I feel the most American when I sit in my rust bucket car in a Walmart parking lot, eating fast food, because I’m too anxious to eat around people. It is when I am most conscious of my American ways. What would make it better is if I was sitting in one my dream cars, the Shelby-Ford GT40, which is like me, American made. Whenever it passes by me on the street I watch it wistfully drive by. It’s the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen. I was watching a documentary the other day and the GT40 was one of the car featured in the film and I decided it can’t be my favorite car until I understand the history.
Like all good stories it begins with revenge. Once upon a time, Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II were under negotiations for Ford to buy the Ferrari brand. Things were going well until the realization that if Ford bough Ferrari then the decision on which races to enter. The idea of not having total control of what he loved most made Enzo question his decision to allow Ford to purchase Ferrari. The Italians also pressured Enzo to keep Ferrari completely Italian and keep it a part of their culture. When time came to sign the agreement with Ford’s lawyers, Enzo sent them away refusing the deal. Ford was livid. He felt betrayed by Ferrari and decided to hurt him where it would the most. Ford told his engineers to build a car that would beat Ferrari at the 24 hour Le Mans race.
The engineers worked tirelessly to make Ford’s desire to beat Ferrari a reality. It was quite a hurdle to jump since Ferrari had been reigning champ for the last few years at Le Mans. In 1964 the first GT40 rolled onto the road for it’s first race. Things were going really well until a couple laps in and Ford had to pull the vehicle from the race due to suspension failure. The engineers reworked the car then entered it into Le Mans 3 weeks later with 3 other GT40’s. All three of them received an incomplete. The season continued downhill to Ford’s dismay. He had millions of dollars wrapped up into the project to beat Ferrari. The last straw for Ford was at the Nassau race when they lost again. That’s when the program was then given to Carroll Shelby. The cars were packed up after the race, not even bothering to clean or maintain them before the transport.
Right out of the gate Shelby gave results at the Daytona 500 with it’s very first victory. However, the rest of the season didn’t go so well, frankly, it was a disaster. Ford was running low on patience, but all things in life that are worth something take effort. With each loss the team gained experience. When Le Mans came back around in 1966 Ford was ready. They entered 3 GT40’s and by the time the race was over they had received a 1-2-3 finish, beating Ferrari for the first time in history. Ford became the first American manufacturer win Le Mans. Their win sealed relations with Shelby and gave way to a new bright future for Ford.
- “GT” – Grand Touring “40” – representing overall height of 40 inches
- Ford was the only automaker out of “the big three” (Ford, Chrysler, and GM) to refuse government bailout money in the 2009 auto industry crisis
- Ford models compete in stock car racing, F1 racing, rally events, touring events, and sport car racing events
- 1st manufacturer to automate production with assembly line, pay workers a fair wage, produce a vehicle for the mass-market everyday consumer
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