How Carroll Shelby Beat Enzo Ferrari -- ROAD TESTAMENT

Uploaded by drive on 17.05.2012


Welcome to Road Testament.
I'm Mike Spinelli.
Leo Parente is here.
And we are talking about Carroll
Shelby, eulogizing him.
He passed away last week.
LEO PARENTE: Yeah, but--
we're all sorry he's gone.
But it's a great story.
LEO PARENTE: And a great contribution that
obviously he's made.
An amazing life lived in cars, and we're going to talk about
him today. @Drive on Twitter is where you can get
in touch with us.
And we got in touch with you on Twitter, asked you what you
thought Carroll Shelby's greatest-- not you-- but
people out--
MIKE SPINELLI: --what you thought Carroll Shelby's
greatest contribution to motoring was.
And there were so many of them.
But we are going to focus this show on his contributions to
Ford racing in the mid '60s at Le Mans.
LEO PARENTE: Because you have a guest coming up.
We spoke with AJ Baime, who wrote an amazing book, Go Like
Hell, about Henry Ford II's incredible
rivalry with Enzo Ferrari.
And because Carroll Shelby figured so prominently in that
rivalry, we had to talk to AJ.
So that'll be coming up a little bit later in the show.
So we asked you greatest contributions to motoring by
Carroll Shelby.
If you had to pick one thing, it would be the AC Cobra
taking a small, lightweight British sports car from an
ailing British company, putting an American V8 into
it, and breathing new life into the whole genre.
What do you think?
MIKE SPINELLI: Actually creating the genre.
LEO PARENTE: I would argue creating the genre.
LEO PARENTE: There were things like
Cadillac-powered Allards racing.
But on the road, I think he kind of set up that whole
platform of light, fast, quick, American power.
And he gave Ford the performance personality.
They didn't have it up till this point.
MIKE SPINELLI: That's very true.
Ford had all the money in the world, arguably, and it took a
small, feisty, little Texan--
He was a very tall guy.
LEO PARENTE: I get it.
MIKE SPINELLI: --to do that.
LEO PARENTE: I get it.
Carroll Shelby's Pit-Stop?
Yeah, OK.
All right.
So Carroll Shelby had his own deodorant for a while.
LEO PARENTE: Well, I knew he had the chili
and the chicken farm.
A chicken farmer--
It still works.
MIKE SPINELLI: You know, I wonder.
Like I don't know the story of the deodorant, but this is a
really, sort of, not exactly one of his greatest
achievements in motoring.
LEO PARENTE: But you know what?
The guy was an engineer and a marketer.
MIKE SPINELLI: An amazing--
LEO PARENTE: He knew this was bigger than
just building a car.
MIKE SPINELLI: Knew how to market himself.
Also, so I'm very tempted to say the Dodge Omni-based
Shelby GLHS.
After the Ford years, he moved along with Iacocca, whom he
originally partnered with at Ford.
MIKE SPINELLI: When Iacocca went to Chrysler, he build
that-- the GLH, the Goes Like Hell.
So more--
LEO PARENTE: You might want to fight that temptation to pick
this as his biggest achievement.
But I've got to tell you, he brought performance
personality to Chrysler and Dodge when they needed it just
the way Ford did.
And yeah, that Italian, Iacocca, made it happen.
Also had something to do with the Viper.
So that was, again, with Chrysler.
LEO PARENTE: Yeah, that was positive.
Also his involvement in the historic 1-2-3
24-Hour Le Mans at Ford--
Ford GT40s--
which we are actually going to be talking about in a second.
But did you know that he also was the only person, as
another reader brought up, that he won Le Mans as a
driver in 1959 and also as a constructor?
Probably only person ever to do that.
LEO PARENTE: Ooh, now, you're going to go have me go run to
the files, but I think you're right.
MIKE SPINELLI: Check it out.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So as I mentioned before in the beginning of the show, we
talked to AJ Baime who wrote an amazing book about Hank the
Deuce, Henry Ford II, and Enzo Ferrari, and that clash.
And Carroll Shelby had a gigantic part in that.
LEO PARENTE: He made it happen.
