16. Ford GT40
Interestingly, the Ford GT40 wasn’t Shelby’s project. In fact, he came on board after they had already designed and engineered it. However, Shelby played a crucial part in its legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans wins. Shelby’s experience as a driver, team leader and constructor led their team of motivated racers who wanted to dethrone the mighty Ferrari. Also, Ford backed his Cobra and Mustang projects, so Shelby couldn’t refuse. After a failed attempt to buy Ferrari in the early ’60s, Ford was angry with Enzo Ferrari.
They decided to beat him on the race track to prove who the real boss was. But back then, Ford didn’t have a racing program or someone to manage it. So, the company looked for outsourcers who could make things happen.
They found the basis for the Ferrari-beating race car in England in a Lola Mk6. Soon, they re-engineered and redesigned it. Also, they gave it a new racing 289 V8 engine, turning it into the first Ford GT40 in 1964. However, the car didn’t look promising in the beginning. But meticulous work and money transformed the GT40 into a world-conquering machine in months.
Today, the GT40’s recognizable design is as American as apple pie. But, they designed the car in England and it came to America already complete. And, it humiliated Ferrari between 1966 and 1969. This was when the GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row.
It was an amazing success and achievement for a company that never appeared in the Le Mans race before the mid-60s. The GT40 became the symbol of American race cars. It dominated the European racing scene, which was a big success for Ford, Shelby, and his team.