Ferrari lovers around the world have longed for a full-length motion picture about anything Ferrari for a long time. The wait is over. In November, The Walt Disney Company and 20th Century Fox will present Ford v Ferrari on the big screen.
The movie highlights the years 1963-1969 when Henry Ford II declared he would defeat Ferrari on the racetrack at Le Mans. It highlights the lives of Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon, and his driver, Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale, and how they helped Ford go to war with Ferrari.
FLGstory.com has covered the battle between Ford and Ferrari a few times. The post “Ferrari and Ford Surprise the World of Racing,” told how Ford almost bought Ferrari in 1963. When that didn’t happen, a furious Henry Ford II vowed he’d beat Ferrari at his own game.
The post titled “The Sixties Battle in a Nutshell” covered the new car development team Ford created to compete with Ferrari. The team was able to design and build the Ford GT40. In the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans race, three GT40’s were entered, and in 1965, five were entered. Unfortunately for Ford, none of the cars finished either race.
At this point, a frustrated Henry Ford II turned to Caroll Shelby and told him to join the Le Mans effort. “He made it very clear that we were not going to fail again,” said his son, Edsel B. Ford II. And things changed after that.
Car Chases are Great, but Race Scenes are More Exciting
There have been impressive car chase scenes in so many movies one could never count them all. But when it comes to great movies about driving, you can count them on the fingers of one leather-racing glove. Director James Mangold’s film Ford v Ferrari (known as Le Mans ’66 in the UK), aims to change that.
The movie’s success could well determine if any more car films get funding. It could be that using Mangold’s approach—telling the human story behind the car story—is the way to go.
Elizabeth Blackstock said the following while reviewing the Ford v Ferrari trailer on Jalopnik.com, “…..the trailer is compelling as hell! In between just enough exposition to let us know that we’re all going to love the no-bullshit Shelby and the take-no-shit Miles are some really beautiful racing shots that honestly make me kind of glad I live in the 21st century so I can see iconic race battles recreated at extreme angles in glorious HD. There are crashes, fist fights, fires—there’s romance, family, humor, and, well…just take two minutes to check out the trailer. It looks so good.”
While there have been a few movies about Ferrari, they are almost all historical documentaries.
The Snake and the Stallion, also known as Cobra Ferrari Wars, documents the legendary rivalry between Texas chicken farmer turned American car producer Carroll Shelby and Italian automotive entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari. It aired on England’s BBC television in 2002 and was later made into a 60-minute DVD.
Ford v Ferrari highlights the lives of Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon, and his driver, Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale…
Should Historical Accuracy be Expected from Hollywood?
While there is no doubt in my mind Ford v Ferrari will be an epic movie, some of the publicity statements don’t line up with the accounts of individuals recalling what took place.
In 2018, Variety Magazine published the following. “The film follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver, Ken Miles (Bale), who are dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca with the mission of building from scratch an entirely new automobile with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari at the 1966 Le Mans World Championship in France.”
In reality, Henry Ford II created a development team as discussed in our post, “The Sixties Battle in a Nutshell.” Carroll Shelby was not part of that team. After the team failed two years in a row, Ford turned to Shelby to re-design the GT40, and the rest is history.
The 24 Hour War is a 2016 documentary including actual race footage and interviews with Formula 1 drivers Mario Andretti, Bob Bondurant, and Dan Gurney. Family members such as Piero Ferrari, Henry Ford II, and Edsel B. Ford II, narrate what they remember of the races as well. There is even some archive footage from Carroll Shelby himself.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the 2009 book, “Go Like Hell,” by A.J. Baime. It tells the remarkable story of how Henry Ford II, with the help of a young visionary named Lee Iacocca and a former racing champion, turned engineer, Carroll Shelby, concocted a scheme to reinvent the Ford company. Go Like Hell transports readers to a risk-filled, glorious time in this brilliant portrait of a rivalry between two industrialists, the cars they built, and the “pilots” who would drive them to victory, or doom. Twentieth Century Fox says Ford v Ferrari was not based on the book. Read it, and you decide.
There’s been so much written and filmed over the years about what some say is the most spectacular car racing event in history. It’s definitely time we viewed it on the big screen.
I know where I’ll be on November 15th, what about you?
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