He made it happen.
MIKE SPINELLI: He literally made it happen.
So let's see what the AJ said.
Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and
Glory at Le Mans--
AJ Baime.
AJ, thanks for being with us on Road Testament.
It's a fantastic story.
AJ BAIME: Well, the thing about Shelby is any great
story has a terrific underdog character.
So really what happened with Shelby is he was a champion
race car driver right at the beginning of the revival of
the sports car racing scene after World War II, when the
first European cars were coming to America.
But it was a small scene.
He went over to Europe.
Won the 24-hour Le Mans with Aston Martin in 1959.
But very few people were watching in America.
He had some heart problems.
He had to retire from racing.
He was broke.
He was divorced.
He was starting from scratch.
And he set out to build a car that could defeat the best
racing cars in the world.
And so from there, you have this character who comes out
of nowhere right when the fascination with speed really
hit in America.
And he becomes this great American hero.
So that's the short end of it.
So how did he end up--
well, first, how did he end up with Ford to begin with?
And then, how did he end up building Ford's
race cars for Le Mans--
or its sports cars for sports car racing?
AJ BAIME: Well, Shelby had the idea to build a racing car.
And his brilliant idea was to match a very lightweight
roadster chassis from England.
And he got it from this company called AC Cars.
And he needed an engine.
The idea was to match a lightweight roadster chassis
from Europe.
Match it to a big, lightweight, very cheaply
made, high-quality American engine.
He actually went to Chevrolet first.
Not a lot of people know that.
He ended up meeting Lee Iacocca.
And here, you have these two brilliant salesmen, these two
brilliant characters who put their heads together.
And the Cobra was born.
Really, in a way, it wasn't an American car.
I think it was David E. Davis who
said, it was part British--
British chassis, American engine.
But that's the story of America anyway.
It was founded on a British chassis.
So it went from there.
LEO PARENTE: Give me a little comment on this.
I love how small the collective world was.
The first prototype Cobra, I thought I read that he built
it with Dean Moon, the hot rodder.
And when you mention he went to Chevy, did he not going to
Chevy with Jim Hall?
AJ BAIME: I don't know.
I did interview Jim Hall at length for the book.
And what a wonderful man.
And talk about amazing achievements.
I'm not sure about that part of the story.
But yes, it all began in Dean Moon's
speed shop in Los Angeles.
And it went from there to small factory here.
And it went to a small factory there.
And three years after launching the company in 1962,
Shelby had this gigantic facility that
bordered LAX airport.
And they used to test these racing cars on the runways at
night because back then the airports closed at 11 o'clock.
So they'd have the runway and the Klieg lights.
I mean, none of this could ever happen today.
LEO PARENTE: So somewhere along the line, how did he get
the Ford GT program?
AJ BAIME: It's interesting that you bring that up because
I'm going through-- the people who are working on the film
for the book were arguing a lot about, not arguing, but
looking at the scripts and figuring out how to really
tell that story.
Because it's a very complicated story.
But to explain it in a very short way, Shelby built the
Cobra and won the world championship in 1965.
He won the GT, the manufacturer's championship.
He beat Enzo Ferrari.
It was just incredible.
That hadn't been done.
And so for Henry Ford II--
this colossal figure, this incredibly powerful man who
really represented capitalism, and big
business, power in America--
to put this whole program in Carroll Shelby's hands, Shelby
was a showman.
People thought he was crazy.
It was really a leap of faith.
And of course, we know what happened after that.
Shelby American won Le Mans in 1966, the first time that
American manufacturer had ever done that.
MIKE SPINELLI: There's a great scene in the book where Shelby
went to Lee Iacocca to try to get some support.
This is actually going back, I think, when he was building
the Cobra for the first time.
And so you can see where these two supreme--
you had mentioned it before--
these titans of sales kind of meeting together.
When you were doing the research for this, what was
the thing that struck you about that?
Those guys?
AJ BAIME: Well, here's definitely one thing.
You have all of these larger-than-life characters
that come together in this one story.
Lee Iacocca and Carroll Shelby are obviously two of them.
The first scene in the book, Lee Iacocca, he's the sales
manager of Ford trucks and cars.
