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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 405 customer reviews

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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 (405 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #472,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 Verified Purchase
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."
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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.
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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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