Picture: YOUTUBE
Picture: YOUTUBE

Enzo Ferrari found out the hard way that you don’t mess with Henry Ford’s grandson, when the blue oval usurped the Italian brand’s hegemony in the Le Mans 24 Hour in the late 1960s.

Henry Ford II had wanted to buy Ferrari, but when Enzo put the brakes on the deal after long negotiations, an angered Henry decided he’d get payback by building a car to beat Ferrari in endurance racing. The Ford GT40 was born, and it won Le Mans in 1966 — and the next two years — thus ending Ferrari’s run of six consecutive victories in the legendary French race.

The man recruited to run the GT40 project was visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby, whose name would go on to become an iconic part of automotive history. The driver who took the car to its first Le Mans victory was the talented but blunt Englishman Ken Miles.

Ford vs Ferrari relates how the blue oval usurped Ferrari’s Le Mans domination. Picture: SUPPLIED
Ford vs Ferrari relates how the blue oval usurped Ferrari’s Le Mans domination. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ford vs Ferrari, starring Academy Award winners Matt Damon as Shelby and Christian Bale as Miles, tells the story of this famous automotive grudge match. The 20th Century Fox film explores how Shelby and Miles battled corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to take on the dominating race cars of Ferrari at Le Mans.

Ford vs Ferrari tells the Shelby story from Carroll’s early beginnings in the 1960s through to what became his biggest international motorsport success, which set the stage for what became an iconic high-performance brand.

In anticipation of the movie’s upcoming release in cinemas on November 22, Shelby SA hosted media and industry leaders at a Ford vs Ferrari track day at Pretoria’s Zwartkops Raceway on November 6. Attendees were taken for passenger rides in Shelby cars that included the Cobra, Daytona, GT40 and Supersnake.

Participants also watched a video interview with Aaron Shelby, grandson of the late Carroll, who addressed questions that had been sent to him by local journalists.

THE CARS USED IN THE MOVIE WERE BUILT IN SA BY JIMMY PRICE AT HIS WORLD RENOWNED FACILITY IN PORT ELIZABETH

The name Shelby needs no introduction to high-performance car enthusiasts, and until now it was most famously represented by Eleanor, the modified Ford Mustang driven by Nicolas Cage’s character in the film Gone in 60 Seconds. Founded by Carroll back in 1962, the brand that bears his name has since 1967 become synonymous with giving ’Stangs some larger fangs in the form of high-performance kits.

In 2016, racing driver and powerboat star Peter Lindenberg became the official Shelby agent in SA, with branches in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“A film this big and emotional, along with heart-stopping car racing, just lent itself to partnering with a brand like Shelby South Africa – a partner with a heritage and passion for innovation,” said Cameron Hogg, content executive for Empire Entertainment, which is distributing the film in SA. 

“As with all great films, we want to be moved, to cry, to laugh, to be inspired. This movie is all of that and more and gave us the opportunity to give local media a small taste of the world in which the film takes place.”

The cars used in the movie were built in SA by Jimmy Price at his world-renowned Hi-Tech Automotive facility in Port Elizabeth, where he manufactures continuation models of the GT40 and high-quality replicas of the Shelby Cobra. Most of the vehicles, which are produced under licence to Shelby American and get entered into the Shelby registry, are exported to the US and the UK.

AS WITH ALL GREAT FILMS, WE WANT TO CRY, TO LAUGH, TO BE INSPIRED. THIS MOVIE IS ALL OF THAT AND MORE

Star car on auction

* To commemorate the release of Ford vs Ferrari, Shelby SA is auctioning a very special Ford GT40 MkII replica car autographed by actors Matt Damon, Christian Bale, movie director James Mangold and Aaron Shelby.

The GT40 MkII replica in Le Mans-winning livery is being auctioned in SA. Picture: SUPPLIED
The GT40 MkII replica in Le Mans-winning livery is being auctioned in SA. Picture: SUPPLIED

Painted in the same blue-and-orange livery as Miles’s famous Le Mans-winning car of 1966, this near-identical continuation car has a 5.4l Ford V8 engine and five-speed Quaiffe transaxle gear box. Regular GT40 replicas built by Price at Hi-Tech Automotive are valued at R2.4m and the autographed car is expected to fetch more.

The auction will be a sealed bid, and those interested can e-mail paige@shelbysa.com for the form. The auction will take place at the end of January/beginning of February.

The proceeds of the auction will go to a bursary for youngsters wanting to study automotive engineering.

For more information on the car, contact Peter Lindenberg on 082 468 0500.

The dashboard of the GT40 is autographed by actors Matt Damon, Christian Bale, movie director James Mangold and Aaron Shelby. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The dashboard of the GT40 is autographed by actors Matt Damon, Christian Bale, movie director James Mangold and Aaron Shelby. Picture: DENIS DROPPA