The Ford-Ferrari War
Ever since I saw the movie Ford vs Ferrari, I had a curiosity about Shelby-American. The more I delved into its history, the more I felt that it was an amazing little company. I made a few posts of it here.
In less than 4 short years, they developed a car – The Cobra – that ended up winning the manufacturer’s world championship, beating the likes of Ferrari and Jaguar. And the Cobra could have gone even further, but for the fact that Shelby was under tremendous pressure from Ford to refine the GT-40 prototype and make the Mustang GT 350 (30,000 ended up being produced). .
Factory efforts to campaign the Cobra ended in 1965, but that is another story.
So I just finished the book Go Like Hell, by A.J. Baime. The movie relied heavily on this book.
As I was reading it, I was struck by the incredible detail. The author went to such lengths as to tell us what cars Enzo Ferrari used to get around Modena (you would be surprised and no, they weren’t Ferraris), to the reason Ken Miles couldn’t shut the door on his GT-40 at the start of the 1966 LeMans race. Was Ken Miles a hothead as the movie portrayed or, as one of Shelby’s drivers maintained (on a YouTube interview) he was always calm? The book went into such detail that one could see that actually both were right, looking through their own windows.
I was starting to believe towards the end that with all of these many revelations the author was speculating and then in the acknowledgements he thanked the following people he interviewed:
Carroll Shelby, Lee Iacocca, Edsel Ford II, Piero Ferrari, Franco Gozzi, John Surtees, Don Frey, Roy Lunn, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Peter Miles, Lloyd Ruby, A.J. Foyt, Robert Daley, Luigi Chinetti, Jr, Richard Atwood, Phil Remington, Jim Hall, Jacque Passino, John Fitch, Homer Perry, Harry Carlton, Bob Bondurant, and Eoin Young.
“Dave Friedman shared not just his stories, but his tremendous photography”.
In other words, he interviewed most of the principals, or their family, who were still alive.
In all of this amazing detail, just one small correction. Actually, what Baime said wasn’t an error but needed a bit more clarification. Small Spoiler alert for the next paragraph.
For the 65 LeMans race, he claimed that it was head gasket failures that grounded all of the GT-40s. In an excellent Netflix documentary on Shelby American, Carroll Shelby claimed that at the last minute the people at Ford’s Special Vehicle unit wanted Shelby to use the 427 engines that they had prepared rather than Shelby’s prepared engines. Of course, it was politics – they wanted Henry Ford ll to know of their own contribution (which was considerable). And it was through that grueling 24 hour race that the head bolts stretched. The cylinder head, which contains all of the valve assembly, is torqued precisely with many specialized bolts onto the engine block (some, such as on certain Mercedes-Benz heads, are designed to stretch under torque!), and is subject to tremendous pressure. If the bolts stretched on those Fords, and they weren’t supposed to stretch, it would allow the combustion pressures to blow through the head gasket and manifest itself as a “head gasket problem”.
So, in this case, the head gaskets were a result of the problem rather than the problem. But that is the only assertion in the book that I questioned in an otherwise amazingly thorough body of work.
I was amazed at how prevalent politics is on a racing team, for both Ford and Ferrari. In Ferrari’s case, they even chose to ground their star driver to put in a favored, but relatively unknown driver.
You’ll get to know all of the main people in the program.
This book is the authority on the Ford-Ferrari war of the 1960s.