Most of the people at Ford Motor Company at the time did
not know how to pronounce the name--
Iac-, Ia-, what?
And that was not so long ago.
That was in-- geez, what was it-- in 1962 or 1963.
And by 1965, both of these guys are world famous.
They're monsters in the industry.
And they are to this day.
And it all happened in a really short period of time.
And basically, I chalk it up two things.
Two brilliant, brilliant men with tremendous love of cars
and leadership qualities, but also, they were at the right
place at the right time.
Between 1962 and 1965, the world of speed enthusiasts in
America just exploded.
MIKE SPINELLI: Speaking of exploded--
not to make this the segue to that-- but there was a period
where racing and safety became kind of at odds in the middle
of the '60s.
And so the idea that a company would be spending
its money to race--
which sold cars--
and yet there was a sort of building safety movement that
was sort of starting to threaten the racing.
Because there was these high-profile accidents,
especially at Indy, as you point out in the book.

How big a threat was that to what they were
doing at that period?
AJ BAIME: It was a huge moral dilemma and really important
in the story.
You have to imagine how, at the beginning the book-- this
actually happens in the first chapter--
the Big 3 in Detroit were forbidden.
They had a clause in this contract, essentially, that
none of the Big 3 would spend any money on racing.
The factories would not sponsor racing teams in the
early '60s.
They all agreed on that because racing is dangerous
and Washington was very uncomfortable with the
relationship between these big American companies marketing
horsepower that customers could put to the pavement for
obvious reason.
So essentially, what happens in the first chapter the book,
the end of 1961, General Motors was spending a
tremendous amount of money secretly on racing and NASCAR.
And Henry Ford II got pissed off.
And he pulled out of the agreement.
And he said, we're going in with both feet.
We're going to beat everybody in every form of racing--
Now, it was very controversial.
There was a Senate--
Congressmen were weighing in.
The New York Times was writing editorials about this.
But when Henry Ford II--
I'll try to make this very brief--
at that time, he was way ahead of his time.
And he saw that the future of the automobile business wasn't
in America.
It was in Europe.
And so he set out, not just to win NASCAR's Grand Nationals
and not just to win Indy 500.
He wanted to win the 24-hours Le Mans, which, let's face it,
was by far the most dangerous sporting event in the world.
It was very controversial.
MIKE SPINELLI: Really, the crux of this we haven't
talked about is--
again, we're here because we're talking about Carroll
Shelby this week.
But an important part of the book is the Enzo and Hank the
Deuce who was Henry Ford II's rivalry.
Can you just quickly throw that in?
Like sort of maybe talk about how that happened so that
there's a background to this whole thing?
LEO PARENTE: And why was it completely not like having two
adults in the room?
The rivalry between these two incredibly powerful auto men
on either side of the Atlantic really sets up a framework of
this story in which Shelby, and Phil Hill, and Ken Miles,
and all these people get tangled up in them.
It's really a rivalry between these incredibly powerful,
controversial men.
Essentially, here's what happens.
Henry Ford II sees that he wants to launch his company.
He wants to launch the first ever hand European automobile
company, from England all the way the border
of Communist Russia.
He sees he wants to do that in the early 1960s.
What's the best way to do that?
Buy the sexiest company in Europe.
And use that company to market.
So Ford tried to buy Enzo Ferrari's company.
The negotiations went deep in months and weeks, and
contracts, and lawyers.
And Enzo Ferrari pulled out of the deal at the last second.
And this is really the gauntlet.
Henry Ford II says, all right.
We're going to be his ass.
And that's a quote.
He said that.
"We're going to beat his ass." And that's how the whole
rivalry at the 24-Hours Le Mans began.
Now, the amazing thing to me about these two incredibly
larger than life characters is that they were so much alike
and so very different.
Enzo Ferrari was this Italian, speed-obsessed, fascinating
man who sold cars only to make money because
he wanted to race.
Everything was racing for Enzo Ferrari.
Now, Henry Ford II, racing was marketing.
It was all about selling cars.
It was the complete opposite.
But in the end, one of these men had a lot of money.
