Enzo Ferrari had a very particular way of relating to certain brands. With his sharp tongue he opened the historic competition with Lamborghini. With his unpredictable attitude, something similar happened with Ford on the other side of the Atlantic. What happened?
Enzo Anselmo Giuseppe Maria Ferrari. Enzo-Ferrari or Don Enzo, for friends. A name that never dies. A man with anthology phrases. Some were more or less inspiring, in very specific cases open-hearted words, and others sought more friction and provocation, such as the episode between the founder of Ferrrai and Ferruccio Lamborghini.
“Let me make cars, you dedicate yourself to making tractors.” Just a handful of words were enough to originate the most exponent sports classic in all of Europe. Don Enzo’s tongue was loosened. That’s how he was. If he had something to say, he said it, he didn’t keep it to himself. Thus, he knew how to confront journalists, pilots, his engineering team and, of course, competing brands.
Ferrari and Ford it is also a rivalry with interesting chapters. The film Ford vs. ferrari (against the impossible in Latin America, Le Mans 66 in Spain) reveals a whole background by which the American oval sought to dethrone the Italians of their six consecutive titles at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was not a simple whim, there was a thirst for revenge. What was the root cause?
We know how to do more than office work.
“This is not the first time Ford has gone to war. We know how to do more than office work. Go ahead, Carroll (for Shelby, played by Matt Damon), go to war.” Behind those words of the actor Tracy Letts in the skin of Henry Ford II there is accumulated anger. Just as Lamborghini at the time left the tractors and began to build sports cars to compete in the market, the American firm did the same but in the automotive field.
After a few years without competition due to a law that prohibited American manufacturers from investing in the discipline and a 1957 rule that did not allow advertising with power, Carroll Shelby entered Ford’s orbit, the Cobras appeared to be legend and the history was never the same again… at least in endurance racing.
Seeing that General Motors laughed at the law and created competition cars from behind, Ford returned to the ring, with the Shelby V8 engines it conquered Daytona for the first time and began to climb positions in the 1963 edition of Le Mans. By then, internal and financial problems were weighing down Ferrari, which was already willing to sell its brand with its team included.
A month before that race in France, Ford and Ferrari sat at the table. The contract was ready, the ink would reveal a new world. Don Enzo, however, changed course again at the last moment.
Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II, from love to hate
Everything was different a decade ago from the origin of the rivalry. In 1952, in the midst of Ford’s crisis with the marked hegemony of the Detroit Giant, its great shadow in the fifties, Enzo Ferrari sealed his friendship with Henry Segundo through a special gift: a 212 Export with Barchetta bodywork, a sports prototype model 1951. Little more than 10 years later, everything would indicate that this friendship would mutate into society.
For Ford, the latest results indicated that buying Ferrari was equivalent to “buying” Le Mans. The contract established a kind of division of assets. The Americans, with zero precedents in circuits, would be responsible for the manufacture of street cars and Ferrari would control the Scudería and motorsports. Donald Frey, the father of the mythical Mustang, was one of the links between the brands, he had generated good impressions at the Comendattore and was going to stamp his signature on behalf of Ford.
Everything closed except a detail that Enzo did not miss at that meeting in May ’63: the fine print indicated that it was going to be those in Detroit who would make the decisions regarding the general budget for Ford’s life on the tracks. That, undoubtedly, reduced Ferrari’s control over the car division.
The contract was not signed the sale of Ferrari to Ford never happened, society turned into hate and Henry Ford II devoted all his resources -economic and emotional- to destroy his Italian peer in the competition in which the latter was lord and master. After two failed attempts, the oval managed to put an end to the hegemony of the Maranello team in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The New York International ShowCuriously, he paid tribute to the model that made it possible.
That Ford GT40 that made history in 1966 is a symbol for the sports section of Ford. Not only did it win Le Mans for the first time for the American marque, it ended Ferrari’s reign on the iconic French circuit forever: the 250 LM that was imposed in 1965 he was the last Cavallino to win the race.
Behind the numbers, behind each list of winners, there is a story that explains them. That non-sale was the origin of the classic with Ford, one more chapter on the life and work of Enzo-Ferraria man destined to create rivalries.