Ford Vs. Ferrari: Shelby's story is finally coming to the Big Screen

Ford won in '66 after four years of effort (Ford Motor Co. photo)
Author and artist Wallace Wyss is known for his automotive histories, including two books on Ferrari, one on Porsche, three on Shelby, and his series of painting depicting the golden age of road racing. Wallace penned this story about the upcoming Shelby vs. Ferrari film and we wanted to share it with you. 

by Wallace Wyss

Most car racing movies are flops; the general public just can’t get into the droning repetition of lap after lap. RUSH was a typical example.
But peg the feature on a dynamic personality and you got a fighting chance. In this case, the personality is the late Carroll Hall Shelby, a  race driver who got an improbable start. A dirt-poor farmer, the son of a mailman, who failed in raising chickens in the early ’50s , he took up sports car racing in ’54 only to win the 24 hours of LeMans just five years later. He went on to create the iconic AC Shelby Cobra, and oh, yes,  help Ford win LeMans with their GT40.

Painting by Wallace Wyss 

The feature from 20th Century Fox will star Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as the British  engineer /race driver Ken Miles. The film has the working title Ford vs. Ferrari, but the name could still change. The business side of Ford will be part and parcel of the story, with Shelby using copious amounts of snake oil to hornswoggle Ford into an ever bigger budget and Enzo Ferrari trying to outfox Ford by manipulating the rules (such as getting the 250GTO approved as a production car when not enough were built to meet the rules).

Painting by Wallace Wyss

According to Variety, a trade paper, the film focuses on Shelby and Miles effort to turn the GT40 into a Le-Mans-winning machine that could beat perennial winner Ferrari. There seems to be a little confusion in the initial publicity that Shelby and Miles designed the GT40, the car Ford needed to beat Ferrari, but as a Shelby biographer, I can tell you the GT40 arrived on their doorstep already completed, key in the ignition. Their job was to turn a loser into a winner.
 Jon Bernthal of The Punisher series on Netflix and previously in The Walking Dead is in negotiations to portray Ford vice president and arch Shelby supporter Lee Iacocca. Caitriona Balfe from Outlander has the role of Ken Miles’ wife.

Painting by Wallace Wyss

Named as director, James Mangold of Logan, 3:10 to Yuma, and Walk the Line. The British brother team of Jez and John-Henry Butterworth are doing the script. They previously wrote the Tom Cruise sci-fi flick Edge of Tomorrow while Jez had a screenplay by credit on the James Bond movie Spectre.
The saga of Shelby helping Ford, a giant automaker, fight Ferrari, a tenacious tiny automaker, has been brewing for the big screen for a long time. Tom Cruise initiated a project in 2013 for a planned release for 2015. Although Cruise was a foot short of matching Shelby’s 6-ft stature, he had pegged the part of Carroll Shelby for himself. Brad Pitt (who has been seen driving race cars on test tracks in France) was reportedly involved but reportedly egos got in the way, and that project died out.

Painting by Wallace Wyss

Chernin Entertainment is producing the Damon-starring film for Fox. Originally Fox had bought the film rights to a book entitled Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans by A.J. Baime. But they re-sold that book's film right to a small TV production company called Legendary Entertainment and now Legendary is developing a 10-part TV series on the same subject while Fox is basing their script on other sources. Not much has been released about casting, or production on the TV series but the cameras have already started turning on the Fox feature, with 67 days of shooting planned, including several California locations, one New Orleans shooting and a separate unit filming in France.


Gentlemen: It sounds like you’re zeroing in specifically on Shel at LeMans. No doubt there’s a lot of ways to tell the Shelby story. But I just wanted you all to be aware of my two bios of Shelby that tell his life story (up to the date of publication)and my GT40 history in the event you need more insight/anecdotes.

The titles are Shelby’s Wildlife: The Cobras, Mustangs, Shelby: The Man, The Cars, The Legend and Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT, with Brian Winer.

Should film rights, or consulting be a subject, you'll reach me via EMAIL.

All the best,

Wallace Wyss