‘Ford v Ferrari’

Matt Damon and Christian Bale relive some of the most iconic moments in automobile history in ‘Ford v Ferrari’

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Rasheed Hossain

“It was amazing to see such a meaningful historical moment come to life in ‘Ford v Ferrari’,” said Rifat Karim ’20.

There was something about hearing the iconic Ford GT40 tear through the French countryside at Le Mans that sent chills down my spine. Even though I was sitting in a movie theater, I felt like I was there myself, watching history unfold before my own eyes as Matt Damon and Christian Bale recreated one of the most defining moments in automotive history in the newly released movie, Ford Vs Ferrari. 

What began as a rivalry between legendary automotive pioneers Henry Ford and Enzo Ferrari  became the basis of the movie. During the 1960s, Ford Motor Company was an economic powerhouse, with savvy marketing initiatives and state of the art technology allowing them to dominate the streets of the United States. On the other side of the ocean, Enzo Ferrari led a company that paid the finest attention to detail in every vehicle it produced. Ferrari had won six Le Mans races from 1960-1965, asserting Scuderia Ferrari’s, Ferrari’s racing team, dedication to perfection. 

The two manufacturers could not have been more different. Such expensive endeavors took a huge toll on Ferrari financially, and it was no secret that they were low on funds. Ford leaped on the opportunity to fly out representatives from Michigan all the way to Maranello, Italy to negotiate a buyout deal with Ferrari. The movie portrayed the negotiation just how I had imagined it, with Ford representatives smugly waiting for Enzo Ferrari’s response to their contract, knowing what an enticing offer they had proposed. 

The movie depicted Ferrari studying the contract carefully, looking up with disgust after reading one of the clauses. Feeling insulted would be an understatement, as Ferrari did away with the compromise altogether when Ford demanded that his company would take control of Scuderia Ferrari. Ferrari sent the Ford representatives home with a message to Henry Ford – never insult his company again.

His response would change Ford’s public image for years to come. Henry Ford ordered his engineers to build a race car that would dethrone Ferrari at Le Mans in 1963.  Ford invested over $10 million dollars in their lengthy pursuit of Ferrari, as well as enlisting the help of world-renowned car designers Carol Shelby and Ken Miles. 

“Through the course of the movie, it was amazing to see the progression of the Ford GT from Henry Ford’s burning desire to beat Ferrari to an actual masterclass in engineering,” said Asef Khan ’20. The original Ford GT concept boasted tremendous horsepower and speed. However, after one test drive, ex-racing legend Ken Miles left the car in disgust, claiming that it was “terrible.” The original GT faced braking problems from its top speeds and was also highly unstable and not aerodynamic. 

Such problems stemmed from Ford’s lack of racing experience. However, Ken Miles demonstrated his expertise in engineering by remodeling the GT to become the purebred racing car it is today. He truly had a feel for the GT and understood how to make it achieve the potential it had. He and Shelby solved the GT’s problems in unconventional but effective ways, such as by attaching wool fibers all around the frame of the car during test drives to determine where its aerodynamic weak points were.

Miles also risked his life in trying to improve the GT’s braking problems by pushing it to the limit each test drive. “There’s a point when you’re going 200 mph that everything seems to slow down, no matter how fast you’re going, and you can really feel the machine beneath you,” Miles said in reflection.

Though the movie was filled with 200 mph race scenes and high stakes competition, my favorite part of the whole film was the moment Ken Miles shared with his son, Peter, before he headed off to France for Le Mans. Miles and Peter sat on the Ford runway test track, watching the sun set into the Detroit skyline. “Somewhere out there,” he told Peter as he pointed to the horizon, “is the perfect lap. It’s out there.” It was truly a beautiful father-son moment. Miles went out to break lap record after lap record, showing that the perfect lap does exist.

“There’s a point when you’re going 200 mph that everything seems to slow down, no matter how fast you’re going, and you can really feel the machine beneath you,” Miles said in reflection.

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