When Ford tried to buy Ferrari and ended up creating the Ford GT40

1966 Ford GT 40 Le Mans

The story of how Ford GT40 was created

In the 60s, Ferrari Spa was a pretty successful builder of racing cars. It was the brand to be beaten (it still is in some areas these days), the place to be, the good-looking girl everybody wants to flirt with. It was the time of the mighty and exclusive Ferrari 250 GTO or the amazingly hot Ferrari 330 (pictured below) as examples. During 1963, Ferrari employed 450 people and was able to build around 600 cars a year (that’s not even 2 per day). 

ferrari 330

An spectacular and beautiful Ferrari 330 pictured above

On the other hand Ford Motor Co who was producing 2.1 million cars a year and employing 175,000 people. Like David and Goliath.
Henry Ford II (and Ian Iacocca) were quite eagerly interested in acquiring Ferrari in order for Ford to compete on the GT cars area. At the same time, there was a rumour Ferrari wanted to merge with Ford (they might need some financial stability during those days) so it look like the operation will end up happening sooner or later. There was never clarity on the talks but certainly they took place during 1963.
Ford was the second car maker in the US in 1963 (Only after Chevrolet) and they wanted to be a big racing brand to increase the appeal for the brand and probably get faster cars for their regular customers, as they demanded. If you think about it, it just make total economic sense.
The idea was to build regular cars under Ford-Ferrari brand and Ford having the biggest stake on them, and also, having Ferrari-Ford for the racing team with Ferrari having the majority there. The conversations were never revealed and the rumour goes the two would race together as Ford-Ferrari or Ferrari-Ford, depending on where the racing was being done. In any case, this looks like a done deal waiting to be signed. 
But things started to twist with different aspects, to name a few: when they started talking about economic terms not only of the transaction but also about sponsorship and so on on the racing team, Ferrari was quite disappointed due to the lack of interest to really invest in them by Ford, the outstanding and successful relationship between Ford and Shelby America didn't make things easier as a transfer of knowledge to a competitor could happen too, the certain lack of interest from Ford and Formula 1 racing didn't help much either, … to cut the story short, the conversations fell apart and the deal never happened. 

Ford intention to compete against Ferrari

Henry Ford II ended up really embarrassed with the outcome and how things were so badly managed by the Italians. There were those who speculated that Ferrari’s negotiation had actually been a tactic to put more pressure on Fiat, the Italian company that eventually bought 50% of Ferrari in 1969, to end up with 90% in 1988. But after the deal broke down, Ford executives decided there was only one way to strike back at the Italian legend: beat Ferrari (and Enzo) on the racetrack, where he took all of his pride.
The path to the glory of the Ford GT40 was not easy and almost prove right Mr Ferrari. The team invested $10M in the Le Mans Program (equiv of $80M) and tried their best. In 1965 none of the 4 cars that started the race finished (oh no!) and in 1964 the result was really poor. 
In 1966 though, things went better than planned and Le Mans 24 Heures were a complete show off from Ford. They took a 1-2-3-4 win in the race (you can read more about the funny outcome for the drivers in the end here) but more over, to really show the strength was a car's one and not the drivers and more over to embarrass Enzo Ferrari, the 3 Ford GT40 cars on the podium were made cross the final line almost together and since, the born of an icon was made, Ford GT40.
The car built some momentum by winning different races in America and in Europe. The car is a complete beauty and a piece of art. 

Ford GT40 Price

Even though there are plenty of replica cars for less than $500.000 (some of them quite enjoyable), the original Ford GT 40 is a car for collectors and the price tag, no matter the condition will reach a few millions. In 2012, one of them from 1965 with no racing history was auctioned and reached $3 Millions. In today market, I'd expect the price to be double or more, particularly if one of the cars has a track record of race wins.

Pictures thanks to Talacrest.com
 

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Less known stories, Racing History
02/06/2018 - 11:38
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