Ford v Ferrari Movie Car is the star of Ford GT40 display at Charlotte AutoFair
Published 1:41 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2022
One of the greatest races of all time was depicted in the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari, and the GT40 sports car the hero drove to its Le Mans victory will make its first off-screen appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s April 7-10 Charlotte AutoFair.
Since the beginning of the sport, long-distance endurance racing was dominated by European car builders such as Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Jaguar and Aston Martin. In 1963, Ferrari was on a winning streak for the annual 24-hour competition near the French town of Le Mans when Ford Motor Co. tried to buy the Italian automaker. When company founder Enzo Ferrari rejected Henry Ford II’s offer, the latter declared he would beat the former at Le Mans—the undisputed crown of international endurance racing—by spending an absolutely insane amount of cash on talent and car development. What happened next proves that, under the right circumstance, money can buy happiness.
Ford’s new campaign comprised a “who’s who” of automotive legends, including Cobra creator Carroll Shelby, racer Ken Miles, “father of the Mustang” Lee Iacocca, and NASCAR builders Holman & Moody. Shelby—at the time the only American driver with a Le Mans victory (piloting an Aston Martin in 1959)—oversaw the development of Ford’s Ferrari-killer GT40.
- The first attempts — Ford-powered vehicles had competed in earlier Le Mans events, but 1964 saw the first real breakthrough when a Shelby-American Daytona Cobra Coupe finished fourth overall. For 1965, Ford’s Total Performance campaign was in full force, with 11 Ford-powered cars going up against 12 Ferraris. Six of the Ford cars were the new mid-engine GT40 design, none of which survived more than 89 laps of the 348-lap race before expiring with transmission or head gasket failures.
- Ford’s vengeful return — The Ford teams pulled into Le Mans in 1966 with eight factory GT40 Mk. II cars. Each Mk. II carried a 427ci V-8 that the company had developed for NASCAR. Ford’s Dan Gurney captured the pole with a qualifying lap speed of 143 mph, and Miles was less than one second behind. The sheer brutality of the big-block GT40s won out over the sophistication and handling prowess of the Ferrari entries, bringing home a 1-2-3 Le Mans finish for Ford. This marked the first American automaker victory at Le Mans and the first of five total Le Mans wins for Ford cars.
- Not a happy ending for all — Ken Miles, driving GT40 #1, was instructed to slow his record-setting pace during the final laps so his teammates could catch up for a “group photo” as the trio crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, by doing so, Miles, who started the race 60 feet ahead of Bruce McLaren’s GT40, was declared the second-place finisher, his car having technically covered 60 feet less in the 24 hours.
- The movie — The epic battles of the Ford-Ferrari war finally made it to the big screen in 2019 as Ford v Ferrari (or Le Mans ’66 as it appeared in Europe), with Matt Damon as Shelby and Christian Bale as Miles. To accurately recreate the races and car factories, producers rented, borrowed or built replicas of more than 400 period automobiles.
- The movie car — Reproducing Ken Miles’ Le Mans GT40 meant a trip to Race Car Replicas in Fraser, Michigan, which built one of the two hero cars used in the movie. What you see on film, piloted by actor Christian Bale, is a gorgeous blue GT40 Mk. II powered by a 450hp, 6.2-liter General Motors LS3 V-8 and Porsche 911 transaxle.
The Ford v Ferrari #1 hero car, provided by the Volo Museum in Volo, Illinois, will be the centerpiece of a four-car GT40 display during the April 7-10 Charlotte AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Showcase Pavilion will also feature Rick Hendrick’s $5 million Ferrari LaFerrari, the one-off 1966 Cannara sports car, the “Best of the Best” of the recent car show circuit, and a nostalgic display of AMC products.
The Charlotte AutoFair features more than 50 car club displays and more than 10,000 vendor spaces offering an array of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway throughout the four-day show. Hours for the April 7-10 Charlotte AutoFair are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Single-day tickets are $10 on Thursday and Sunday and $15 on Friday and Saturday for adults. A four-day weekend pass is available for just $40. Admission is free for children 12 and under with an adult. To buy tickets, AutoFair attendees can shop online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com