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May 18, 2024 51 mins

Today the Ford GT40 is one of the world's most iconic vehicles -- but this award winning automotive beast is, it turns out, the result of a serious grudge match. Join Ben, Noel and the gang as they delve into the strange, spiteful history of the Ford GT40 in today's Classic episode.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Oh man, So off air, we were talking about our
I think we're all three of us, you, Max and
myself are are contemplating to one degree or another when
it's going to be time to get a new car. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (00:14):
I've been rocking the old Honda fit which I've had
paid off for many years, and I was just talking
about how it has a really good track record in
terms of like I haven't really had to do any
major repairs on it except for, you know, just some
cosmetic things here and there and just keeping up the
oil changes and the tires and all of that. But
I am in a place where I've got a kid
who's about to be of driving age, kind of pass

this bad boy on to the kid and then be
in the market for what I like to refer to
as a big boy car.

Speaker 1 (00:42):
A big boy car Yeah nice.

Speaker 2 (00:44):
Yeah, that could mean like an suv or something, but
I think I mean I want something with a little
bit of pick me, a little pickup, you know, a
little bit get up and go a little Yeah.

Speaker 1 (00:53):
I don't know what y'all are talking about.

Speaker 3 (00:54):
My car, Sylvia is going to last forever for anyone
saying out there saying, wait, your car and your cat
have the same name Max like, no, the car is
filt with a y.

Speaker 2 (01:03):
These are the important questions that keep ridiculous historians up
in nimax.

Speaker 1 (01:06):
Yes, yes, and it's it's funny because there are excellent
podcasts like ninety nine percent Invisible that trace the unknown
origins of different things. And the world of automobiles, there
are also many, many fascinating origin stories, some a little
more wholesome than others. But even if you don't like cars,

if you don't consider yourself a gear head, you're gonna
dig this one ridiculous historians, because the Ford g T
forty is the automotive version of what were those things
we looked at earlier?

Speaker 2 (01:44):
Spe building spipes, well, spipe stor is what I was
talking about. From from Kerb Larry started a Spike coffee
shop next to Mocha Joe's. But yeah, we've got historical
examples of spikee buildings where either to obscure somebody's view
or buy up a piece of land that would be
crucial to somebody's business, idea or design, or whatever happens

all the time, spiteful choices that are not necessarily made
for any other reason but to piss somebody else off
or up end somebody else's aspirations. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (02:19):
Absolutely, And it turns out that the world famous, award
winning Ford g T forty is itself the result of
a cartoonish grudge match. So we hope you enjoy this.
Statistically speaking, at least some of some of our folks
listening along today are in fact driving a Ford g

T forty right now as you listen to the show.

Speaker 2 (02:46):
Yeah, and then you know, is this gosh, Ben's this
is a long time sins we did this, and I
know this was maybe a bit of a shared topic
with your former podcast car stuff, But is this a
Ford versus Ferrari kind of situation or what's what's the
deal here? Can you give us a little bit of
the setup where the spike came from? I know it's
going to be in the episode, but just maybe bring

things up to the modern day.

Speaker 1 (03:10):
All right, So in uh, it may yeah, yeah, it
may or may not surprise some of us listening to
learn that people who decide to manufacture their own cars
sometimes have a bit of an ego. And there was
a there was this personal grudge match between Henry four

two and Enzo Ferrari and then other people like Carol,
the legendary Carol Shelby. They also didn't like Enzo Ferrari,
and so they decided that they were going to create
a car that could compete with the Ferrari, that could

beat these records set by Ferrari's team at a prestigious
race car.

Speaker 2 (04:00):
Yes, of course, and I believe we did this episode
back in twenty eighteen, in the very first year of
doing this show. And in twenty nineteen a very well
regarded film came out starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon
who played Carol Shelby, actually Matt Damon, directed by James Mangold,

and it is called Ford Versus Ferrari, and it is
less about the men themselves, but more about the men
behind the men and the race car drivers that were
sort of like putting these particular vehicles on the map.
So definitely worth some supplementary viewing if you're interested in
this kind of topic.

Speaker 1 (04:41):
A business deal, god, a ry egos wounded, a race
that becomes a symbol for it's it's just so weird, man.
We hope you enjoy it. Folks. Will be back next
week with another classic no spoilers it turns out the

Wild West may be a bit of a misleading name.

Speaker 2 (05:05):
The Tame West. Let's roll that tape.

Speaker 1 (05:10):
Ridiculous History is a production of iHeartRadio. Put yourself in

a situation. Listeners, imagine that you have been driving all day,
but not on any road trip, no, on a mission
of vengeance. Your heart is thumping, your body is on
its last legs, and you might be about to blow
up your car or make history.

Speaker 2 (05:56):
Hi, my name is Ben, my name is Nola. And
then I have to tell you, and I'm going to
come clean right up front. It wasn't until doing the
research for this episode that I actually understood why those
people drive around in circles all day long.

Speaker 1 (06:08):
Right, Yes, today we are delving into racing, not just
any race, but one of the most important moments in
one of the world's most important races. And for a
lot of people who aren't already race fans, racing's a
weird thing, you know what I mean, Like, well, you're
just what everybody's just going left. For a while, I just.

