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Ford Vs Ferrari: How A Failed Business Deal Lead To The Most Iconic Brand Rivalry

| Published on September 16, 2020

Brand rivalries have been there since the age of trade began. While many rivalries have been long forgotten, there are many that are still remembered. They are used as an example in business schools and corporate board rooms when it comes to dealing with any related situations.

The brand rivalry that is still making a buzz is the famous Ford Vs Ferrari. It all started in 1963 when Henry Ford II thought of fighting off the competition with the automobile company General Motors. In order to do so Henry Ford II, best known as, Hank the Deuce, put together a deal to buy out Ferrari.

Ferrari was the number one name when it comes to racing cars. It had practically monopolized the automobile segment. By taking Ferrari over, Ford planned on taking the lead and making a name for itself in the race car sector and become a global brand. However, the deal did not go as Ford planned. Enzo Ferrari, owner of the Italian automobile brand, not only refused to agree with the deal but blatantly insulted Henry Ford’s choice of design for his cars and Henry Ford himself.

The one’s who have seen the iconic Hollywood movie based on the feud, Ford V Ferrari, know what we are talking about. The exchange Ferrari and Ford had led to a decade long feud between the two brands.

Ford took Ferrari’s words too personally and decided to fight the brand in the field they were best at, at the racing tracks. Ford challenged Ferrari for the 24 Hours of Les Mans in which the brand was already a champion. It was the year 1964 and not even a single Ford car was able to win in the season. In the 1965 Les Mans, Ford decided to change the engine of the GT right before the race which backfired and landed a win to Ferrari yet again.

Ford had introduced the GT40 race car whose engine was developed by the race car company Lola Cars. The car had not faired well in the races and Henry Ford was running out of ideas. He then approached Carroll Shelby, a former Les Mans winner and owner of Shelby Inc.

From then on, Shelby, along with Ken Miles, who was a mechanical engineer, helped to understand all the shortcomings in the engines of Ford cars. Shelby & Miles kept on working on the GT’s engine. With rigorous hard work and dedication, the team was able to enhance its functioning and even added a few horsepowers to the car. The work they did on the GT was visible in the 1966 season.

With Miles taking the charge on the wheel, Ford’s upgraded GT40 MK II went on to win the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race and the 24 Hours Dayton race. The car did not just win the 24 Hours Les Mans that year, it completely destroyed Ferrari’s brand name. Ferrari cars did not win any place in the reason as all the three, First, Second, and third place was one by Fords GT40 MK II.

Ford did not stop just there. With the help of Shelby, the Deuce introduced GT40 MK IV in the 1967 Les Mans which the car ended up winning leaving Ferrari in second place.

This feud story is full of tragedy and disappointments. Though Ford had his revenge on Ferrari and went on to be a bigger name, the team that made it possible, especially Kevin Miles the driver who made the win possible did not have a happy ending. But in the end, the revenge was had and Ford achieved its ultimate dream.

Source: Forbes

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