CARROLL SHELBY & THE FORD GT40 | FOUR YRS OF DOMINATION AT LE MANS

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When Henry Ford II’s quest to buy Ferrari back in 1963 was spitefully squelched by Enzo, the mandate was given to, “Kick Ferrari’s ass.” And not just anywhere– at Le Mans, the world stage of auto racing.  The ass-kicking would finally come in the beautiful & brutish form of the iconic Ford GT40–America’s most incredible racecar ever.

Originally developed in England by Ford Advanced Vehicles Ltd under the direction of Aston Martin’s former team manager, John Wyer, the GT40 failed at Le Mans in ’64 & ’65, as Ferrari finished 1-2-3 both years. With failure no longer an option for anyone who wished to remain employed by Ford, Carroll Shelby was tapped to give the GT40 the necessary bite to beat the Italians.  Shelby’s success at Le Mans in his own Cobras, and again with the GT40, was not about technology, but by being crafty.  He replaced the 289 c.i. GT40 engine with the same powerful, big block 427 c.i. V-8 that powered his Cobras.  The lower revving, larger displacement V-8’s were more able to take the stress of long endurance races than the higher-revving, small displacement engines used by Ferrari.

Shelby not only ended Ferrari’s racing dominance, he exacted sweet revenge for Enzo’s snub– and garnered Ford a remarkable four-year winning streak from 1966 – 1969.

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Two massive American automotive legends — Carroll Shelby and the iconic Ford GT40. Originally labeled GT, ’40’ was added due to its incredibly low 40-inch stance.

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West Sussez, England — A Carroll Shelby masterpiece, 1960s JW Automotive/American Gulf Oil-sponsored Ford GT40  racecar at the Goodwood race track — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

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1969 Carroll Shelby / Ford GT40 MK 1 racecar (JW Automotive/American Gulf Oil-sponsored) with body panels removed.  This Ford GT P/1075 is one of the few racecars to ever win the 24 Hours of Le Mans back to back– here pictured as #6. — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

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STEVE McQUEEN | LE MANS & BEYOND GRATUITOUS 1970s RACING GOODNESS

Steve McQueen at the legendary 1970 12 Hours of Sebring Race where McQueen (partnered with co-driver Peter Revson) raced with a broken left foot in a cast against racing great, Mario Andretti.  McQueen is sporting his iconic ’67 Rolex Submariner that went for $234,000 at auction in 2009.  BTW – Anyone else feeling the “Brian Johnson AC/DC ” vibe here with the black leather 8-panel cap?

Steve McQueen’s 1971 epic, Le Mans, is the racecar film that is widely hailed as the gold standard for which all such films are measured– now, and certainly well into the future.  It was filmed largely live at the actual 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans, without the benefit of computer generated imagery and modern day trickery that we rely on today.  It feels raw because it is raw.  McQueen had originally planned to enter the #26 Porsche 917K with co-driver Jackie Stewart.  Fate had other ideas–  their entry car was rejected, and McQueen was unable to get insurance for the race.  As such, Jo Siffert and Brian Redman were now given driving duties.  While it was never a commercial success, it is long on guts, and is a sensory feast when it comes to the sounds and sights of what racing is all about.  Looking back at this incredible era, it’s hard not to be struck between the eyes by the strong graphic elements of the cars, logos, racing gear,  and attitude on display at every turn.

In preparation for the filming of the movie “Le Mans”, Steve McQueen went to the 1969 race to scout filming spots around the Le Mans course. When they returned in 1970 with all their camera equipment they knew all the best camera locations for the footage they would need for the movie “Le Mans.” I wonder who has all that film footage that they took in 1969? –Nigel Smuckatelli

1970 — Steve McQueen at Sebring hanging out with Carroll Shelby.

1970 — Steve McQueen at Sebring

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