Speaker 2 (06:29):
Straight up didn't understand the rules are anything about it,
Like I just didn't. So this was a very eye
opening thing for me, and I am going to defer
largely to you on this, Ben because many listeners may
know you had a podcast for many years called Car Stuff,
where you delved into all things automotive, and I believe
you guys did an episode on this very subject.

Speaker 1 (06:48):
Yes, yes, thank you, Noel. Yes, my co host Scott
Benjamin and I who longtime listeners will remember from several
other shows, including Stuff They Don't Want You To Know,
which you KNOWL and I do with our esteems compatriot
Matt Frederick. We spent nine years examining everything that floats, fly, swims.

Speaker 2 (07:05):
Or drives as a dope tagline.

Speaker 1 (07:07):
Thank you, thanks man. And one of the things that
we loved exploring and that listeners loved exploring with us
was the behind the scenes stories of automotive fame or infamy.
Because you know, nowadays we're recording this in twenty eighteen.
You can look at the hundreds of new cars that

come out every year and you can tell that millions
of dollars of research and design went into them, but
we often forget the personal inspirations behind them.

Speaker 2 (07:41):
Well, it's also with today. Other than like you know,
your electric cars and Tesla's and things like that, there
aren't a whole lot of aha moments as far as
motoring is concerned, Like you've got your McLaren's and these
like million dollars supercars, which is all very niche and interesting.
But back in the days that we're talking about, it
was kind of like the wild West. There weren't as

many regulations in place. Racing was a much more dangerous sport.
It's still pretty dangerous, but in terms of you you
talked about explosions, that was a regular occurrence, but innovation
was something that was I feel like was much more
hard fought.

Speaker 1 (08:19):
Yeah, I would agree, because in every new car that
you see nowadays stands on the shoulders of giants, right,
and people will spend years figuring out how to get
what would seem to be a largely minuscule edge in performance.
And racing is where we see this to the most

extreme extent, I almost say cartoonish, but to the most
extreme extent. And today you and I and our super
producer Casey Pegrim are exploring one of the most ridiculous
stories in the world.

Speaker 2 (08:58):
Were supposed to acknowledge that Casey exists as a Mario
sound effect?

Speaker 1 (09:02):
Yeah, Yeah, that's why it comes up yea.

Speaker 2 (09:04):
Is it okay for us to acknowledge that? Does it
cheapen it? Does it take away the fun?

Speaker 1 (09:07):
I don't think so. Do you think so?

Speaker 2 (09:09):
I think it's delightful.

Speaker 1 (09:10):
I look forward to it every time. Also, Noel and
I try to listen to the episodes after we record
them to make sure that we don't sound too ridiculous.
And I got to tell you that sound cue is
one of my favorite parts.

Speaker 2 (09:25):
We have to sound just ridiculous enough. And Casey, as
you know from the segment Casey on the Case which
we'll be returning, does in fact have a corporeal form
and a voice, but from time to time he exists
in the form of a sorry to make you do
it again.

Speaker 1 (09:40):
So this is something that we wanted to bring to you, Todave,
friends and neighbors. Whether or not you are a racing fan,
you will find this interesting because this is not just
a story about racing, not really. It's a story about revenge,
a story about beef, yes, a story about titans of
history were very, very personal and dare I say, petty

problems with each other. And our story begins today with
well you'll see people say it begins in the early
nineteen sixties, but you can trace it a little further back.
In October tenth of nineteen oh one, Henry Ford, the
legendary mad genius Henry Ford won a race with a

car he had built called Sweepstakes, and he always loved racing.
But the thing about Ford, one of the largest car manufacturers,
was that they were not building cars to win races.
They were building cars to be affordable for the average
American and then later the average citizen of the world.

Speaker 2 (10:49):
I believe there was a even a beef at this point.
A driver by the name of Alexander Winton was the
biggest hot shot race car driver of the day, and
Ford was just bound and determined to kick his butt,
and he did just that, and then that kind of
opened the doors for Ford where people were like, whoa,
we want to help this guy do everything we can
to get his fledgling car company off the ground.

Speaker 1 (11:11):
Yeah, exactly, and by golly, by gum or whatever they
used as a phrase of exclamation in those times. It worked,
and Henry Ford, not by any means a perfect man,
went on to be the head of one of history's
most successful car companies. Fast forward to the nineteen sixties

when Henry Ford's son named in a burst of creativity
Henry Ford two electric bogloo joke or no.

Speaker 2 (11:42):
Sure it's done, it's out there. What's done is done,
my friend.

Speaker 1 (11:45):
So now we're in the nineteen sixties. Henry Ford two
is the chief executive of Ford. That's right.

Speaker 2 (11:52):
Henry Ford the second came out of the Navy to
run the company that his father had started after Henry
Ford Senior had gotten a little too up there in
years to continue running it, and Ford the second was cool,
I like, two.

Speaker 1 (12:07):
We're gonna go. I'm gonna go Ford two. I'm good
with that.

Speaker 2 (12:10):
Yeah, he didn't know a whole lot about running the business,
but he was savvy enough to hire people that did.
So we hired this like brain trust, this group of
marketers and finance experts and just in general very very smart,
well equipped people that was known as the whiz Kids,
and then the Ford Company kind of entered a new era.

