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‘Ford v. Ferrari’ hype prompts Ford to open its Le Mans GT40 vault

The film opens to wide release Nov. 15

Ford v Ferrari,” the big-screen adaptation of a book about the famous rivalry over racing supremacy in the 1960s, opens next week, and the fevered anticipation has prompted Ford to revisit that period of its storied history by opening its GT40 Le Mans vault. Literally.

The Detroit Free Press reports that a group of Ford executives and staffers gathered this week at the Ford Engineering Laboratory in Dearborn to view vintage artifacts from the years-long duel between the intercontinental automakers and reminisce. Those archives contain an incredible 3 miles of shelving, a video vault maintained at 41 degrees and an actual safe. The archives manager reportedly wore protective white gloves and removed the only known copy of the original plans for the GT project.

Also shown was an exact replica of the GT40 driven by Bruce McLaren at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, the year Ford finally vanquished perennial winners Ferrari form the victory podium. It was created and used for the film, with more than 500 miles added to the odometer during filming.

Directed by James Mangold (“Walk the Line,” “The Wolverine”) and produced by 20th Century Fox, the film hits theaters Thursday and opens wide Nov. 15. It’s based on A.J. Baime’s 2009 book “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans.”

The film predictably takes some liberties with the real-life story and characters. It focuses on the relationship between Carroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon), whom Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca charged with developing a Ferrari-beating GT, and maverick British driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale).

The Blue Oval had no involvement in the making of the film, beyond offering up archival material for background research.

“It was, wow, especially if you had to go out and service a car during a pit stop,” Mose Nowland, a retired mechanic and sports car engineer who worked on the GT40 Le Mans program and spent 57 years with Ford, told the Freep. “Your hip pockets are only several inches away from cars going by at 160 mph.”

Read the full Freep story here.

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