It was 1963, Enzo Ferrari was in a mood to sell a large stake in his little car company. He had his eye on Ford, and made the overture. Henry Ford II responded, and a deal was struck.
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Each had their motivations – Ferrari wanted cash for racing, Ford wanted the prestige that would come with Ferrari’s racing success. And, that’s about when the wheels came off the cart – a very fast cart, no longer being pulled by a prancing horse… Unexpectedly, Ferrari had announced that he didn’t care for the final terms offered by Ford – and by some accounts, they were both more than a little bit pissed off about it. So, Henry II would need to find a different path by which he could establish his company’s sporting credentials – and the racing world would be better for it.
Ford contracted with small British sports car builder, Lola, to provide the first chassis – it was, more or less, a Lola MK6. It would be powered by a Ford V8 and it would be called the GT40 (it was 40 inches tall).
Victories didn’t come easily. At first, the cars didn’t work so well. They suffered from poor reliability in the hands of future sports car racing legend, John Wyer (all those Gulf Racing Mirage’s and Porsche’s were also his), and eventually the GT40’s made their way to Carroll Shelby, in Texas – yes, that Carroll Shelby. And yes.., before we saw anything that looked like a Mustang with Shelby’s name on it.
In 1965, Ferrari would win LeMans, for the last time, with the gorgeous 250LM (would it have been a Ferrari / Ford?). From 1966, the GT40 won 4 consecutive 24 Hours of LeMans (First with Shelby and then with Wyer), beating some of the baddest sports prototypes ever. And, dare I say it? – embarrassing Ferrari. As all this Ferrari sports car crushing was going on out in the French countryside, Ford would also agree to fund development of the most successful Formula One engine ever – The 3.0 liter, V8, Cosworth DFV. Lotus, McLaren, Brabham, Williams,Tyrrell and others, all became Ferrari killers with the DFV. As distinctly European as sports car racing and Formula One are, Henry Ford II and Carroll Shelby had managed to put their fingerprints all over both of them – Bravo, America!!! and, if you haven’t heard, Don’t Mess with Texas…
[…] This seems like a good time to start on the story of how Ford nearly grabbed Ferrari. […]