Speaker 1 (12:29):
Yes, exactly, because you see, the thing that happens often
with family companies is they will either remain ideologically aligned
with the founder or ideologically opposite. And in this case,
Henry Ford the second or two loved the things that

his father loved, and one of those was racing. And
by the time two becomes the chief executive, Ford never
quite manages to get the acclaim they wanted with racing.
They're associated with some great vehicles, but those vehicles are
not associated with winning prestigious races.

Speaker 2 (13:12):
This is very true, and that's because, like you said,
their main focus was not necessarily on innovation technologically, but
it was on really pushing that marketing angle and selling
the American dream to that nuclear family that was so popular.
In all the ad campaigns we see, they were referred
to as living rooms on wheels, and they were sold

as part of that American dream ideal. There really wasn't
any interest in having any sporty qualities or like good
handling or anything like that. I just to give you
a sense of the vibe of these ad campaigns. A
quote from one of the Ford commercials is as such,
and out on the highway, the thought in your future,
with its lower, safest center of gravity, provides a smooth

and midship ride, quiet as a whisper gentleist, a summer breeze.

Speaker 1 (14:02):
Well read, well, we're read, and this is accurate. This
is not a bunch of advertising smoke. People were buying
forwards for that reason to satisfy that demand to participate,
as we established in the American Dream. So two decides
that one way to innovate forward as a brand is

to become known not just as a rolling living room
for the average well to do American, but to be
known as a credible racing manufacturer. And here they run
into a bit of a catch twenty two. Up until
this point, most successful racing vehicles came from dedicated racing teams.

So they would build a small number of very high
end cars right or even custom cars, and these cars
would not be in several cases, would not be considered
the street legal. They're not what we call daily drivers.
They are built to kill other cars on the racetrack.

So if you are a company with a ton of
money and a ton of credibility in regular daily driving,
you have to find a way to break into this market,
and money alone is not going to help you immediately.
The best way to build a reputation in the racing
world is to either win a race yourself, which is

very very very very very difficult coming in new and
coming in green, or as we see a lot of
larger companies doing today in places like Silicon Valley and
in other industries, to find a smaller company that does
one thing and does it really well and buy them
so too, and his brain trust, the whiz kids that

Noel mentioned earlier, said let's go buy a racing company,
and then we can take their expertise, we can take
their experience and their knowledge, and we can make it
a part of us, the same way that Rome would
conquer other territories.

Speaker 2 (16:08):
And two went to a race, and in that race
he saw a shiny Italian sexy sports car with that
badge that we know so well, the rearing horse on
the yellow background, the Ferrari, and he saw it when
and then and there decided that he wanted to buy
that company because Ferrari had a storied history in the

European racing game.

Speaker 1 (16:35):
Yes, And one contrast between Ferrari and Ford is that
in Ferrari's case, the founder, Enzo Ferrari, is still very,
very active. And if you've ever learned much about the
history of Inenzo Ferrari, you will see that what we're
saying is absolutely true, storied racing history and also nothing

to sneeze at. But Inzo Ferrari is a legendarily cantankerous individual.
Let's just give him a little bit of backstory. Enzo
Ferrari was born in eighteen ninety eight in northern Italy
and he grew up relatively poor in a rural area.

Speaker 2 (17:15):
Father of a metal worker and they produced parts for
the Italian Railway. He went to his first race in
nineteen oh eight and decided he was just in love
with the sport and wanted to be a race car driver.
World War One took Enzo's father and brother from him,
and he too joined the army and helped maintain their
motor pool for the Artillery Division. After the war, he

sold the family home to buy race cars. Then he
won his first race in nineteen twenty four using an
Alpha Romea and it totally changed his life. Alfa Romeo
at the time we're having some financial problems, so they
gave control of their motorsports division to Enzo because he
had proven himself a worthy racer and a smart businessman.

Speaker 1 (17:56):
That's in nineteen thirty three exactly, and he and his
team won the prestigious twenty four hours at Lemon's race
four times. Yes, this we're already seeing a little bit
of Ferrari's bona fides here because he is the best
kind of person to run a racing company, a former racer,

and Alpha took control of its racing efforts again in
nineteen thirty seven, and they, I guess you could phrase
as a demotion. They moved his position, Endo's position to
director of sports and he soldiered on. But in nineteen
thirty nine he left Alfa Romeo and he agreed to

some terms that would later haunt him, a kind of
exclusivity agreement. He said that he would not use the
name Ferrari in relation to racing and racing cars for
four years.

Speaker 2 (18:54):
But then World War two hit and it turned out
that he and his company we were quite cut out
for helping build planes for the war effort. So it
almost made it a moot point that he couldn't get
right into building race cars and getting back into the
racing game. But I'm sure he missed it very much.

Speaker 1 (19:12):
Yeah, yeah, that's a good point, because World War two
affected all auto manufacturers across the planet, including including Henry Ford.

Speaker 2 (19:22):
You right, and right after the war ended, Ferrari had
his chance when in nineteen forty nine he entered the
twenty four hour at Lamont Race and totally dominated, and
that became a fixture of that prestigious race. Ferrari reigned supreme.

Speaker 1 (19:40):
Right, Yeah, Ferrari won multiple Lamond after that time. So
it's no surprise that two is impressed when he sees
Ferrari on the track because Ferrari is a known dominant
force here, and Two says to his brain trust, to

his executives, to his entourage, he says, I want that one,
and for some reason, I kind of picture it like
a Veruk assault and Charlie and the chocolate factory situation. Yeah,
I want that one and the here's how it works out.
He sends his trusted emissary, a guy named Don Fry,
to negotiate with Ferrari, and they propose an acquisition deal

that hits the following points. Ford wants to buy a
ninety percent stake in the Italian company for eighteen million dollars.
Under this agreement, it is important to say they would
still be relying on Ferrari and Coe's racing expertise.

Speaker 2 (20:44):
They were going to actually spin that off into a
racing division that would be called Ferrari Ford. But Ford
had veto power over a few pretty important things.

Speaker 1 (20:54):
Right, and this is where the this is where the discord, see,
because we can't emphasize enough that we're talking about two
very large personalities, that's the polite way to put it.
And what happens is Ferrari towards the very end of
the deal decides he's not into it. And this is

the point where you'll begin to hear the conflicting accounts
of how it went down, some of which is still
in debate today. The Ferrari side says that they found
a deal breaker in the agreement, and that deal breaker
was the veto power that you mentioned, nol specifically in

the idea that Ford, the larger company, would have to
green light expenditures. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (21:41):
And I also actually in a film called The Twenty
four Hour War that does a really good job of
chronicling this whole beef situation, it's mentioned that the points
in contention had to do with the fact that Ford
had the power to decide which races they'd participate in
and which drivers to use.

Speaker 1 (22:00):
And that's the biggest one.

Speaker 2 (22:01):
Andoe'd like spent his life in this industry, knew these cars,
knew this game. He wasn't going to have some stuffed
shirt American tell him what to.

Speaker 1 (22:10):
Do, right, And you'll hear on the Ford side, you'll
hear people arguing that Ferrari was just looking for an
excuse to not do the deal. But on the Ferrari side,
these sound like understandable deal breakers, don't they.

Speaker 2 (22:25):
It does. And it also was much, much, much smaller
company than Ford. And there was a sense, I believe
from Ferrari that he didn't want to be swallowed up
by this BMF bureaucracy.

Speaker 4 (22:38):

Speaker 1 (22:38):
We have the specific quote here from a book called
Ford GT. How Ford Silenced the Critics Humbled Ferrari. And
I'm not going to tell you the rest of the
title because they don't want to give away the episode totally.
But it's by an author named Preston Learner. And in
the book, the quote from Enzo himself is this. He

says he doesn't want to become another cog in what
he describes as the enormous machine, the suffocating bureaucracy of
the Ford Motor Company. I'm styling a little bit on that.
I just want to be clear that he's using the
name Ford Motor Company with intense approbrium, you know, and
so he he says, we can't agree to this. You

can't choose the races. You can't choose the racers. I
know them. I know the racers and the racing both.
And if we want to spend money on something, it
should be up to me how he spend it.

Speaker 2 (23:34):
Yeah, and spending money is going to become a big
part of this story really soon. I just want to
pull a little bit of a quote from a review
of this movie, is Ford and Ferrari make racing a
grudge match in The twenty four Hour War. The Twenty
four Hour War is a somewhat jingoistic documentary about that
celebrated and deadly dangerous feud, one that spilled over from

the boardrooms and onto the world's great race tracks for
one all the Marbles decade. And I just wanted to
point that out because the film does kind of cast
Ferrari as a bit of like a Bond villain.

Speaker 1 (24:08):
Type figure and antagonistic force.

Speaker 2 (24:10):
Yeah, and the Ford folks are kind of portrayed as
the great American heroes in the story. And as we
just said, it is not nearly that cut and dry.
This is a man who built a company with his
bare hands from the ground up, and still it was
in control of it as opposed to having it been
passed down. You know, Ford two, I don't think he

was really much involved in the company before he kind
of came out of the Navy to join up and
take it over from his father.

Speaker 1 (24:37):
So I don't know. I just think that's a little
bit it's a little bit unfair the way the.

Speaker 2 (24:40):
Film has that kind of like adversarial you know, divide there.

Speaker 1 (24:44):
I agree with that completely because again, big personalities, they're not.
We're not saying either of them are villains, but we
are saying when Don Fry comes back and says, sorry, boss,
that that dog doesn't hunt, what happens is Ford too
is livid. He is curious. His bellows of anger are
resounding throughout Ford Motor Company, and he says, screw this,

screw you, no deal. You're right, no deal, and worse
than no deal, I'm coming for you.

Speaker 2 (25:13):
Inzo, I think the quote that I saw is something
along the lines of we're going to Lemont and we're
gonna beat his ass.

Speaker 1 (25:20):
Yes, yeah, yeah, if we if we can't join up
with them, then by god, by golly, by gum, we're
going to beat them. So Ford two says, I don't
care about the cost, I don't care about the time.
I don't care about who we need to hire. I
don't care about what we need to build or where
we need to find it. I will do anything within

this company's power to beat this guy.

Speaker 2 (25:49):
So Ford had to, you know, he had he had
a big job on his hands. He had to build
a car from scratch in a game that they were
not schooled in. Because that's why they wanted to buy
Ferrari in the first place. They didn't really have to
know how or the team put together to match what
Ferrari had been building for years and years and years.

