The True Story Behind the Film Ford v Ferrari


There are races, after which there may be 24 Hours of Le Mans. For automotive producers, the historic French competitors is the final word check of their machines. Lap after lap, hour after hour, drivers at Le Mans negotiate tight corners and high 200 mph on straightaways in a brutal endurance check that pushes car engineering to its limits.

Director James Mangold’s new movie Ford v. Ferrari (in theaters Nov. 15) tells the story of that competitors within the mid-1960s, as American manufacturing titan Ford took on Italy’s Ferrari, the reigning champion of Le Mans. Regardless of its dimension, Ford wasn’t precisely a racing powerhouse, with a model that dropped at thoughts household street journeys greater than French endurance racing. To face an opportunity within the 24-hour circuit, the American company introduced on two racing legends, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to assist them take the European title. Right here’s the true story behind Ford v Ferrari.

Carroll Shelby wore many hats, amongst them designing legendary vehicles

Carroll Shelby at 24 Hours of Le Mans, Le Mans, 21 June 1959.
Bernard Cahier—Getty Photos

In case your purpose have been to, say, unseat an Italian racing big, there can be few folks higher suited to the duty than Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon). A WWII flight teacher turned rooster farmer turned race automotive driver turned builder of legendary vehicles, Shelby was a larger-than-life determine on the earth of quick automobiles by means of the second half of the 20th century. He was recognized for his monumental private magnetism, as a person of huge concepts with out a lot persistence for particulars. “He is an entrepreneur who borders on the con man — he is a legitimate con man,” mentioned a buddy of Shelby’s in an Autoweek tribute. “It’s the old American success story.”

Shelby didn’t begin out constructing automobiles — he raced them, and gained. When he was nonetheless a farmer, he joined his first races within the early 1950s, profitable competitions within the American Southwest. In 1954, he started racing for the Aston Martin workforce, ultimately claiming victory at Le Mans for the British carmaker with co-driver Roy Salvadori. Coronary heart troubles ultimately pressured Shelby to give up aggressive racing. He determined that relatively than driving quick automobiles, he would construct them. In 1962, he based Shelby American, an unbiased sports activities automotive producer, which started importing English AC coups and retrofitting them with highly effective Ford engines, dubbing the brand new creation the Shelby Cobra.

By 1965, Shelby and his workforce have been engaged on Ford’s new racer, the GT40, which might go on to seize the well-known Le Mans title from Ferrari, a efficiency juggernaut that had gained the well-known race for six years working.

Ken Miles was a race automotive driver employed by Shelby as a check driver

Ken Miles at 12 Hours of Sebring, Sebring International Raceway, 27 March 1965.
Ken Miles at 12 Hours of Sebring, Sebring Worldwide Raceway, 27 March 1965.
Bernard Cahier—Getty Photos

Ken Miles (Christian Bale), the opposite half of Ford v Ferrari’s motorsport bromance, was an English race automotive driver who grew to become the profitable man for an American car big. Born in 1918 in Sutton Coldfield, England, in line with Motorsport, Miles grew to become an apprentice at an engine manufacturing firm as a teen earlier than becoming a member of the British military at first of WWII, ultimately collaborating within the 1944 D-Day landings.

Miles started racing after the battle, ultimately racking up a powerful profitable report. He joined Shelby’s workforce, not solely to race automobiles, but additionally serving to to engineering them. He started racing Ford’s new GT40 automobiles, profitable the 1966 Daytona 24 Hours race amongst a group of different high spots. In Le Mans that yr, Miles led in a Ford GT40 MkII on the finish of the race, with two different GT40s following. However with a view to engineer a photograph end, Miles allowed the second two Fords to catch up in order that they might cross the end line collectively. It was a strong little bit of PR for the automotive producer, but it surely additionally price Miles his victory. The Fords completed in a lifeless warmth, and the Le Mans timekeepers decided that the second GT40 behind Miles had truly began the race from farther again, and due to this fact gained first place.

Le Mans 1966 can be one in all Miles’ ultimate races. Later that yr, the driving force died testing a brand new experimental Ford in California after the car flipped at 150 mph.

Ford’s determination to tackle Ferrari at Le Mans had roots in a failed enterprise deal

Henry Ford II at 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 18, 1966 in Le Mans, France
Henry Ford II at 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 18, 1966 in Le Mans, France
Roger Viollet—Getty Photos

As depicted in Ford v Ferrari, Ford had truly been fascinated with buying the Italian sportscar maker, in line with Motorsport. When Ferrari rebuffed the sale on the final minute, Henry Ford II (the grandson of founder Henry Ford, performed by Tracy Letts) determined he would have his revenge by taking the Italians’ most prized racing title. However after Ford Superior Automobiles Ltd. did not win in 1964, Ford introduced on Carroll Shelby, who ultimately captured the Le Mans win for the American motor magnet.

Carroll Shelby ultimately moved on from the world of auto racing

Carroll Shelby poses with the 2007 Ford Shelby Mustang GT-H April 12, 2006 during the press preview of the 2006 New York International Auto Show April 12, 2006 in New York City.
Carroll Shelby poses with the 2007 Ford Shelby Mustang GT-H April 12, 2006 through the press preview of the 2006 New York Worldwide Auto Present April 12, 2006 in New York Metropolis.
Chris Hondros—Getty Photos

Racing prospects took a dive within the 1970s, and Shelby, an avid entrepreneur, pursued different ventures, together with safari expeditions, chili manufacturing and land improvement. He additionally labored with automakers on specialised tasks, together with a collaboration with Chrysler. Dealing with continued coronary heart illnesses all through his life, Shelby underwent a coronary heart transplant in 1990, an expertise that led him to discovered a nonprofit dedicated to elevating cash for youngsters in want of coronary heart surgical procedure. He died in Dallas in 2012 at 89 years previous.

Write to Alejandro de la Garza at


Facebook Comments

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More