Will Hollywood do the GT40 story right?

by Wallace Wyss –
I’m hoping. Hollywood is not only talking about a GT40 film this time but actually lensing it as we speak. I already heard of one of the lead actors being trained to drive at Willow Springs and more racetrack work filmed near Savannah.

I look forward to the film’s release because I represent the generation of car enthusiasts who were thrilled in the ‘60s to hear an American team won LeMans.
Plus a good many of us are nostalgic about the good old days when men were men and cars were pure mechanical devices, not computerized.
If the movie (shooting name Ford vs. Ferrari) with Matt Damon and Christian Bale, is good drama, and has accurate sets showing California, Michigan, UK, Italy, France as they looked back then, we will all want to see it in order to revel in a slice of European racing Sixties style.
I am a little dubious California can “stand in” for Italy, but hey, with CGI, they can do anything right?

Because this film and a rival TV series (temporary name THE DRIVERS) from Legendary Entertainment, will undoubtedly feature replica Cobras, GT40s and Shelby Mustangs, a whole new audience will be introduced to the excitement of cars they might have not been aware existed. The looks, the sound, the sheer muscle of the cars will seduce a whole new audience.
So the real cars will get a boost. Especially those that are squeezed into a scene as background (you can bet owners of real cars are trying to reach the producers as we speak). I predict small block racing Cobras with a proven racing record in the Sixties (“in period”) will go up to one million. Big block Cobras, ironically, won’t go up as much because by the time they came along Shelby was busy trying to turn Ford’s GT40 loser into a winner. Ford didn’t even want to sponsor the big block 427 Cobra in racing. It was like trying to sell the virtues of a six shot revolver against a Colt 45 semi-automatic. Or a prop fighter vs. a jet.
And even replicas will get a boost; first those with alloy bodies that came out of England before Shelby got into the replica business. And then the ones made by Shelby in more recent years. And replica GT40s, the most important being the Safir Mk.V cars that Ford licensed an English company to build, that are exact copies.

And I’ll make a further prediction. If there are enough good pictures taken of actors on set, actors like Damon and Bail, then suddenly there will be a new popularity of Sixties clothing styles, maybe even the Stetsons like Shelby wore.
You wonder if the movie will have Sixties music? Wasn’t this when the Beatles were big? (I was there but not paying attention, being somewhat occupied with career, US Army, and whatnot).

Vintage racing could boom as well. People who really are in a fog about marques like Lotus might suddenly want to go to a race if there’s Cobras vs. Ferraris. Come to think of it, I’m suggesting that right now as the theme for 2019 vintage races at Monterey, Ferrari GTOs against real Cobras…and real GT40s vs. Ferrari prototypes.

Documented memorabilia, such as books signed by Shelby. And then glossy pictures from Ford’s huge photo archive. Not to mention paintings of famous Cobra-GT40 vs. Ferrari battles and even crewmen working in the pits back in the day. And sculpture. It’s a whole renaissance if the movie is boffo (Hollywood talk for a hit)

I think “business stories” could become more popular as a result of Ford vs. Ferrari becoming a success. The behind-the-scenes bare knuckle fighting, the wheeling and dealing. Nobody was more of a wheeler dealer than Shelby. As one Ford executive said “Whenever I shook hands with Shelby, I always counted to make sure I had all my fingers….”

