The Art Of Recreating Iconic Le Mans Racers

The 24 Hours of Le Mans has always been a playground for the world’s greatest racing machines.

Even though I wasn’t yet around, the race’s late-1960s to mid-1980s era is my personal favorite. During this time the drivers were fearless and the cars analog, something that made the racing super-exciting. Recently, the Ford v Ferrari movie only reaffirmed my love for this amazing era of motorsport at Circuit de la Sarthe.

One person that also has a great fondness of this era is Peter Bailey, the brainchild behind Bailey Cars in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Peter’s company is well known for building amazing recreations of the legendary Ford GT40 and Porsche 917 for an international client base. Bailey Cars build a few other models too, but I’ll get to those a little later on.

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Interestingly, Peter’s working life hasn’t always involved cars. In the 1980s he started up a door manufacturing company, which was eventually sold to a large publicly listed company. This was followed up with another manufacturing business producing specialised welding electrodes.

Peter has always been a petrolhead, though.

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I Wanna Race

It was during the electrode business in 2002 that Peter had an urge to own a GT40 race car. Of course, a genuine car was never going to be an option, so he conjured up a plan and enlisted two university automotive graduates to design a replica.

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With the design completed, Peter built that GT40 replica for his own use. As a one-off project it was an expensive exercise, so the next obvious step was to test the market and see if he could find a buyer for a second car. He did.

The next year, Bailey Cars got its official start. At first it was run as a sideline business, but by 2005 it had grown to a point that Peter was able to sell his shares in the electrode company and work on his car enterprise full-time.

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In the 15 years since, Bailey Cars has gone from strength to strength and is kept very busy. Peter still owns a GT40, which he races regularly and has taken multiple wins with, and at the time I visited it was in the shop having its engine reinstalled after some maintenance work.


The first version of the Bailey GT40 was on sale up until 2007. Seventeen of these were built in total, and sold to customers all around the globe. Many were campaigned successfully in historic race series, while a few were also converted for street use. The second generation car, which is still in production today, was improved in a number of ways.

Built around a laser-cut carbon steel space-frame chassis, the Bailey GT40 features an integrated roll cage, front fully independent double wishbone suspension, and an independent double trailing arm with transverse top link and lower wishbone rear suspension. Every build is tailored to a customer’s specification, so there’s multiple choices for coilovers and Ford Performance racing engines. Halibrand wheels and 4-pot AP Racing brakes are standard items.

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I’ve talked a bit about the GT40, which is how the company started, but as mentioned, some really slick Porsche 917 replicas are also built at Bailey Cars’ small facility. You might remember the road-going example I featured this time last year.

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Build It

Pretty much everything that can be done in-house is, starting with the chassis itself.

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The steel components are all cut to size, bent to spec, welded together, and then perfectly refined.

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After each chassis is completed, the bodywork begins. The body shells are constructed of composite GRP (glass reinforced plastic), which provides strength and lightness. All of this work is done by hand, so it’s a time-consuming process. In fact, each car takes an average of 1,500 hours to complete.

After a shell is prepared it’s sent off to the in-house paint booth where the finishing options are endless.

The final part of the process involves fitting the interior, engine, wheels and all the running gear. No GT40s were at this stage when I visited, but a Bailey 917 was.

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This specific car is being built for an international customer whose brief to Bailey Cars was simple: ‘Build me the fastest car in India’. With an 850hp V8 engine running into an Albins ST6 sequential transaxle, I can’t wait to see this thing completed.

I mentioned earlier that although GT40s and 917s are Bailey’s most popular and best-selling replicas, they do offer other special-order cars as well.

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One of these is their Ferrari P4 recreation, which is absolute sublime. They don’t build these too often, so I was very lucky to see one being assembled. These P4s are built using as many genuine Ferrari parts as possible, and that includes their V12 engines.

Bailey Cars has also done a few Lola T70 replicas, and their Bailey GT1, which is a recreation of the 2005 Ford GT. But that’s not all.

The Porsche Market

Over the years, Peter and his team of highly skilled workers have become a trusted Porsche specialist in South Africa.


Their work ranges from simple engine rebuilds, to full nut and bolt restorations and race preparation.


