Ford-lover Jim Shack and his mates turned a giant box of parts into a killer GT40 replica in only six months
This article on Jim’s GT40 replica was originally published in the January 2016 issue of Street Machine
JIM Shack caught the bug relatively late. He was 20 years old before he saw his first hot rod in the metal. “I wanted to buy it but they were asking £800 and I was only earning £1.17s.6d. a week!” laughs Jim, a plumber by trade and Blue through and through.
“I’ve always loved Fords,” the West Australian enthuses. “I’m part-way through an XR GT, a project Mustang and have almost finished a 460-powered ’34 coupe – boy does that percolate!”
Jim got sold on the idea of building his own replica of Ford’s 1960s Le Mans-winning hero car, the GT40, after taking a ride in one owned by mate Murray Buchan. It turned out that owning one was as easy as dial-a-pizza, thanks to Roaring Forties in Victoria, which makes a cracking replica kit. Building it, however, was a little bit trickier.
Roaring Forties delivers every last washer needed to complete the car, but as Jim looked upon the shit-ton of bits in his driveway, he began to break out in a sweat.
“First thing I did was look at the instructions, but unfortunately Roaring Forties had updated their kit before re-writing their paperwork,” Jim says. “So I thought I’d better call some mates – and buy a whiteboard! And some barbecue meat!”
Calling in assistance from mechanic Ian Ball, fellow plumber Ken Blackwood and sheet-metal worker Lindsay King, Tuesday nights became build night at Jim’s.
“I’d cook a barbie, the boys would have a couple of drinks and we’d screw some stuff together,” he recalls. “It was a big ask, too; none of those boys live less than 40 minutes away from me, but they were always front and centre to help out.”
Despite the superseded instruction books and the alcohol consumption, the boys worked out that ‘tab A’ fitted into ‘slot B’ fairly easily, although “we pretty much did everything twice, of course!” Jim chuckles.
“Roaring Forties were a great help, too,” he continues. “Every Tuesday night we’d be scratching our heads and every Wednesday morning they’d receive a fax with a bunch of questions on it. I always had an answer the next day.”
The GT40 came together in around six months, and was one of the first to be fitted with Ford’s Boss V8 motor. “Some guys go LS; but it’s a Ford, so it needs Ford power,” Jim says, sagely.
The quick turnaround from crate-load of parts to rollable sports car is a testament to both the quality of the kit and the boys’ tenacity, but at that point Jim still wasn’t quite satisfied. “I’m a plumber, not a panel beater, and we just couldn’t get the gaps right. My girlfriend says I’m a perfectionist, but I’m not. I just like things perfect, that’s all!” he laughs.
Things hit a wall until Ian mentioned his son, Jeremy, worked for ITP Custom Paint & Panel in Bibra Lake. The boss, José Jardim, and his painter, Charlie Takacs, came down for a look, and Jim says that was a huge turning point. “They said they’d be able to fix the gaps, paint it and bung a nice stripe on it,” he says.
While the panel gaps were being massaged, Jim stalked out a bunch of new car dealerships, frustrating salesmen with his mission to find the perfect colour. He settled upon Soul Red Metallic, normally reserved for the GJ-model Mazda 6.
“Charlie was unsure but I stuck by it; now he’s getting other guys wanting to do their cars in the same colour!” Jim says.
Hue selected, Jim asked Charlie to sort the GT40 out with a white stripe, but Charlie had other ideas. “He got together with José and sprayed up four test stripes, then asked me to choose. Fortunately, I picked the colour they preferred as well; otherwise it might have been a difficult conversation!”
As the car was coming together, it became clear to Jim that the standard Ford injection system just wouldn’t do. “When you look through the rear glass of a Ferrari, you see a motor that’s also a work of art,” he says. “The original GT40 was no different, with those eight big stacks feeding four Weber carburettors.
“I wanted to look through that window and see something smart; not just the original Ford gear.”
With emissions regulations being what they are, a set of Webers wasn’t going to cut it. Jim wasn’t sure what could be done. Fortunately José was on the case, suggesting EFI Hardware throttlebodies coupled to a Haltech ECU; a no-brainer given José’s ITP Race Cars business is a premium Haltech dealer. “I’m the plumber and he’s the technical guy, so I said: ‘Do it!’” Jim says, clearly with no regrets.
The GT40 has gained plenty of attention so far, including winning People’s Choice at the 2014 WA Hot Rod & Street Machine Spectacular. Asked if it’s the stacks that set his GT40 apart from the others getting around, Jim agrees. “And the colour, I think. Although mostly the engine, because blokes walk by and look through the back window and say: ‘Would you have a look at this bloody motor?’ In fact, I say the same thing every time I look at it!”