Tag Archive for Supercars

Why Ford is Better than Ferrari…

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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GT40 MkI Henry Ford II

Henry Ford II with an Early GT40

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.

Lola Mk6

The Lola Mk6

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).

John Wyer GT40

John Wyer GT40

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.

250LM Chinetti NART

Ferrari 250LM – The Last Ferrari to Win at LeMans

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…

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Carroll Shelby and the LeMans Winning GT40 MkIV


What Does “GT” Mean?

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Lots of cars have the letters “GT” proudly displayed on them, and in sports car racing   many cars (and classes) are called GT – but why?

GT is short for Grand Touring – the Italians will likely, and perhaps correctly, take credit for inventing the term (explanation shortly).  A GT car is larger and more comfortable than a Sports Car.  A sports car would be an Austin Healy Sprite, or Porsche Speedster – A traditional GT car would be like a Ferrari 275 GTB, or any Austin Martin you know about.

The purpose of a GT car is to cover long distances comfortably – very quickly, if necessary.  And, you can take a bunch of stuff with you.  My view is that a GT car is better than a sports car in almost every way – you can use them to get to work, the supermarket, take the kids to baseball practice, or enjoy driving them around on a race track.  They’re fun, most have big motors, and they look cooler than Sports Sedans, which the Brits call Saloon Cars, for some reason – a reason that makes them cooler than they would be, otherwise.

My case for suspecting Italians want credit for the term GT, is that they never seem to run out of letters to put after it – like they’ve got something to prove, and that’s suspicious, to me…  For example GTS (Spider), GTB (Berlinetta), GTV (Veloce), GTi (Injected) and best of all, GTO (Omologato).  Yes, the Italians get credit for GTO.

1964 Ferrari GTO

1964 Ferrari GTO

The “O” in GTO means homologated, or approved, in English.  In auto racing, sanctioning bodies place requirements upon manufacturers in order for their cars to be eligible to complete.  In this case the Ferrari 250 GTO was a “homologation” car, of which a certain number needed to be built, so that it could compete as a mass produced vehicle, in international sports car racing.  Ferrari’s GTO was such a bad-ass that some dudes in Detroit thought if they named a Pontiac Tempest after it, that masses of motorheads (mostly the car-guy kind) would fall for the trick – and they were right…

1964 Pontiac GTO

1964 Pontiac GTO

So, as cool as a good ole American Pontiac GTO is.., GM stole the name from the Italians – in a way almost completely unlike the way the Italians got their hands on Chrysler…

This seems like a good time to start on the story of how Ford nearly grabbed Ferrari.