Ford vs Ferrari: The Story Behind the Epic Rivalry

If you’re a gearhead, you’re likely familiar with the Ford-Ferrari rivalry, and if you aren’t, you’ve still probably heard of it courtesy of Hollywood. It’s a tale about an epic rivalry between two automotive giants from different continents.
Before proceeding, we need to discuss the two prominent figures in this rivalry, Henry Ford and Enzo Ferrari. In the 1960s, Henry Ford was one of the most famous and ingenious CEOs in the world. He had revolutionized the automotive industry by introducing the moving assembly line to factories. His innovation reduced the car manufacturing time from more than twelve hours to one hour and thirty-three minutes. Resultantly, Ford was a man known for his ingenuity and business prowess.
On the other side was Enzo Ferrari. Enzo was a former racing driver who founded his own automobile company. His company’s goal during these days was to produce street-legal vehicles to fund their track racing exploits.
In the early 60s, Ferrari’s financial position was precarious. The company direly needed capital injection. Otherwise, it risked dissolution. In the 60s, Henry Ford wanted Ford vehicles to dominate the race track. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a sports car. Henry Ford decided to purchase Ferrari. He sent his representatives to Modena, Italy. Their mission was to return with full ownership of Ferrari.
The representatives met with Ferrari executives and inked out a deal. Everything seemed to be progressing well as both parties agreed to a $10 million deal. However, when the Ford representatives passed the final contract around the table, things took a turn. Enzo balked at one of the clauses within the contract stating Ferrari would need Ford’s permission to set their racing budget.

Enzo took this as a slight, hurting his pride and ego. He refused the deal immediately, sending a message to Ford. “There was something his money couldn’t buy.” Naturally, Ford didn’t respond kindly to Enzo’s words.
So began the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari, sparked not by competition but by egos.

Revenge on the Racetrack

Ford remained slighted by Ferrari’s rejection. He devised a plan to get back at him. He was going to humiliate Enzo for the world to see, and he would do it where Enzo thrived – on the racetrack. Ford took the $10 million offered to Ferrari and allocated it towards developing the Ford GT. In 1964, the time of reckoning arrived. Ford entered four vehicles in the Le Mans. Henry was convinced he was going to humiliate Enzo. However, what followed was arguably the most embarrassing twenty-four hours of his life. Ferrari dominated the Le Mans like it had since 1960. None of Ford’s vehicles even finished the race. Henry Ford went back to the USA defeated.
Ford returned the following year, having injected more capital into the Ford GT development. However, the results weren’t much better. Resultantly, Ford needed a new strategy. His search led him to Carroll Shelby.

Carroll Shelby and a New Braking System

Ford enlisted Carroll Shelby’s expertise to help his struggling team. Shelby was an experienced racing driver and automotive designer who worked with the team to design the MK II version of the Ford GT 40. However, one problem persisted.
Ford’s front brake rotors would heat up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit in a few seconds when it braked at the end of the Mulsanne Straight. Eventually, engineer Phil Remington came up with a solution. He created a quick-change brake system that allowed the pit crew to replace new pads and rotors during a driver change. Other teams protested this unfair advantage. However, Ford wasn’t violating any rules. It was just pushing forward.
In 1966, Ford returned to Le Mans with the GT 40 MK II. Press gathered from across the globe to watch the spectacle that would unfold. Not only did Ford defeat Ferrari, but it devastatingly humiliated the Italian company. Ford captured the first, second, and third place. On the other hand, Ferrari didn’t have a single car complete the race.
The tides had shifted. Ferrari’s dominance of Le Mans came to a crushing end. Henry Ford had finally achieved what he wanted. He had a sports car in his lineup. Stories would spawn from the historic event. Ford returned to win the Le Mans in 1967. 

The interior of a Ferrari

Purchase Ferrari Apparel Online

The Ford-Ferrari rivalry is something the world will never forget. Numerous Hollywood movies have covered the story. Likewise, it has also spawned books, TV shows, and more. If you’re a car enthusiast, you’ll know how it feels to represent your favorite automobile manufacturer during a race. At, we have numerous car apparel merchandise for sale. If you’re interested in buying Ferrari merchandise online, we can help you. We’ve also got Shelby logo hats and t-shirts online. Visit our website today to get started.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.