And one of them didn't.
That really factored into the equation.
To me-- and I think I forget who reviewed the book but
said, this is one of the great sporting grudge matches of all
time in any sport.
LEO PARENTE: Is there any truth to the rumor that in
1966, before the Le Mans race, Henry II handed a card to, I
think it was Leo Beebe who was running race operations.
And it simply said, you'd better win--
AJ BAIME: Absolutely.
Leo Beebe was Henry Ford II's right hand man.
Whatever Henry II wanted done, Leo would do it.
He wasn't even an auto man.
He was a basketball coach.
But Henry trusted him.
So whatever Hank the Deuce wanted--
so he put Leo Beebe in charge on the executive side of all
these racing characters, these crazy guys.
And Beebe the Suit had a real hard time of it.
But when the race came down to it, right before the start,
Henry Ford II handed him a card that said,
you'd better win--
And Leo Beebe took that card and put it in his wallet.
And it stayed there for the rest of his life.
How did Carroll manage the politics of Ford Racing?
AJ BAIME: Well, that's a good question
because he was no suit.
And that's a real theme going through the story.
They were Southern California hot-rodders.
And the Ford engineers thought these guys were crazy.
They didn't have college degrees.
How can we entrust this hundreds of whatever million
dollar program into these guys' hands?
These engineers who are hot rods--they're kids.
They're not educated.
And Carroll had to fight it.
And I chalk it up to his charisma.
But there was definitely a lot of friction.
MIKE SPINELLI: How did he end up running all of Ford's
sports car race operations, building the cars
and all that stuff?
LEO PARENTE: And I'm looking for a name.
So let's see if you get it.
It's pop quiz here.
Well, let me answer the question.
Then we'll come back to the pop quiz.
The reason why that program landed in Carroll Shelby's
hands is because everybody else who
tried to do it failed.
Now, the guy who tried to do this before, the guy who
managed the team, was a Brit named John Wyer.
Is that who you are referring to?
LEO PARENTE: Pop quiz won.
AJ BAIME: John Walker was a cranky man who had an ulcer.
And he was a Brit.
And he had a lot of success early.
I think it was with Aston Martin.

But he couldn't get the job done.
And so the program ended up in Carroll's hands.
And Shelby got the job done.
LEO PARENTE: Well, that is a pop quiz answer.
The shocking part is how small the racing world was.
Because in '54, Carroll drove for Aston Martin at the behest
of team manager at Aston, John Wyer.
In '59, he won for Wyer again.
Wyer ran FAV, Ford Advanced Vehicles, in Europe.
Like you said, failed with the GT.
They shipped it to California.
I wonder what that conversation was like.
AJ BAIME: Well, certain things will never be known.
But I'm sure Wyer wasn't too pleased, was he?
But you were talking before about the collaboration
between Ford Britain and Ford in Dearborn.
Can you talk a little bit about how that relationship
played out a little bit maybe before Shelby took over?
Because after that, was it strained?
Or was there something?
Was Britain still involved as much as they had been?
AJ BAIME: Well, the idea was originally design and build
the car in England much for the same reason why Mercedes
Formula One team is
headquartered in England today.
That's where all the racing technology was.
That's where the performance parts were.
The real racers were British and in Britain.
So the first thing that Ford did when they launched FAV to
build this car was to open a speed shop outside London.
And there was a guy named Roy Lund, who I found in Florida--
a wonderful man who was sort of the executive at Ford who
sort of joined these two worlds together.
And it was Carroll Shelby who brought in John Wyer.
But all of these guys came together originally in London
and tried to build this car.
They couldn't get it to work.
When they brought it out in April of 1946 for the first
test run at Le Mans, the car was literally taking flight.
And there was a devastating crash right from
the first time out.
And that's when these guys knew that they were playing a
very dangerous game.
MIKE SPINELLI: It seemed like it was in tatters.
I mean, there really was wasn't much of a program.
They had this car that they had spent--
I mean, how much do you think they had spent on the GT40 up
to that point?
Is there a paper trail that might give you that?
Or is it unknown?
AJ BAIME: There is absolutely no paper trail.