When I attended the recent Monterey Car Week, I went there first as a reporter, second as a fine artist to sell prints of my paintings and third to find any old timers who knew the real story of the Sixties to see if they liked the direction that has been announced for the plotline in many trade magazines including Hollywood Reporter. Which is: Shelby and Miles designing a Ferrari beater (presumably the GT40) from scratch. Of course anyone who has read the dozen books on the GT40 (including several of my one) knows that in point of fact Ford bystepped Shelby, figuring hey the Cobra was not very high tech and the GT40 was, so we don’t need him. But they came back hat in hand after failing at every race and asked him to take charge of developing the car in ’65. But that’s not the storyline they are going for. They want, according to three people I talked to who were already paid to consult, and talked to the director, they want drama, with a capital “D” particularly about Miles, who has actors cast to play his wife and son.
There were so many false alarms on a Shelby film, I had stopped looking for announcements. I didn’t even find out Fox was filming until June and they started announcing casting in January.(Matt Damon plays Shelby and Christian Bale plays Miles). But there’s still hope they may deign to consult with me (book rights to two books for sale will be thrown in) and certainly it would be cheaper to have the storyline right before the June 2019 release than to re-shoot, re-dub or re anything. I have some experience in this subject , having been previously tied in with a British producer who was going to do a TV series on the same subject based on my book SHELBY: the Man, the Cars, the Legend, but they dropped the whole project for a sci-fi series instead.
And so it is. At this posting, we are but eight months from the feature's release (No timetable available on the TV series). Either the feature will be a dog like RUSH, or a hit in the long run like LeMans. I’m hoping, for the sake of all those retired racers and mechanics and engineers who were in the GT40 program the story is told right.
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss can be reached at [email protected]

Charlie Farley

" And replica GT40s, the most important being the Safir Mk.V cars that Ford licensed an English company to build, that are exact copies. "

Err, no, sorry. Wallace, there is a lot of postulation in that article, but you got the bones about right.



Re: "But they came back hat in hand after failing at every race and asked him to take charge of developing the car in ’65."

For anyone interested in why Ford was failing those races, read "Racing In The Rain" by John Horsman. Basically, according to John, the GT40 program was being run by Ford Marketing rather than Ford Engineering. Decisions made by Ford kept changing and Ford insisted in entering races that they should never have run- with cars that were not properly developed and prepared. Later on, JWAE was very successful on their own with their Mirage variant of the GT40.
One story is enlightening: When John Weyer contacted Goodyear UK to set up sponsorship for the next season, the new inexperienced Goodyear representative did not know what to do so he talked to Shelby. Weyer received his answer from the Goodyear rep, "The GT40 is obsolete and so is John Weyer."

Charlie Farley

The over riding reason why the 289 failed often, was Ford Foundry's ineptitude in casting the blocks. It is well documented that Wyer was dealing with a donkey of a block. Once the head gaskets could cope with a sensible block.... guess what '68 and '69 back to back wins.
There is a school of thought that the 427's were frankly never needed.
Neil, I had that discussion with John over 15 years ago. The XE blocks I have certainly helped solve the problem.
Btw Wallace, check out a Safir chassis please.... nothing like an original.

Try this for comparison :

A quote from Ronnie Spain on a restoration I was involved on:

" Point 29 - Chassis - Front corner anchor panels "
" Key originality factor. At each front corner of the chassis there is a tri - lugged panel which wraps around the corner, which is welded on the right edge and is additionally welded on courtesy of round holes in the brackets for that purpose. The leading edge of the upper front lug follows the front edge of the panel onto which it is welded. No reproduction of GT40 chassis, no matter how accurate, has ever got this detail correct. "

Well Ronnie, not sure how far you are through your new book, but you might want to amend that statement.
No hard feeling meant , ye ken.. Best.

Charlie Farley

Wallace, it will be Hollywood. So it is fucked for historical accuracy before it is even started.

" Shelby and Miles designing a Ferrari beater (presumably the GT40) from scratch "
Incorrect, it was conjured up by elves working 21.16 hour days on the Afghan / Pakistan border.,
by candle light.
Do I delete this post, leave it, or put it in the Jokes section ? Infact, you could ask the same question
about the thread.

Bill Kearley

Cmon now dont be hars'h. The story is not that old and has been told many times. Hollywood has to make up it's mind, how much drama must they add to the facts to enhance the bottom line. Not that I know much about the real facts The Snake and the Stallion was not a bad documentary that cold have done more on the 40.

Would still be nice to see the cars in action.


