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Spring 2016 18

FORD GT - How Ford Silenced the

Critics, Humbled Ferrari and Con-

quered LeMans

by Preston Lerner;

photography by Dave Friedman. 10

1/4˝ x 12 1/4˝ hardcover; 76 color pho-

tos, 227 black & white. Published by


Publishing Group USA

Haven’t there been enough books

written about GT40s already? Until

we saw this one we would have said,

yes. But if you are intrigued about

Ford’s campaign to beat Ferrari at Le-

Mans in the mid-1960s, this is the

book you’ve been waiting for.

Author Preston Lerner, who has

been writing for



for the past 30 years, teamed up with

former Shelby American photographer

Dave Friedman for this book that cen-

ters around Ford’s LeMans victories in

1966 and 1967. The story of Ford’s

GT40 program has been told and re-

told almost since the mid-1960s when

it was breaking news. The cars are as

exciting now as they were fifty years

ago and this is reflected in Lerner’s

text. Some of the people who were

there when history was being made

are no longer alive, but those who are

still with us prove they have excellent

memories and the perspective gained

over the past five decades makes for

interesting reading.

Like any proper telling of Ford’s

LeMans victory, the story begins with

Henry Ford II’s desire, encouraged by

Lee Iacocca, to purchase Ferrari. After

Enzo Ferrari paraded his company

like a teasing suitor under Ford’s nose,

he promptly withdrew it, angering HF

II. “

You go to LeMans,”

Ford told Don

Frey, the Assistant General Manager

of the Ford Division, “

and beat his


.” This prompted a swarm of Ford

corporate underlings to begin scouring

the landscape for a suitable starting

point for a Ferrari-beating endurance

race car. That was in 1963 and the

book includes Ford’s discovering Eng-

lishman Eric Broadley and his Lola

GT which morphed into what became

the new Ford GT.

The story continues through con-

struction of the earliest GTs, testing,

and the first foray to LeMans in 1964.

Conventional wisdom was that a new

car required a minimum of three years

of trial and error before it could win

LeMans. This proved to be true, and

the book covers all of the high and low

points. Finally the planets aligned in

1966 and Ford had its never-to-be-

forgotten 1-2-3 photo finish. The story

includes the circumstances around the

“Ken Miles affair” and it is even more

poignant in the retelling.

The saga, as you know, did not end

in 1966. Henry Ford II did not want

the victory to look like a fluke so he or-

dered a new car, built at Ford in the

U.S., which became the MK IV. It won

again in 1967 and was then outlawed

by the French in the FIA. Ford then

pulled the plug on its factory effort. If

you’re looking for yet more Ford GT

pictures you’ve never seen, you’ll find

a bunch of them in this book. We’re

happy to have it on our shelf.

Peter Cavallo of Essex, England

sent us this photo of a chrome trailer

hitch receiver cover. It arrived in Eng-

land attached to a Dodge truck that

somebody purchased and he brought

it into Cavallo’s shop to show him. It

is metal and about six-inches high.

The electrical trailer hitch plug acti-

vates the snake’s eyes when the

brakes are applied.

With us so far? Good, because Cav-

allo added a few more details. Accord-

ing to him, during the GT40 vs.

Ferrari chapter of racing history, Car-

roll Shelby carried this winkling cobra

(said to have been created in the place

that was to become A.O. Smith in the

future) and the battery from a 427

Cobra with him around Enzo Ferrari’s

villa. In the middle of the night,

Shelby would hold the cobra up to

Enzo’s bedroom window and, using an

original Cobra horn switch, would ac-

tivate the glowing red eyes in the dark

of the night in order to instill in Fer-

rari the fear of the cobra’s bite.

Does that sound, maybe, a bit far-

fetched? We’re only relating what Cav-

allo told us. We report and you decide.