And the car that ultimately would be the fruits of
this beef was the GT forty.

Speaker 1 (26:18):
Yeah, the Ford GT forty GT standing for Grand Touring Vehicle.
It was forty being.

Speaker 2 (26:27):
The height of the roof I think.

Speaker 1 (26:29):
Yes, yeah, overall height forty inches. That's something that was
required in race and rules at the time. It had
a large placement V eight engine, and they had to
teach themselves a lot of things that they did not know.
As a car company. It wasn't in what corporate folks
today would call their DNA. So going back to point

we established earlier. They did something very very smart, which
is they started pulling outside experts tease. And again, at
this point we have to emphasize this racing is a
very small world. People know each other, so if Ford
is going around grabbing some experts, then all the other

people are hearing about. Zo had to know that this
was coming. Enzo Ferrari had to have some sort of
spider sense about this at the minimum.

Speaker 2 (27:25):
But when you look at Enzo Ferrari and just the
way he carried himself, I can picture him saying let
him come. Oh yeah, absolutely, and that was more of
a French accent. I can't really do Battalion very well.

Speaker 1 (27:37):
I feel like if we tried to do Italian we
might both end up being offensive. Let's just give it, yeah,
We'll just use the power of your imagination.

Speaker 2 (27:44):
Dear listening, Can I drop some GT forty specs as
if I know anything about cars?

Speaker 4 (27:49):

Speaker 1 (27:49):
Please do, Chris, I'm sure you got them.

Speaker 2 (27:51):
So it was a magnesium cast and he had ninety
two separate parts, which is a big deal. And every
single element of this vehicle from the pedal to theo
were custom fabricated. It was a unibody, and it had
as much detail and definition as anything that they would
have made for mass production, more so probably because of

the fact that it was, for all intents and purposes,
a custom job.

Speaker 1 (28:15):
Right, and they used. One of the races that they
did participate in was the Indianapolis five hundred, which I
think is one of the Indie five hundred. Is one
of the things that really soured the deal between Ferrari.
That was one of the races that he would not
be allowed to participate in because Ford didn't want competition
because they would get their ass kicked probably, And when

they started building the GT forty, they were using, as
anol said, a lot of custom design. They were using
a lot of lessons learned from their Indie five hundred project.
So they also started, as we said, pulling in a
couple of different luminaries of the time. They spoke with

calling Chapman, legendary driving force behind Lotus, and they also
negotiated with Lola and Cooper, and Cooper at the time
was known for Formula one, but they were kind of
in a decline at the time and they had no
experience in GT or prototype building.

Speaker 2 (29:21):
I think one of the features that I should have
mentioned that is a hallmark of the GT forty is
that it was very low, very low to the ground.

Speaker 1 (29:28):
Yeah, very low to the ground, which is important in
racing there and equally important too with the vehicle itself.
Is the race in which they decided this beef would culminate,
and that brought them to the most prestigious race in
Europe at the time, the twenty four hour of La Mant.

Speaker 2 (29:50):
Can you give us a little bit of a scoop
on what that race is all about. I know at
the top of the show I made it clear that
I only recently discovered what one of these races is
even about, but I still am a little in the
dark about the legacy of this course.

Speaker 1 (30:02):
Oh boy, okay, this you're going to enjoy this. So
the twenty four Hour of Lamon is named after the town,
the closest town to where it occurs, which is Lamont
in France. It's the world's oldest sports car race that's
still active. It's been held since nineteen twenty three, with
I believe a couple wartime complications World War two stuff,

but this has for the longest time been one of
the hallmarks of any racing company. If you walk away
with a victory at Lamont, then your cars are.

Speaker 2 (30:38):
Sold because this is about endurance, right right.

Speaker 1 (30:40):
Instead of focusing on just the fastest machine, the Lamon
concentrates on the ability to build cars that are both
sporty and reliable. So the vehicles have to have fantastic handling,
they have to still be aerodynamic and stable at high speeds.

And the race begins in mid afternoon and ends the
following day at the same hour. It literally is twenty
four hours.

Speaker 2 (31:10):
And there are other races that are like twelve hours,
right right.

Speaker 1 (31:13):
There are other endurance races that approach this kind of thing,
but Laman was one of the first to do this.

Speaker 2 (31:19):
So how does that differentiate from say like Talladega or Daytona, Like,
what's the difference?

Speaker 1 (31:25):
So one of the differences, well, let's take let's take
INDY five hundred. Sure, so as we're talking about that one.
So one of the differences with NDY five hundred is
that the drivers race a specific number of laps. They
race two hundred laps counterclockwise they go five hundred miles.
So there's this specific thing in terms of distance as

a rating. However, in Laman it's get as far as
you can within that span of twenty four hours, cover.

Speaker 2 (31:56):
The most distance in twenty four hours, right.

Speaker 1 (31:59):
Without your car catching on fire, without getting in a wreck.

Speaker 2 (32:02):
And it's at night too.

Speaker 1 (32:03):
It's like they go, they go, like staying out for
twenty four hours.