When I dropped by there was a special Porsche job in the shop. This is an original Porsche 356 Speedster and former Kyalami 9-Hour race winner, which as you can see is fully stripped back to a bare shell, revealing all of its previously sustained race damage. It’ll soon be in pristine condition, so I don’t think we’ll see this one racing again anytime soon.


Tucked away in the back of the shop is a replica of an Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale. There were only 18 of these cars ever produced, so building this recreation has been quite a process. All of the bodywork has been handcrafted from aluminium and shaped with an English wheel, with Peter’s craftsmen working from a scale model car.


Whenever you venture into a workspace that’s been around for so many years, it’s always fun to explore all the little corners and see what you can find. At Bailey Cars there are multiple storerooms with new parts for current and future GT40 and 917 builds, as well as parts for the Porsche projects.


Another really interesting build I found peeking out from under a cover was the Bailey LMP2 car. With Le Mans the goal, this car was built over quite a few years and taken to the point where it was track tested. Ultimately though, spiralling build costs meant that development was stopped. What might have been…


Over the 17 years that Bailey Cars has operated, they’ve built around 75 complete cars. That might not seem like a large number in the bigger scheme of things, but for a relatively small outfit of around 15 staff – many ex-aircraft engineers – that do the vast majority of work themselves, it’s pretty impressive.


Not many people are lucky enough to turn their passions into a successful career, but that’s exactly what Peter has managed to do. In the process he’s also allowed many petrolheads around the world to live out their automotive dreams, too

These cars might not be the real thing, but let’s face it – the few genuine GT40s, 917s, and P4s that are left are all but unattainable for everyone out there. Bailey Cars are giving people access to a great-looking historic race car, but at a fraction of the cost of a genuine article.

Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzephoto

Cutting Room Floor


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How it is with replicas and using original names and badges?


same here...I see Porsche and Ford being cool with it but Ferrari? hmmmmm. We've seen "cease and desist" letters for less


They use as many original parts as possible, including the engine.
Only manufacturor of said engines is ferrari, and you can be sure they know what the parts they sell are being used for.
Also note that these are RACE cars, not roadcars.
How many of its original parts are in a 5 year old race car, let alone a 50 year old?
Ferrari endorses race car replica's simply to have more rare classics in historic races, the originals are rarely raced.
As long as it's a "tube by tube" replica of the original chassis/car with as many original parts as possible, it's accepted by most classic events as the car it's built like.
The "sharknose" ferrari's are a good example; the originals were scrapped because Enzo didn't want his cars ending up in amateur racer's hands as they would likely crash them and get killed.
As far as I know only the engines survived, wich are now used to power recently built replica's wich are fully endorsed to use the Ferrari name and badges.
So, building a technically identical replica of a race car using as many original parts as possible is endorsed; building a F360 look a like from an MR2 will still get you a life-long ban from Modena... ;)


Pretty much a spot on explanation BlackRat :)


This is insane... just wow


Glad you like!


This reminds me of the movie I watched with my friends, Ford v Ferrari
That is one of the best films ever made one of the greatest


If you like that movie, I'd suggest Grand Prix (1966) and Le Mans (1971). Trust me, you'll enjoy them.


Definitely need to check those out!


That is the dream — to be able to build anything desired. It is way better than ownership of rare originals. That is just an opinion of a poor guy, but the originality of cars, especially exotic ones, is pure imagination. All the cars are built from known materials accordingly to known engineering principles. They are unique in our minds. Of course, there is a perceptive experience of driving, but why be so sure that handcrafted GT40 is worse than a factory one?

I appreciate custom things more than original ones because they are a result of high skills, engineering work, thousands of hours of incredible labour not less than original ones but one day you can do it yourself.


That's a great car with a great story.
Here is another consctruction of a GT40 by a guy who loves this story. And just with his two hands :)
He also deserves a highlight given the work accomplished :)


Wow, talk about dream job. Great article!


Thanks Stefan, now THIS is Speedhunting! Great story, well written and photographed. Now if only there was a video of his cars on the track... ;)


Would love one of those 917 Replicas, I highly doubt id be able to get one of those complied and registered here in Aus though. People would lose their minds seeing that thing on the road.


Glad to see someone using Fujifilm as well!


Good spot, I've been on Fuji for 7 years now, abandoned my Canon stuff in 2013