A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing awaits my entrance for the day of enjoyment. I…
There are only two automotive brands that I am truly passionate about my entire life and I can say with confidence those are Ford and Ferrari. What simply started out as a bitter rivalry of two brands and an internal experiment for Carroll Shelby and his team of masterminds would cement motorsports history forever. It all started back in 1963 when Henry Ford II was negotiating a deal to purchase the brand Ferrari. Henry Ford II realized Ford Motor Company was being plummeted by slow sales and the introduction of the Corvette dominated in racing and Ford had nothing to complete. Henry’s short plan was to just buy the most successful sports car brand in the world at the time, Ferrari and then take what they offer and trickle that into other Ford products. Well the negotiations did not go as planned because Fords deal was to take over control over the Ferrari motorsports division and to Enzo Ferrari this was his heart and soul. Many of you guys must realize Enzo Ferrari was a race car builder and only produced limited runs of road cars to meet the rules for motorsports racing and his loyal fans. Being the most succesful racing team in the world comes with great ego and determination and when Enzo Ferrari shortly shunted Henry Ford II with a simple, “NO” the rivalry had begun.
The 24 hour of Lemans is the most grueling race in the world and not many cars can compete and achieve podium finishes. Henry Ford II, pissed off and annoyed that Enzo declined his offer was determined to hire Carroll Shelby to specifically design and build a race car to beat Ferrari at their best, 24 hour of Lemans. Ferrari dominated Lemans in the 1960s but this was soon about to change with the development test bed known as the Ford GT40. Carroll and his team had one simple goal, beat Ferrari no matter what it cost and what it took to get there. This became a battle of two egos more than the typical status quo. The early developments of the GT40 were remarkable in that it defined Carroll and the team with so much testing and experience with aerodynamics. Making the car 40 inches tall, wide and shaped like a knife Carroll knew in order to beat the Italians they would need to start with the shape, then the chassis and of course the drivetrains. Shelby was already confident in the engines he would use with the success of his Cobra 427 and Daytona Coupe. The 427 FE was the engine of choice but through testing and failures proved to be too heavy and unreliable for races such as Sebring and Lemans. It was later switched over to the small block 289 that was internally beefed up that proved to beat Ferrari at it’s own game. You see Ferrari motors and their design relied on small displacement with a longer stroke. The Americans mantra of engines during this time were all based on single pushrod camshaft designs and larger heavier displacement. The American formula worked well on the drag strip and stoplights on American roads but those engines would not be revved to max RPM for 12-24 hours.
As the test mules of the GT40 were cranked out at Carroll Shelby Motors Division and rigorously tested they later made so many revisions to the car to finally make it competitive. Ford did not win right out of the starting grid it took many changes to the cars shape, suspension and the later engine design to actively win Lemans for consecutive years to dethrone Ferrari at its own game. The world was watching and the underdog Ford was expected to win the 1965 Lemans race but due to parts failures in the 427 FE engines and suspensions they never made it to podium. Determined to win Henry Ford scolded Shelby and said do whatever it takes and let’s get back to Lemans next time and win. Well as history proves itself this is exactly what Ford and Carroll Shelby accomplished. The Ford GT40 Mk11 had won Lemans in all podium finishes for the years 1966,67,68,69 and yes 2016.
This is how it was done in endurance racing, the starting grid as drivers had to run into their cars, fire them up and endure the most brutal conditions ever imagined.
The significances of the Ford GT40 marked a historic time in automotive engineering and motorsports development. We see this same excitement today with all of the Ford Performance offerings from the Focus RS, GT350 and the new Ford GT. The passion and dedication in the team of engineers, designers and craftsman behind Ford Performance today would make Carroll Shelby proud because it all started with him and his little AC Cobra back in 1963. Carroll Shelby cemented motorsports history with the success of the Ford GT40. The Ford GT40 is the most iconic race car in history and there is no better rivalry to learn more about than the Ford & Ferrari Wars.
Ford GT40 Mark II Exterior you can see the significant changes in aerodynamics from the road going car and the earlier versions. These are the changes that made the car win.
Ford GT40 Mark II Cockpit that won Lemans in 1966
The heart of the GT40 bloodline the 289 based engine in the Mark II
Road going Ford GT40 that was recently auctioned off by RM Auction in Monterey 2017
2016 Ford GT, a tour de force of supercar engineering and American ingenuity at its finest. Ford Performance is at their top of their game these days and this car proves it.
2016 Ford GT Wins Lemans and beats Ferrari 50 years later from their first historic podium victory 50 years later