And I dug and I dug.
But this I know.
A lot of people had different ideas and a lot of people were
reporting different figures.
But this I know.
Henry Ford II handed out open checks.
There was no limit to what these guys were going to spend
to win this race.
And the fact that they lost in 1964 and the fact that they
were humiliated in 1965, it was a disaster.
So really in 1966, Henry Ford II was prepared to put the
plug on the whole thing because he'd spent so much
money and all he'd gotten was an embarrassment.
He was saying that he, Henry Ford II, was doing was helping
Enzo Ferrari sell more cars.
So like any good story that fits into a terrific narrative
oligarchy, everything goes wrong, and then they have one
last chance to make it go right.
And that's what happened.
MIKE SPINELLI: And they did make it go right.
They made it go extremely right in 1966
with the 1-2-3 victory.
And just really briefly because we're wrapping it up,
but the controversy over the 1, 2, and 3 was it sort of
made the win a little bit bittersweet for a few of the
people there including Carroll Shelby, right?
I mean, is that accurate to say?
AJ BAIME: It's absolutely true.
And again, like any good story, you can't
make this stuff up.
There's a twist at the end that becomes very significant
in the history of motor racing.
There was a character named Ken Miles who, as the story
goes, his contribution got bigger and bigger, and bigger.
And he was a very close confidant of Carroll Shelby.
He was a brilliant development driver.
And he was over the hill.
All these young hotshot drivers were showing up.
Ken Miles was an ex-World War II tank commander.
He was much, much older than any of these other superstars
who were famous.
And nobody knew who Ken Miles was.
And he becomes like a very central figure at the end.
And through this brouhaha at the end, this twist of fate,
the ultimate victory, you could argue is the most
important victory in the history of American motor
racing, was taken away from him at the last moment.
And two months later, he died in a racing car, testing a car
in California.
And it's a very sad story.
So that's how that one ends.
LEO PARENTE: Carroll Shelby was such a man to take
responsibility for that.
But it really wasn't just his call that cost Ken Miles.
Is that true?
AJ BAIME: I believe it was.
This is one of those things where I asked a lot of people
about this.
And everybody had a different story.
But it seems that there is a conversation between Leo Beebe
and Henry Ford II that this would be the ultimate PR coup
to have photographs of these three cars, not a car coming
in in first place, but three cars passing the finish line
at the same time, the ultimate photo finish.
And the story would be about a motor company winning this
incredibly important race, and not a driver.
But the rules stated that blah, blah, blah.
The rules stated that one of these cars would win.
It couldn't be a tie.
So the victory was taken away from Ken Miles.
Now, when I met with Shelby and we spent some time
together, it was a real thrill for me.
He was driving me in a Mustang down the highway, taking me to
the airport.
We were talking about this, Ken Miles' death and how this
race, this incredibly important victory has been
taken away from this man who really deserved it, had never
experienced the fame that people around him experienced.
And Shelby still had difficulty talking about it 45
years later.
MIKE SPINELLI: That's what makes this story so dramatic.
There's so many elements of it that are dramatic.
It's a great book, really well done, probably one of the best
books on racing I've read probably ever.
AJ, thanks for coming.
The book is Go Like Hell.
Buy it.
Read it.
And we'll see you soon hopefully.
AJ BAIME: Thank you, guys, for having me.
Really appreciate it.
MIKE SPINELLI: You got it.
LEO PARENTE: Very cool.
MIKE SPINELLI: Leo, parting words, Carroll Shelby.
LEO PARENTE: So I grew up around this time.
Get the book.
Do the research.
This was a defining moment in racing, this Ford GT, Ford
racing program.
And what Carroll Shelby did and put together--
the people, the personalities, the process, the whole way to
make racing work, really is the roadmap for what's
happening now.
So really check this out.
It was an amazing thing how far ahead of
time he really was.
MIKE SPINELLI: Yeah, and just such a dramatic story-- it's
really worth reading.
It's awesome.
MIKE SPINELLI: Again, @Drive on Twitter, that's where
you'll subscribe to us here at Drive.
And that's it today for Road Testament.
We will see you guys next week.