Speaker 2 (32:06):
Yeah, and just to drop a few little interesting nuggets
about Lament and racing in these days. In general, in
the nineteen fifties and sixties, motor racing was absurdly violent.
Death was commonplace. Yes, the nineteen fifty five Lamon had
one of the most horrific crashes in racing history. A
car exploded, killing around ninety people when flaming debris rocketed

into the packed seats. People didn't typically wear seat belts
because part of the thing at Lama is you have
to run from across the track and hop into your
car and then get going.

Speaker 1 (32:43):
The drivers a lot of.

Speaker 2 (32:44):
Times they didn't feel like taking the time to put
on their seat belts, and not to mention that fires
and explosions were so common that.

Speaker 1 (32:51):
They wanted to be able to escape, right, that's why,
Because the seatbelt might be as dangerous to you in
their view as not one. Yeah, the nineteen fifty five
Lamon disaster didn't just change Lamont, it changed motor sports entirely.
And it actually the catastrophe. I think we mentioned around

ninety people died, eighty three spectators definitely some a driver
died as well. There were almost two hundred injuries. One
hundred and eighty people at least got injured, and this
actually led Mercedes Benz to retire from racing until nineteen
eighty nine.

Speaker 2 (33:31):
In nineteen fifty seven there was another race called the
mil Miglia road Race and there were five Ferraris in
that race. One of them that was driven by a
race over the name of Alfonso de Portago, had a
tire blowout, carreemed into the crowd of spectators. He was killed,
his co driver was killed, and a number of spectators,

including five children, were killed. And this comes from the
twenty four hour War. This is really fascinating to me.
In law, when someone is killed in a car, the
manufacturer was held accountable in those days, so Enzo Ferrari
himself was called before the law and had to plead
his case. He was investigated, but ultimately found innocent because

it was a racing accident and everyone knew what they
were signing up for when they stand on the sidelines
and watch these crazy things.

Speaker 1 (34:22):
And if you see the old footage of these kinds
of races, you'll notice that the spectators are right next
to these vehicles. Then they're going at insane curves and certain.

Speaker 2 (34:33):
Speeds up over two hundred and fifty miles an hour,
I think top speeds in those days. Nowadays it's mandated
that they can't go that fast.

Speaker 1 (34:41):
Yeah, it's true, and it depends upon the race. But
most races now will have pretty stringent safety requirements and
things still go horribly wrong at times. But when we
look at Ferrari Lamont, despite the despite the dangerous despite
the court case, despite the deaths and the injuries and

the catastrophic accidents, Ferrari is dominating, and they're dominating the
most important race in the world. We shall also say
that that track they're driving on for twenty four hours
was at the time eight point four miles long. From
the fifties to the mid sixties, Ferrari cars were dominating

the event. Between nineteen fifty eight and nineteen sixty five,
Ferrari vehicles and drivers won seven of the eight races,
which you know makes them the equivalent of for sports fans.
Their winning streak is similar to the winning streak of
the New England Patriots or the New York Yankees. Irritating,

irritating to everyone else. Right, Okay, so we're in nineteen
sixty four.

Speaker 2 (35:49):
Now here we are. Ford makes its debut of the
g T forty at Leamont. Millions are tuning in. This
is like the battle of the Titans of industry. Like
we described at the top of the show, crowds were
bigger than they'd ever been. There were three GT forties
in the race, and they were by far the lowest cars.
It was like a design that was not as common.

Speaker 1 (36:08):
Right, Yeah, these things look like space sally. It's like,
are they supposed to be?

Speaker 2 (36:14):

Speaker 1 (36:14):
Is this a race? How the heck are these vehicles
going to perform against all these tried and true racing
teams that perfected art over decades and spoiler alerts. Not well?

Speaker 2 (36:28):
Yeah, not well, not well at all, including a fiery explosion.
Luckily no one was killed, but not a single Ford
got anywhere near the finish line.

Speaker 1 (36:37):
No, not at all. It was for a first swing out.
It was pretty disastrous and it proved a lot of
the skepticism that racing fans had about Ford entering in
for the first time. Everybody was thinking, Ah, there's no way,
this is too new. They don't have experience, and this

is aerous endeavor.

Speaker 2 (37:01):
So two Ford two was understandably livid, and he was like,
We're going to make whatever changes we have to make
to beat that sexy, sexy Italian man.

Speaker 1 (37:12):
And so those are my words. Notice, well, I think
it's a good paraphrase. That quote was based on a
true story. So here we go. There's you know, again
such anger and vim from Ford two, and he says,
you know what, I need more experts. I need more
people to help me in my vendetta. So he finds

some more folks to help them, and one of them
is the legendary Carol Shelby.

Speaker 2 (37:41):
He is probably the most important other player in this story.
Shelby drove in some of the first races in American
history in Watkins Glen, New York. There's a story in
that he tells himself in the Twenty four Hour War.
He says he got his license when he was fourteen
and immediately got pulled over by the police for driving
his father's thirty four Dodge eighty five miles an hour,

which would have been an insane speed for that car,
right Ben.

Speaker 1 (38:06):
Yes, absolutely no, And you can find a pretty interesting
argument for this in another book called Go Like hell
Ford Ferrari. In their Battle for Speed and Glory at Lamon,
when they got Carol Shelby on the team, it was
kind of like when the Avengers got thor or something,

someone with honest superpowers, and they began working with him.
Don Fries still in the mix, as was Leo Biebe,
and they said, you know what, Shelby is going to
take the lessons from our less than awesome performance and
show us how to make this something that isn't dismal.

