Ford Vs. Ferrari – How Did The Rivalry Start?

Le Mans 66 image

Following the recent release of Le Mans 66 – or Ford v Ferrari if you’re based in America – the rivalry between the two car giants has been brought back to the forefront of people’s minds.

While there may have always been a heated rivalry between the Italian and American-based car manufacturers, during the 1960s in particular, this feud became particular fierce – soon to be portrayed in the upcoming film release.

So, what happened exactly? Join us as we delve into the story behind the rivalry, seeing how the feud first surfaced and why it still rages to this day.

Ferrari looks to sell

Back in the early 1960s, Enzo Ferrari began thinking about selling his company. The reasons as to why still remain relatively unclear, but it didn’t take long for news to travel across the Atlantic that he was looking to potentially sell. Meanwhile, Ford were looking to add a race car to its portfolio, with the Mustang still some years off in production.

Ford looks to buy

Ford began talks with Ferrari to take over the brand, looking to add a high-end European carmaker to its portfolio. After months of negotiations, the manufacturers finally settled on a fee of $18 million.

However, this fee included a clause which said Ford would control all decisions related to Ferrari’s racing team. Ferrari didn’t like this and, after an informal meeting with Ford representatives, Enzo Ferrari told them he would never sell to an ugly company that builds ugly cars in an ugly factory.

Adding insult to injury, Enzo then sold a majority stake in Ferrari to Fiat, effectively proving he had used Ford to drive up the price. As you can imagine, Ford weren’t best pleased, and swore to get even where it mattered most: the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Ford begin building

Designing a so-called Ferrari Killer race car proved to be no easy feat for Ford though, with many early experiments showing that their GT40 creations were not only incredibly unstable and unreliable, but also had brakes that heated to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit within seconds.

That all changed when car designer Carroll Shelby (portrayed by Matt Damon) and his trusted friend Ken Miles (portrayed by Christian Bale) came in. Reinventing the GT40, the duo revolutionised the racing industry forever, utilising incredible engineering ingenuity to design the now-safe GT40 Mk. II.

Ready, set, go…

At Le Mans 66’, Ford’s upgraded car didn’t just beat Ferrari, it absolutely destroyed them. In fact, Ferrari didn’t even finish the race, while Ford took first, second and third place, respectively.

The race wasn’t without its controversy though. To rub salt into the wounds of Ferrari, Ford’s PR guru Leo Beebe wanted to finish the race with a picture of the winning Ford trio crossing the line together. Despite being miles in front of second and third, Ken Miles was told to slow down to let the other GT40 drivers catch up. He did as instructed but, during the photo finish, was found to come second to his teammate Bruce McLaren. As you might imagine, he wasn’t best pleased.

Manufacturing race cars can be an incredibly dangerous business so being safe while driving is absolutely vital. Here at FEV Motorsport, we understand that better than most. If you need any advice on how to ensure safety in your car, please get in touch with our team today.

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