Mans since the early 1960s.
In the spring of 1963, Ford reportedly received word through a European intermediary that Enzo Ferrari was interested in selling to Ford Motor Company. Ford reportedly spent several million dollars in an audit of Ferrari factory assets and in legal negotiations, only to have Ferrari unilaterally cut off talks at a late stage. Ferrari, who wanted to remain the sole operator of his company's motor sports division, was angered when he was told that he would not be allowed to race at the Indianapolis 500 if the deal went through. Enzo cut the deal off out of spite and Henry Ford II, enraged, directed his racing division to find a company that could build a Ferrari...