So they handed the program over to Shelby. After a
nineteen sixty four Nasau race, they sent the cars directly
to Shelby. Like they didn't even wash them, dude, they
were still dirty. And they were like, all right, he's in,
just send them, now send him send them. Well.

Speaker 2 (39:03):
Shelby was a really punchy character too. He actually won
Lamar as a racer in fifty nine despite having serious
health problems. He had a heart condition and is said
to have raced with a nitroglycerine tablet under his tongue.
And then he went on and actually got support from
Ford to build his own after he retired from racing,
to build his own sports cars. So he went to

Lee Iacocca, who was a big time executive, and pitched
him on this idea of making American sports cars a coca.
It sounded like he wanted to get rid of him,
so he gave him a few engines and some money
and said, do your thing. And they made this car
called the Cobra, with this team of kind of ragtag
team of folks from across all over the place, like
he had experts, hot rod experts from all over the world,

and it performed. They did well at all of the
big races, and they won Lamon in nineteen sixty four
with the model of this Cobrad. They called the Daytona
Coup because they had made it specifically for Daytona. But
that is when Ford was like, Okay, I like this kid.
I like the cut of his gym. I like the
cut of his bib overalls, which he apparently wore a lot.

Speaker 1 (40:05):
And a dream team was born. Yes, the dream team
was born. And he also had a common villain in
Enzo Ferrari because Shelby, you see, also was not a
fan of Ferrari, or at least Ferrari hated him because
Ferrari had been beaten by Shelby at Lamont in nineteen

fifty nine when Shelby was driving for Aston Martin.

Speaker 2 (40:32):
He tried to recruit him as well to drive for him.

Speaker 1 (40:34):
Yeah, and Shelby said, nah, again, this is another cantankerous guy.
Shelby often complained to Ford that the cars were terribly maintained.
Sort of what am I supposed to do with this situation?
So in nineteen sixty five they were there at Lamont
driving a new version of the GT forty called the

Mark two, and they started out doing really well. People thought, hey,
this might change the racing game. But again, over that
twenty four hour period all of their cars were forced
out of the race by mechanical bugs.

Speaker 2 (41:13):
I think there was even a story where one of
the racers had to push his.

Speaker 1 (41:16):
Car for a few miles.

Speaker 2 (41:17):
And I think there was even a thing where Ford
the last minute insisted they switch out the engines to
a newer engine that they had done, and that last
minute shuffle kind of screwed them over a little bit.
And maybe caused some of those mechanical failure. I think
there was an issue of bolts that had expanded and
cracked and just caused some problems because of that last
minute switch, right.

Speaker 1 (41:38):
And we should also say nineteen sixty five it's the
same year that Ford showed off these gts that they
would later use in Lamon, and even the Ford company
wasn't able to estimate how much they cost. They like
didn't know. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (41:52):
I saw an article on Thrillists that used the phrase
a budget of roughly infinity.

Speaker 1 (41:59):
Yeah, yeah, say which will about Ford to two? He
was serious when he was beefed up. So they don't
take this punch on the chin lightly. They come back
the very next year and they have fixed these various problems.
They've taken the lessons learned, and they come back with

even better cars. And nineteen sixty six is when everything
changes for Ford, Lamal Ferrari and the world.

Speaker 2 (42:29):
Yeah, because they decided they had to kind of think
about the problem differently, and they abandon the smaller engines
in favor of what has become termed as big block
cars because they needed more horsepower and that was how
they would get the edge on the zippy light smaller
engined set of thing.

Speaker 1 (42:48):
Ferraris, Yeah, so they did institute the big block. That's
absolutely correct, and they had some experience leading up to
nineteen sixty six Lamon because they won the twenty four
Hours of Daytona and the twelve Hours of Spring before
with this big block Ford that Noel just mentioned. They

also sent a lot of cars. They sent eight gto
Mark twos with three teams, three teams by Shelby American,
three teams by home In and Moody, and two by
Alan Mann Racing. So again we're seeing that Ford is
pulling in the expertise of these pre existing racing geniuses. Ferrari,

in contrast, only sent I think two Ferrari three thirty
P three's to compete, and that was sent by them directly.
There was an outfit called Nart that entered another P three,
and then there were four cars entered by Ferrari's private partners.
They were going to have John Surtees racing with them,

but surprise he had I'm doing air quotes here, No
only he had a falling out with Ferrari. Man. So
it sounds like inso got in another argument of some sort.
So this race is insane, and behind the scenes, Ford
is so certain that they're going to win that they

tell two of their drivers that they think are going
to be in the front lines. They tell them that
they want them to finish at the same time.

Speaker 2 (44:22):
And that's to drive home the fact that it was
the car and not necessarily the drivers that accounted for
the victory.

Speaker 1 (44:30):
Right because drivers, as you can imagine, might have a
bit of ego. So they said, yeah, we want to
show that it is the superiority of us as manufacturers,
not just the individuals behind the wheel.

Speaker 2 (44:42):
Should we play a clip from that stunning conclusion?

