Learn More about the History Behind 'Ford v Ferrari'

Lisa Tate

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This weekend, the first trailer dropped for one of the craziest racing stories in history (especially for American car lovers): Ford v Ferrari.

I grew up in a Ford family (my dad still owns the 1966 Mustang GT he bought new), and was fortunate to hear all about "the great Carroll Shelby" and his cars. Heck, we even use the man’s chili seasoning since he was a good Texan. A biography from this standpoint is long overdue, in my opinion.

For those unfamiliar with the story, the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans was a historic moment in racing as Fords placed first, second, and third for the first time, finally beating out the ever-triumphant Ferrari. This is thanks to the determination and talent of American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), and British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale).

The film also stars Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca, one of Ford’s greatest carmakers at the time before he became the man who saved Chrysler.

Both Shelby and Iacocca are known today for their part in making the Ford Mustang an American legend, but the 1966 Le Mans introduced to the world the game changing GT40 racer.

This film is directed by James Mangold, who gave us one of the best superhero movies for grown-ups, Logan, as well as the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line. So Ford v Ferrari should be pretty entertaining.

However, motion pictures based on real events and people are often filled with a few embellishments and "creative" changes in history in order to make the story more exciting, consolidate some events to fit within a limited time, or to help the moviemaker push a particular point of view. One of the best ways to keep a good sense of reality is to do your homework before watching any historically driven piece.

Since this is already one heck of a story, I'm giving you a little homework with a pair of documentary viewing assignments.

The 24 Hour War

Author and podcaster Adam Carolla is known by many for his comedy and commentary, but he is also a race car driver and the rabid car enthusiast behind the 2018 series Going Racing with Adam Carolla. He even owns more cars raced by the late Paul Newman than anyone else, and helped produce and direct a TV documentary on the late actor’s racing life.

In 2016, Carolla and longtime collaborator Nate Adams directed a sleek documentary on the war between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari that is anything but boring. It doesn’t cover every single aspect of the complicated event (and the equally complicated carmakers involved in it), but it is beautifully edited, with plenty of interviews and action.

What really struck me was how absolutely crazy, dangerous, and outrageous Le Mans is, even if you have no investment in whether Ford or Ferrari comes out triumphant in the end.

James May’s Mini-Documentary segment from The Grand Tour

Image: © Amazon Prime

If you have Amazon Prime, go back to episode six of season one of The Grand Tour (“Happy Finnish Christmas”). Although this show demonstrates its hosts' serious car enthusiasm with very little actual seriousness in their three seasons, they occasionally have caught us off guard with a few very informative and well-made documentary segments.

In the first season, presenter James May not only gives a brief and overview of this famed incident, he gets to drive a Ford GT40 and Ferrari P3 racer, both used in the actual race and valued at several million dollars each. May’s thrill of driving these beautiful speed demons is contagious, and his storytelling style is always brilliant.

Also, if you want some reading material, May has recommended in the past one of his own favorite books, Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans by A. J. Baime.

Ford v. Ferrari is set for a Nov. 15 premiere, so there’s plenty of time to do your homework. And if the trailer is any indication, get ready for a wild ride.

Header image: © 20th Century Fox

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