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Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans Hardcover – June 9, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 356 customer reviews

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Hardcover, June 9, 2009
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Product Description
By the early 1960s, the Ford Motor Company, built to bring automobile transportation to the masses, was falling behind. Young Henry Ford II, who had taken the reins of his grandfather’s company with little business experience to speak of, knew he had to do something to shake things up. Baby boomers were taking to the road in droves, looking for speed not safety, style not comfort. Meanwhile, Enzo Ferrari, whose cars epitomized style, lorded it over the European racing scene. He crafted beautiful sports cars, "science fiction on wheels," but was also called "the Assassin" because so many drivers perished while racing them.

Go Like Hell
tells the remarkable story of how Henry Ford II, with the help of a young visionary named Lee Iacocca and a former racing champion turned engineer, Carroll Shelby, concocted a scheme to reinvent the Ford company. They would enter the high-stakes world of European car racing, where an adventurous few threw safety and sanity to the wind. They would design, build, and race a car that could beat Ferrari at his own game at the most prestigious and brutal race in the world, something no American car had ever done.

Go Like Hell
transports readers to a risk-filled, glorious time in this brilliant portrait of a rivalry between two industrialists, the cars they built, and the "pilots" who would drive them to victory, or doom.

A Q&A with Go Like Hell author A.J. Baime

Question: What are you saying in your book that hasn't been said before?

Answer: No one has ever successfully written a book about cars and racing that can be easily enjoyed by someone who doesn't know a thing about cars and racing. My book accomplishes this. At the same time, reviewers who have studied this automotive era for decades have read the book and told me they were shocked to learn many things they didn't know. Specifically, no one has ever written about this story with such a focus on the business side: why it happened in the first place, how Henry Ford II had a vision to create the first pan-European auto company in the 1960s, selling Ford cars from London to the border of Russia. How could he prove that his American cars were the best in the world and that Europeans should buy them? By winning Le Mans. There's a whole foundation to this story that I've never seen fully explored elsewhere.

Q: How did you do your research?

A: For starters, I did dozens of interviews: Carroll Shelby, Lee Iacocca, Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, A. J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Edsel Ford II (son of Henry Ford II), Piero Ferrari (son of Enzo Ferrari), Lloyd Ruby, plus engineers, mechanics, PR men, executives, and on and on. I conducted interviews in Italy, France, England, Los Angeles, and Florida, plus countless others over the phone from my office in New York. On top of the interviews, I read everything ever written on the subject, and I saw every bit of footage, which was a particularly good source for dialogue. In some cases, I took fast cars onto racetracks, such as Daytona and Ford's Romeo test facility north of Detroit, to try to get further into the heads of the drivers during scenes that take place at these locales.

Q: Any highlights during your research?

A: My interview with Carroll Shelby. Afterward, he drove me from his office in Gardena, California, to the Long Beach airport. The guy was getting on in years, and his vision was fading. But we were passing car after car on I-405 in a Mustang GT-H, which has ridiculous amounts of horsepower. We're talking about a guy who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans wearing chicken farmer overalls in 1959. Nearly fifty years later, he can't see much, but he can still drive.

Q: Why is this topical now?

A: What's happening in the American auto industry today is just stunning. My book is in large part about Detroit at the dawn of globalism. It's kind of like the first chapter in a long narrative that is now reaching its climax. In the 1960s, when the global car sales race began, Detroit was battling against German, British, and Japanese companies for the first time. Ford sold cars by proving on the racetrack they were better than anyone else's. We won in heroic fashion in the 1960s. We’re not winning anymore

(Photo © Timpthy White)

From Publishers Weekly

In the 1950s and '60s, the 24 hours of Le Mans in France were not just a race but, according to Playboy editor Baime, œthe most magnificent marketing tool the sports car industry had ever known. It was also incredibly dangerous, the site of the biggest tragedy in racing history—Pierre Levegh's Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR slamming into an embankment and leaving at least 75 dead in 1955. Baime's narrative culminates in the 1966 Le Mans race—where Ford cars placed first, second and third—and the fierce competition between Ford and Ferrari. Ford head Henry Ford II realized that in order to compete in the world market, his cars had to win races—and he could accomplish both by winning at Le Mans. Blocking him was the œagitator of men, Enzo Ferrari, who devoted his life to building the perfect champion automobile and who prevented Ford from buying Ferrari in 1963. Both men's quest for victory trickles down to their workers. Henry II spent millions on technology and manpower to build the perfect car, the GT40, while displaying limited patience after years of failure. Meanwhile in Italy, Ferrari's world-class drivers faced their own difficulties pleasing their calculating, results-driven boss. Baime's skillful reporting and introspective writing style make for an insightful portrait of two automobile legends, as well as an exciting account of a bygone era in racing and in American culture. 8-page color insert. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618822194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618822195
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (356 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A. J. BAIME is the author of THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY (2014, a New York Times Best Seller) and GO LIKE HELL (2009, currently in development as a major motion picture by 20th Century Fox). He is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, an editor at large at Playboy magazine, and a contributing editor to Road & Track. VISIT A.J. at... facebook.com/ajbaime

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I found an advanced copy of this at my buddy's place, I don't much like racing, but I forgot my iPod and needed something to look at on the train so I figured, what the Hell.

I couldn't put it down when I got off the subway; it's the best book I've read in years. I think it's billed incorrectly as a story about racing. To me it read as a compelling fight between two strong and very different characters (Mr. Ford and Mr. Ferrari). Ford represents the young gun in big business while Ferrari is the elder artisan. The two men could have been toothpick saleseman for all I cared. The magic was how AJ Baime cinematically recreated their war. It was the clash of the titans but instead of being fought on a battlefield it unfolded on a racetrack (though I was surprised by the amount of casualties involved).

Anyways whether or not you are a gearhead if you like character driven non-fiction you'll enjoy this. I have never reviewed a book but I figured many non-NASCAR folk might miss out on a good read.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the best overall complete story of the Ferrari-Ford battles of the 1960s that I have read. It does not include much detail on the '67 season and the '68-'69 J.W.E efforts, but it covers the origins and years through '66 wonderfully. Especially good are the portraits of Henry Ford II, Enzo Ferrari, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Ken Miles, and Carroll Shelby. Other characters, like John Wyer and Bruce McLaren are well drawn. Baime also describes the industry environment pretty well. When people ask me to list the best books on this era, I name Levine's "Dust and Glory", Wyer's "The Certain Sound", Horseman's "Racing In The Rain", Evan's "Ken Miles", my book, Friedman's "Ford GT-40", Cahier's "Pit Stops" and now Baime's book. Nice job and worth the read for anyone who loves the sport or enjoys exciting (and true) stories.
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Format: Hardcover
Here in America, most people think the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 are the 2 biggest auto races out there. To those people I say, "Not so fast." The Grand Prix d'Endurance les 24 Heures du Mans (24 Hours of Le Mans) is the greatest single race in the world as it pushes a car to the absolute limits. It's also a race that as a child, I had a hard time believing that a single race would go on for 24 hours. I thought it was insane, and even now I still think it is to some degree. This book focuses on probably the most interesting period of Le Mans, and the struggle of Ford in trying to win the race outright.

A.J. Baime has written a detailed and engaging history outlining how and why the Ford Motor Company became so driven in trying to ultimately win Le Mans. The need to sell more cars was often achieved through racing victories as seen with the dominance of NASCAR by the Ford Galaxie. Le Mans dominance by Ferrari through the early 1960s also translated into sales of customer cars. There was the belief that if a manufacturer's vehicle won at Le Mans, the company must know how to build cars that can last, as well as having power.

The story that unfolds shifts between the Ferrari side and the Ford side. We get to meet the big names of the automotive world like Henry Ford II, Enzo Ferrari, and Carroll Shelby. Then we get the foundation for why Henry Ford II became so obsessed with winning at Le Mans. It would take 3 tries before his goal was fully realized in 1966. Subsequently the GT40 would dominate Le Mans in 1967, 1968, and 1969 to close out the decade. In between that we are told stories about many of the greatest race drivers that the world has ever seen ranging from men like Bruce McLaren to Phil Hill to Mario Andretti.
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Format: Paperback
A highly readable and very entertaining book. I'm not a racing fan, but I thought the story was interesting, so I got it and I wasn't disappointed.

First of all, Baime is a good writer and the book is easy to read and follow. Second of all, even if you don't like cars, I found the drama interesting and exciting. The book is mainly about Ford vs. Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Baime nicely starts off with the background, then builds up the story. Like the old cliche, "the tension was palpable" as Baime built up the story to the climax. He also reveals a lot of tidbit information about the major players such as Henry Ford II, Enzo Ferrari, famous drivers like Mario Andretti, things that I didn't know about I found fascinating.

In summary, this is not just a car book or a racing book, it's a good book about cars and racing. If you are a Ford, Ferrari, racing fan, this book is definitely for you. If you are not a racing fan but want to try something different, something exciting and well written, try this book. You won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While watching the 2009 Le Mans race Bob Varsha and the boyz from Speed had A.J. Baime as a guest in the broadcast booth. Before the night was over, I was on Amazon and the book was on its way.

As a fan of road racing and F1, this was a great read, fast paced with a great mix of the personalities and race accounts that it involved. An automotive Who's Who list of amazing proportions. I would recommend it to anyone. Given the state of the auto industry, it is also somewhat timely, with Ford looking to rise from the ashes once again as a company and Ferrari searching for answers to its dismal 2009 F1 campaign.

The reason for only four stars? There's no half stars and I thought it strange that while the research for the book seems extensive, a foot note on page 175 states, "* Andretti's (Mario) third son, Marco, today a top Indy-car competitor, was not yet born.", he still hasn't been. Marco is Mario Andretti's grandson, a fact that could be verified any weekend an IRL race is being run.

This minor inaccuracy should in no way deter anyone from reading this book.
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