Speaker 1 (44:45):

Speaker 4 (44:46):
And here they come for the finish first place, the
number two for GT second place, the number one for
GT third place, the number five four GT an authoritative
win for the American Challengers.

Speaker 1 (45:06):
So not only does four take first place in this event,
but they also.

Speaker 2 (45:12):
Take second and third, right, second and third.

Speaker 1 (45:15):
The number two for g T forty takes first place,
the number one takes second place, and the number five
takes third place. And this is one of those moments
in history where you have to wonder what Enzo Ferrari's
face looked like.

Speaker 2 (45:32):
There's probably a bit of a scowl.

Speaker 1 (45:37):
Yeah, it probably wasn't a big cheese eating grin.

Speaker 2 (45:41):
He always looked a little demiere. I wonder if you
ever changed his expression much.

Speaker 1 (45:45):
Yeah. You know, he's a guy who had a lot
on his mind, and I know we're dinging him a
little bit, but we we want to again highlight that
there's not really a bad guy in this story. It's
just two people who really hated each other and because
of their enmity, because they were so beefed up, they

managed to make a beautiful car that changed the world.

Speaker 2 (46:08):
And in the documentary, Ferrari's son has a pretty chill
attitude about the whole thing and has some really nice
things to say about Ford and very even hand that
with this thinking about this, So then the next year,
of course, Ford returns to Lamont and adding insult to injury,
wipes the floor with Ferrari yet again, with wins in first, second,

and third place once again.

Speaker 1 (46:30):
Yeah m hmm, yep, absolutely, they mop up once again.
And this changes the concept of who can win a
race globally. Also, it creates a new model, so the
same kind of innovation in terms of assembly and distribution

and output that the original Ford Company had building the
Model T in the Model A is still going strong
in Ford in the sixties here because they have unveiled
a new model for manufacturers and the model is providing
money and internal research and design while farming out the

actual racing to the professionals. This didn't just change the
operations at Laman, but also changed the operations in Formula one,
NASCAR other world famous racing events. And additionally, this is
something that stayed with Ford as a manufacturer because in
two thousand and sixteen, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary, they

attempted to execute the same sort of coup and they
more or less did they more or lested they didn't win.
Porsche won that year, and Porsche has been dominating a
lot of lamon so they didn't win, but they did
come back and they tried to take some of the

innovations that they have in their street level cars and
make a racing car out of them. So the he's
an eco boost engine, which was a little bit smaller too,
and well, you know.

Speaker 2 (48:06):
Well, and I would say the takeaway here for me
is that Ford was kind of a big, fat baby, honestly,
you know, because Ferrari was doing Lamon since the beginning
and continue doing it in that fifty year span where
Ford was not, and they only came back to kind
of thumb their nose at their old rivals again. So

it was like, you know, Ford two wanted to make
a point and he did it, and then he was
kind of I'm out.

Speaker 1 (48:36):
So I don't know.

Speaker 2 (48:37):
I would argue, it's a little childish.

Speaker 1 (48:39):
He's just not the kind of guy I would want
to play Monopoly or cards with, you know what I mean.
I think we have a Rukasolt kind of figure. He
could take Uno real hard. But this concludes one of
the one of the most ridiculous stories of pettiness and
spitefulness in racing. And I would argue that it has
a happy ending because the Ford GT is a beautiful vehicle.

Speaker 2 (49:01):
Cool car, cool car, cool car, and Ferraris are still
too expensive for anyone to o't right.

Speaker 1 (49:07):
Right, we do have someone in our building who owns
a Ferrari. I used to sneak up and look at it.
Quick story. I was on an emotional roller coaster NOL.
I couldn't decide if I liked the guy because one
time I went up there and he was double parked
in a parking spot. Nope, And I thought, I get it, man,
that don't you know, don't don't buy the car. So

I did some investigation and Scott car Stuff co host
did some as well. And it turns out the guy's
paying for both parking spots, so he's an ethical double parker.

Speaker 2 (49:37):
Oh oh my gosh, we've got a double happy ending here.

Speaker 1 (49:40):
We did. We did.

Speaker 2 (49:42):
Let us know your.

Speaker 1 (49:43):
Position on double parking.

Speaker 2 (49:45):
Let us know if there are any particular car brands
that when you see them on the road, you immediately
despise the owner. Ben, I believe for you that is
the Odyssey, the Honda Odyssey, right, that still whole true.

Speaker 1 (49:55):
Well, the thing about Honda Odyssey is, I think when
you buy it, the dealers give you a discount if
you agree to have a sensor install that makes your
car go twenty miles an hour whenever I'm in traffic
with it.

Speaker 2 (50:09):
Yep, yeah, that's probably true.

Speaker 3 (50:12):
Let us ridiculous at HowStuffWorks dot com, social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,
ridiculous history blasting through these because this was a long one,
but thanks to super producer Casey.

Speaker 1 (50:23):
Yeah, thanks to Alex Williams who composed the track. Thanks
to entry Ford, to an Enzo Ferrari, and most importantly,
thanks to you, folks, and we hope you join us
next time when Nol and I are using our world
famous time machine to travel to the wild West.

Speaker 2 (50:43):
Get along, little doggies. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit

the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to
your favorite shows.

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