"Documentary" and "Hollywood" are mutually exclusive concepts. "The World's Fastest Indian" for example- not really a documentary but based on a true story and well done. It is the only movie I've ever seen where, at the end of the film, the theater audience applauded.
For those who are going to be following this film until it is completed and released in June, 2019 (and if you keep an ear to the ground, maybe you can be an extra depending on where they film next) here is most of the cast list as of 9/9/18 from a source called Int. Movie Data Base. edited to fit of fictional characrters. Now my motive in following all this is to be a historical consultant, though some say the ship has sailed, I still say it ain't over 'til it's over on getting the story right....it appears to me that, by the cast of characters named so far it's going to be a "personal insight" story into the lives of the racers at the races, plus flashbacks to the management,plus there will be some of the war between Broadley and Ford on how to go about developing the GT40. T
Ford v. Ferrari (2019)

Directed by
James Mangold Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)
A.J. Baime...(based on the book by)Jez Butterworth...(screenplay)John-Henry Butterworth...(screenplay)Jason Keller...(screenplay)James Mangold...(screenplay)
Christian Bale...Ken MilesMatt Damon...Carroll ShelbyCaitriona Balfe...Mollie MilesJon Bernthal...Lee IacoccaJosh Lucas...Leo BeebeNoah Jupe...Peter MilesTracy Letts...Henry Ford IIRay McKinnon...Phil RemingtonJJ Feild...Roy LunnRudolf Martin...Dieter VossSean Carrigan...Walt HansgenStefania Spampinato...Ferrari TranslatorWard Horton...BurtLachlan Buchanan...Celebrity MCBridie Latona...Claudia CardinaleChristopher Darga...John HolmanJoe Williamson...Don FreyBenjamin Rigby...Bruce McLarenJack McMullen...Charlie AgapiouRemo Girone...Enzo FerrariEvan Arnold...SCCA Official / BillJulian Miller...Eric BroadleyGuido Cocomello...Ludo ScarfiottiT
I guess this group will tear the production to pieces on historical correctness, and we will see how Shelby designed and built the GT40 single handedly in the US. but I suppose we could live with that to some degree if the actors were plausible ( I liked the Lauda v Hunt film just for that ) , but the listing above is incredibly unbelievable, I have already made my mind up !
If we don't, collectively, rag on them as they proceed it could be a replay of what happened with that movie about the capturing of the enigma code machine from the Germans during WWII. As Ray Moseley explained it in the Chicago Tribuune March 4, 1999:
"The trouble with the story is that, although the Americans did capture a submarine with an Enigma machine on board, that happened in 1944, three years too late to make a difference. The British destroyer HMS Bulldog had captured a German sub carrying an Enigma machine and the accompanying material for decoding messages in 1941, and that actually led to the breaking of the Nazi code.
The commander of the Bulldog was Capt. Joe Baker-Creswell, father of the Northumberland farmer.
"This film is not about history; it's about showbiz," said Charles Baker-Creswell. "Such films should come out with a government health warning: `If this is regarded as having anything to do with history, it may damage your thinking processes.' "
The Universal film, being shot in Rome and on Malta, has the working title "U-571."
So if Shelby and Miles inventing the GT40 makes for more drama....

Ron Scarboro

GT40s Supporter
I'm sure it'll be historically inaccurate, but hopefully a good film and will rekindle interest in the GT40 which will benefit us all.
The GT40 LeMans story is a great American success story that needs to be told and celebrated. To make it broadly digestible by the general population the story needs to have some Hollywood touches. That just the way it is.

To demean the effort just because the success wasn’t all at the hands of Americans, or the story isn’t historically accurate....well, that’s not really helping much.....

Charlie Farley

What does your phrase
" To demean the effort just because the success wasn’t all at the hands of Americans, or the story isn’t historically accurate....well, that’s not really helping much..... " mean exactly ??
Help who ? Hollywood ? the resale value of replicas ? The price of cauliflowers ?
Or are you saying that your average Joe in the US, is as thick as pig shit?
I don't think they would agree with that summation.


Maybe you can all wait and actually see the movie before you throw rocks at it... Or don't... Read A.J. Baime's book, or don't.
Sad this post devolved to name calling and politics. I was hoping that had all gone elsewhere.