Ford vs Ferrari movie review

Episode 291

November 24, 2019

The Movie

I invited several local gearheads/racers to attend Ford vs Ferrari which was showing at the Braden Theater in Presque Isle. Inclement weather kept most of the folks away, however, upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to see that about 40 folks had braved the elements to see the show.

Ford vs Ferrari at Braden Theater in Presque Isle. (Don Rideout photo)

Ford vs Ferrari was #1 at the box office last weekend grossing $31.5 million domestically and $52 million worldwide.(Budget for movie production $97 million) Featured well-known actors, Matt Damon (Carroll Shelby) and Christian Bale (Ken Miles) plus a somewhat intriguing historical event combined to get viewers into the theaters. Quick cars and charismatic actors helped.

What did you see or what are you going to see if you have yet to view this 2 hour and 32 minute movie. My impression was that historical facts were sometimes twisted to add to the plot yet clung close enough to reality that I did not leave the theater thinking “Fake”.

Some of the obvious discrepancies:

  1. Ken Miles did not stay home in California for the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans. He was in that race and dropped out after  only 45 laps with gearbox problems.
  2. Henry Ford II probably did not get a wild ride with Carroll Shelby which helped keep the Le Mans project alive. I thought it certainly added to the enjoyment of the movie.
  3. The Daytona International Speedway scenes were filmed in Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and the shot of large crowds in the stands at 4 am was not reality. Some scenes from Riverside Speedway where Miles crashed to his death in August 16 just 2 months after Le Mans were filmed at Honda’s test track in Mojave Valley. Three tracks in Georgia, Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California,  and a village scene from Le Mans in France were also utilized in the 2 months of filming.
  4. Leo Beebe was not locked into the airport office allowing Shelby an exclusive time with Henry Ford II when the “ride” occurred.

This was not a documentary and I expected it to have some of the variations which enhanced the film in my opinion. The challenge to produce a world-class race car capable of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in ninety days was a huge challenge.

Ford did eventually succeed after $72 million in 1960’s dollar value was spent to win first in 1966 with the Mark II , then 1967- 1969 in Ford MK IV.

Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1966 overall win by building and racing four newly developed Ford Eco Boost powered GT cars to Le Mans in 2016. Two cars raced in the European circuit under Ford of England and two ran IMSA and were based in the Chip Ganassi Race shop in Indianapolis, Indiana. Unlike the 1960’s venture, which took three years to beat the Ferrari, the Ford GT took first in the LMGTE class in its first Le Mans 24 hour endurance race.

My verdict

I own the Steve McQueen video, Le Mans. I must have watched it at least a dozen times. I once invited a couple of gearhead/racers out to view it. Their comment was that the race scenes were great but the plot was as shallow as a gnat’s grave. I thought the movie was great!

When I heard about Ford vs Ferrari I immediately thought, ‘Another B grade movie like Days of Thunder or Talladega Nights with their terrible plots and lousy race segments was going to clog up the airwaves.”

I was wrong. The story ranks with Le Mans as far as cars and racing scenes and much better storyline. I would place Ford vs Ferrari with the movie Senna.

Phil Remington and Carroll Smith, master fabricators whose work I have long admired played crucial parts in the real races and were depicted as positive forces in the Ford vs Ferrari and made great additions to the headliners Shelby and Miles.

It is a must go-to movie not only for the gearhead/race,r but a historical movie with only small variations from actual events.

RTM Racing comments

Some racing fans at the showing of Ford vs Ferrari at Braden Theater in Presque Isle. Left to right Riley Roderick, Presque Isle, Gavin Hemphill, Presque Isle, Alec Staples, Presque Isle, Ethan Cassidy, Fort Fairfield, Don Rideout, Washburn, Bob Hale, Caribou and Tom Hale, Westmanland. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Don Rideout, RTM Racing…The Bumblebee Gang commented, “I thought the movie was great. I liked the attention to detail, even though I don’t personally know how much of it actually happened.”

“Though I’m not personally a Ford fan I still enjoyed the true story. I believe that the Ford Motor Company had a big role in solidifying our, the United States, place in history as a #1 producer of muscle cars. At least in that era. And this movie was about that and I loved it.”

“The acting was spot on, in my opinion. I like Matt Damon and Christian Bale (Batman is one of my favorites).”

“The action scenes were good and there were plenty of them. They also did a great job making them look correct for the time.”

Rideout’s comments seem to mirror many of the online comments I have been following since the movie’s debut on November 15th.

The controversial finish

Ken Miles in light-colored Ford #1 was not declared the winner. Bruce McLaren in the dark Ford #2 was declared the winner. {Le Mans archive photo)

As the 4 pm finish time got closer, Leo Beebe from Ford Motor Company thought a side-by-side 1,2,3 finish would be a great photo-op for the company. At the time Ken Miles was leading in the drizzly wet conditions.

He was told to slow down to let McLaren catch up. McLaren was on the same lap as Miles. The Ronnie Bucknum driven Ford #5 was 12 laps to the rear and was asked to move into formation for the finish.

It is suspected that Miles slowed at the finish allowing McLaren to cross the line first as the photo shows. A win for Miles would have given him the Endurance Racing Triple Crown having won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Miles never had that chance again dying just two months later on August 16th while testing the J Car edition of the Ford at Riverside Raceway. The J Car Mark IV would win Le Mans in 1967-69. Miles left behind his wife Mollie and son Peter.

Death of the ARX Series

Americas Rallycross (ARX) series final race at Mid Ohio in early September 2019 (ARX photo)

In a simply worded two sentence announcement November 15 on the Americas Rallycross Championship webpage with partner IMG Management stated, “After consultation with a wide group of stakeholders and interested parties, IMG has taken the difficult decision to not extend the Americas Rallycross Championship beyond the 2019 season. We would like to thank our passionate fans, teams, drivers, partners and event hosts for their support and participation in Americas Rallycross.

What does this mean for the future of professional rallycross in the North America I am unsure. Talk has circulated about a series tied to Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Circus. No definitive answers have come forth.

I am unsure if major players in the ARX knew this announcement was coming. I find it difficult to believe this caught the major teams totally off guard. My thoughts are that something is being put together for the 2021 season if not 2020.

Stay tuned, we shall see. I hope pro rallycross returns with its short and fast races on dirt and asphalt. My short attention span seems to like these types of races.

Closing with some in-car video of USAC Silver Crown Champion Kody Swanson at Daytona International Speedway last weekend in the Doran Racing Enterprises 2005 Ford GT.

I hope you, your family, and friends have a great Thanksgiving!

Let’s go racing after Thanksgiving.

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine