on June 1, 2009
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.
on August 2, 2009
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.
on November 16, 2009
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. What makes the story so engaging for the reader is Baime's ability to make the reader truly understand what was going on in the sports car racing world during the 1960s, and it certainly doesn't hurt that we get to know many of the individuals.
When reading this book, it becomes clear why auto racing these days will never match the "golden age" of racing during the 1950s and 1960s. Racing was a glorious thing, and the cars were simply machines meant to go fast. While we could debate the obvious stupidity in retrospect of the lack of car safety, it's the very lack of safety that makes this era so appealing. You had to have somewhat of a death wish to get behind the wheel of a Le Mans race car or a Formula One car. The amount of drivers killed during races is astounding, but what might be more astounding is how accepted it was. Safety was viewed as being unmanly so there were no great pushes towards it. Drivers tended to be surrounded by fuel, and things we take for granted now like seatbelts were an after-thought then. But what is just as amazing is how with the technology of those days, they were able to achieve speeds in excess of 200MPH on the famed Mulsanne Straight. Equally amazing, are driver reactions to the race cars reaching these insane speeds.
With the end of the 1960s, the golden age started to pass, but it would linger on in the early 1970s with the Porsche 917. For those who love reading about the GT40, the Porsche 917 story is one I suggest checking out. For as fast as the GT40's were, the 917 was even faster hitting 246MPH on the Mulsanne Straight. In fact one driver was reported as saying when he had to start braking for the Mulsanne Corner, the 917 was still accelerating.
This book is highly recommended for all racing enthusiasts, and even those with a passing interest in automotive racing or even automotive history, as the story itself is unlike any other out there. The Ford-Ferrari rivalry is one of the greatest stories in automotive history, and this book does that story justice.
Go Like Hell isn't quite what I was expecting, but it is certainly worth owning if you're any kind of gearhead.
-Does a great job telling the overall story surrounding Ford's winning years at LeMans, particularly 1965 and the big win in '66. The writer is advertised on the jacket as being associated with Playboy, and that's the sort of writing you should expect.
-Lost of human interest stories. The book focuses mainly on the people involved, and their businesses, rather than getting overly deep into mechanical aspects. You'll learn a lot about the people involved, from Ford executives, to drivers, to Mr. Ferrari himself.
-Lots of very well-sourced quotes and factoids from a massive list of interviews. The book contains a bibliography and index which sum to a larger size than most chapters in the book. The level of research is really quite astonishing, and that's lovely to see for such an important historical work.
-Lack of mechanical detail. Considering the Ford GT40mk.II will be considered by any gearhead to be the "real" hero of this story, you'd expect quite a bit more detail into its interior workings and development. While you do get a good general overview of the parts involved- particularly the massive engine- this isn't near the technical manual I would have liked it to be. A good example is that the book goes into the Ford "J-Car" program, which implemented a variety of experimental mechanical designs- none of which are even mentioned when discussing the car. I'll avoid spoilers, but anyone familiar with the story will know there are critical reasons why the new parts on the J-Car must be mentioned in any discussion of its history.
-Feels a bit "broad" for a car book. Related to the point about the mechanical detail, the overall tone of the book seems to focus mostly on the people and the broad forces involved. Again, this is perfectly in line for a writer of Playboy, or perhaps think Salon. There's sufficient detail to get your car passion going, but you're probably going to want to get on Wikipedia for some of the finer details to really quench your thirst.
Any true fan is going to wish this book came with a Popular Mechanics style cutaway blueprint of the Mk.II, and the fact that it doesn't have that level of mechanical detail is my only gripe. The human interest stories are top-notch. You'll climb inside the heads of Ferrari, Ford II, Iacocca, Shelby, and a host of drivers- and there's a long list of sources for further reading. Definitely pick this one up.
on August 17, 2012
Why in the world does the book bill itself as the battle between Ford and Ferrari, and leave out the final act? It's a good read up through the 1966 season.... then stops. Kind of like the ending of the motion picture "The Birds" where the cast just walks away, leaving you going "Huh?" Without telling the story of the 1967 season, the development of the Ford J-Car and Mk.IV, the Ferrari 330 P4, and the Chaparrals, it's half a book.
A better book would be Leo Levine's "Ford: The Dust and the Glory."
on June 28, 2014
For people addicted to the car disease this is one super book. I thought I was pretty tuned in back when Hank Deuce decided to go for Ferrari's jugular. But this book revealed all kinds of stuff I missed-- big and little. Big stuff, like the fact that Enzo Ferrari had an illegitimate son. Little stuff like Bruce McClaren having one leg shorter than the other. Also a detailed description of Carroll Shelby's Cobra and Mustang GT350 operation at Los Angeles airport. And a lot of new info on Ken Miles-- one of my heroes because of his MG Specials. And so much more. I worked for an ad agency on Wilshire Blvd. in L.A. in the mid-'60s and would drive my MG TC home to Redondo Beach on Pacific Coast Highway every night for two reasons: 1. To hear the car's neat exhaust sound in the tunnel under LAX's runway. 2. To drive past the parking lot for Shelby's operation to see row after row of finished Cobras and GT350s. And I would covet them! Big time! Please don't tell God. Weekends were spent at Riverside, Goleta, Laguna Seca and other tracks watching names in this book race. I didn't give Mr. Baime's book Arsenal of Democracy" a very good review because, unlike this Ford/Ferrari book, I didn't really learn anything new. Maybe that's because I've read a lot about Ford in the last 60 years. But Go Like Hell is really one helluva book so go like hell to order it.
on June 16, 2016
Great read, based on research that reveals new facets of rhe great era. Even more, it gives a good view of a significant watershed change in racing, the end of the independent, small constructor era, the end of Detroit hegemony, and the end of industrial Titans. Bittersweet for this Detroit boy who learned to love Motorsport in this time. I wish I could read all the reference work!
on April 16, 2014
Great little book! The writer, who I've spoken with regarding something my mother spotted in the story; that being a certain man had come from Aston Martin - where my mother was John Wyer's secretary from 1949-56 - this man didn't do any of the things he claimed. My mum knew JW very well, and the likes of many of these drivers.... She took care of this guy named Shelby when he arrived at Aston's in 1954, and my dad took care of the DB3S that Carroll drove in both local UK events and LeMans 54. Never being a FORD fan, the GT40 was only a Ford in name because they paid the bill... and supplied the Engine. These first cars were all designed and built in England. What they did was great, the amount of $ spend was million times more than "great", whereas the politics and Board of Directors was typical Ford MoCo nonsense.... Phil Hill was booted from team, only to be a HUGE thorn in Henry II side when Phil showed up at LeMans in Jim Halls Chaparrel! It's a good read, and if you're from my era you'll know these drivers names... I knew many of them, some came to lunch on off-Sundays like Ritchie. Now they are all gone... I remember when my dad passed away 5+ yrs ago, Shelby called mum, mum said "I have no one to talk to now" Carroll said, "you can talk to me!" And they talked regularly.... almost til the day he went. Great men, great cars, great racing!
on December 20, 2015
Being a race fan (NASCAR, CAN-AM, F1, IMSA, USAC, NHRA, etc.) ever since a little kid, this book is a great flashback to many memories of earlier times in racing. A really great compliment to Sam Posey's 'Where the writer....' and speaks to both what was witnessed in person and the many intricacies that occurred behind the scenes. Definitely a good read for the enthusiast.
on June 30, 2009
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.