My Car Quest

April 18, 2024

Ford vs Ferrari A TV Story?

by Wallace Wyss –

It was announced in mid-October that Channing Tatum , an actor and producer, will produce a TV series about rival carmakers Ferrari and Ford with Peter Dinklage, also an actor. I don’t know which of the two will be on screen or if their role is just as producers.

There have been several attempts to bring the Shelby vs. Ferrari story to the screen, if not his whole life, which would include the Cobra era.

1964 Ford GT40 painting by Wallace Wyss

1964 Ford GT40 – painting by Wallace Wyss

These producers sound like they will focus solely on Shelby’s role in helping Ford win LeMans in ’66 when three Ford GT40 Mk II models crossed the finish line in positions 1-2-3.

The news was announced by IM Global Television at Mipcom, an annual convention in Cannes, France where they announce new TV projects.

The 10-episode series will explore the almost two fisted war between the two car makers Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II, Enzo the founder of his empire and HFII (known in Detroit as “The Deuce”) the grandson of the firm’s original founder.

1-2-3 - 1966 Le Mans -Ford GT40 (Ford Archives)

1-2-3 – 1966 Le Mans – Ford GT40 (Ford Archives)

Presumably, in leading up to the victory there will be some behind-the-scenes dramatizations of that period in the early ‘60s where Enzo was going to sell his company, or at least the production car part, to Ford but the meetings ended abruptly when Enzo found that Ford would be approving his expenditures. He ended up selling his firm to Fiat a few years later.

The drama in the story is what happened after Henry Ford II had the door at Modena slammed in the face of his emissaries during buyout negotiations. He merely turned to his sub-ordinates, including Royston Lunn, an engineer from England, and said something to the effect of “ well, the hell with him–we’ll build our own damn endurance racer.”

The first GT40 rolled out into the sun in ’64, but after a rough opening season, the car went to Shelby to further refine and it was while at Shelby’s the giant 7-liter (427) was squeezed in and that was the car that won in ’66.

Ferrari endurance racer -  painting by Wallace Wyss

Ferrari endurance racer – painting by Wallace Wyss

The screenwriter named for the TV series is Zak Schwartz (Taken, Person of Interest) and produced by Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Channing Tatum (Kingsman: The Golden Circl. Each has a production company, Estuary Films and Free Association respectively.

No one is mentioned as far as a lead actor to play Shelby but if you ask me—a guy who has written three books on Shelby—you can’t get more Texan than Matthew Mcconaughey. And at least he’s tall (sorry, Tom Cruise…).

Another firm mentioned in the AFP-Relaxnews press release is Atrium TV, a new association of international streaming and telecommunication platforms, such as France’s Orange, Deutsche Telekom in Germany.

A previous announcement of the purchase of film rights to a book about the Ford victory didn’t result in a film.

I think these producers will be able to make the big decision to leave the Cobra out of it, because although Shelby had some interesting decades following the Ford victory including marketing the Cobra, developing the Shelby Mustang, operating a game ranch in Africa, going to Chrysler, developing the ill-fated Olds-powered Series I car, and entering the replica field, all that pales in significance sports wise compared to him carrying the spear to lead Ford to victory.

Carroll Shelby, race driver mid-'50s painting by Wallace Wyss

Carroll Shelby, race driver mid-’50s – painting by Wallace Wyss

Why was that victory so important? Because European automakers had just about convinced the world that American automakers produced naught but crude cars, and were hopelessly inept in engineering sophistication. And the charm of Shelby (at least to me) was that he, a high school graduate at best, could lead a racing effort that blew off Europe’s best, using cars that were, in some ways crude (yes, with cast iron block pushrod engines, take that Ferrari!).

Shelby was a master at playing the “Aw shucks,” failed chicken farmer who just-fell-off-the –turnip truck. In real life, he was somewhat more sophisticated, belonging to the Bel Air Country Club, co-owning a Rolls Royce dealership, ordering bespoke custom made shoes and jewelry, and mastering Italian. He knew that failed chicken farmer image was a popular one and maintained that image right to the end.

Growing up in Detroit in that era, I remember feeling mighty proud when Ford unseated Ferrari, even though I was a budding Ferrari fan (ever since seeing the Testa Rossa in the Fuller Brush catalog..).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hollywood once knocked on my own door, regarding my bio SHELBY: the Man, the Cars the Legend, also for a TV series. But, alas, they only bought an option to buy the film rights to my book but not the book. And ended up dumping their preliminary work on the Shelby project to concentrate on a series on what would happen if the Germans won WWII (The Man in the High Tower).

I never talked to them to find out why they abandoned it, but I think it’s the same old, same old—how can you tell the Shelby story, and still leave out half his accomplishments? The answer is you have to pick the most dramatic moment to dramatize much as the latest movie on Churchill concentrates on the week before England declares war on Germany. That was Churchill’s finest moment (and arguably the time of his best speech, I say…)

I wish the new producers the best of luck in bringing ol’ Shel’s story to the screen and rest assured I’ll be among first in line to see it…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, with Brian Winer and Al Axelrod, published Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT in 2006. For information on purchasing write




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Ford vs Ferrari A TV Story?
Article Name
Ford vs Ferrari A TV Story?
The 10-episode TV series will explore the almost two fisted war between Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II. It will be produced by Channing Tatum and Peter Dinklage.


  1. Mike Clarke says

    Carroll Shelby – Josh Brolin

    Enzo Ferrari – Tom Hanks

    Ken Miles – Owen Wilson

    Henry Ford II- Paul Reiser

    • Good choices!

      I hope Tom Hanks has a good Italian accent.

      • Mike Clarke says

        Lets hope they make it. Adam Corolla has recently released the documentary about the Ferrari Ford challenge called the “24 hour war” it’s on Amazon and it’s excellent! Great original footage. According to Adam nobody has contacted him regarding this project but that’s Hollywood.

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