The Chicken Farmer and the Grudge Car

Designed to Beat Ferrari: The GT40 was explicitly developed to beat Ferrari at their own game.

 In the early 1960s, Ford attempted to buy Ferrari, but the deal fell through. 

The deal failure led Henry Ford II to decide to beat Ferrari on the track.

The undertaking began in the early 1960s when Ford Advanced Vehicles in Slough started to build the GT40 Mk I car, based upon the Lola Mk6.

In 1964, Ford entered three GT40s in Le Mans, all failed to finish.

In their wisdom, Ford decided to bring the GT40 back to a chicken farmer in the US.

His name was Caroll Shelby.

In 1966, the Ford GT40 became the first American car to win the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.

The Ford GT40’s supremacy at Le Mans was so commanding that in 1966, it famously took all three top positions, with a photo finish between the leading cars.

Le Mans famous straightaway called the Mulsanne Straight, despite being heavier, the GT40 had an advantage over Ferrari. 

The Ford GT40 could reach speeds of 212 miles per hour.

Leo Beebe, a Ford PR bod, wanted to celebrate the win with a picture of the three crossing the finish line together. 

So, he asked Shelby to order Miles to slow down and let the other GT40 teams catch up.

Despite Miles being the leader, Bruce McLaren had started a few cars behind, meaning he had covered a greater distance and, therefore, the winner.

What an injustice.

Had Ken Miles won, he would have been the only driver to win the world’s three biggest endurance races. In the same year, the 24 hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ford didn’t just defeat Ferrari at Le Mans in 1966; it humiliated them; they didn’t have a car to complete the race.

This grudge match has been one of the greatest motor racing stories ever. 

Paradoxically, Enzo Ferrari was the most important man in the unrivalled success of the Ford GT40.