Sometimes good things come out of friendly competition. At other times, good things come out of not so friendly competition. Everyone thinks that they are motivated, but when you want to prove something to someone who has challenged you, there is generally going to be a bit of a turbocharged thing going on.
This dynamic was at the root of the creation of the high-performance race car that came to be known as the Ford GT40. As the story goes, Enzo Ferrari got into a feud with Henry Ford II during the early part of the 1960s. Apparently Ferrari floated the notion that he was potentially interested in selling his brand to Ford if the circumstances were to his liking.
The deal never went down because Ferrari wanted to stay on and run the racing division of his company, and he wanted to race Indy cars. Ford balked because his engines were already running at the Indianapolis 500, and he didn’t want to indirectly compete with himself. Enzo responded by closing the window of opportunity, and acrimony between the two automotive titans ensued.
Henry Ford II sought revenge. He decided to have his company build a car that could defeat Ferrari at LeMans. Who do you think he turned to when he was looking for somebody to build an engine that could do the job? If you guessed Carroll Shelby, you are right on the money.
The result was the GT40, and the car accomplished the mission. The first engine was a 4.2 liter, 350 horsepower V8. Shelby continually refined the prototype, and a Ford GT40 ultimately captured the LeMans endurance race four straight times, starting in 1966.
The car was produced from 1964 through 1969, and there were only 107 of them completed. Clearly, they were not cheap to put together, and they are extremely rare. Plus, many of them are historic from a racing perspective.
A 1964 Ford GT40 prototype recently went up for auction in Houston. It was a Mecum affair, and the car, which raced unsuccessfully at LeMans, fetched a tidy $7 million.
This particular individual did not do that well on the race track, but it is a valuable artifact nonetheless, and it was impeccably restored by Paul Lanzante.
Henry Ford II was one really rich guy who wound up getting his way, and the new owner of this one-of-a-kind Ford GT40 prototype is another.