The Le Mans Monster

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Horse racing has always been a popular American pastime.  While the rush of watching animals run around in a circle may do it for some, I think the American’s love of horse racing can be chalked up to the romantic spirit of the American patriot.  The greatest horses in racing history have been underdogs.  Seabiscuit was the smallest horse in his race with the largest jockey, Secretariat was given to the loser in a bet.  Both these horses are honored today as some of the greatest that ever stepped onto the track.  Americans love to romanticize.  The only thing they love more is a nice preverbal middle finger to the odds.

If ever there was a car to romanticize about, it’s this one.  A car that blew the Europeans out of the water and became the first and only car entirely designed and produced in the United States to achieve an overall win at Le Mans.  As if this was’t enough, it went on to win the race four consecutive times from 1966-1969, ripping the victory from the clenched hands of Ferrari who had won it six consecutive times from 1960-1965.  These victories, attended by Henry Ford II himself, encapsulated American automotive engineering at its finest and secured a chapter in US car history with a simple name: The 1966-69 Ford GT40.

This is my favorite car of all time,  to be more specific the 1969 model which was the only one assembled in the United States in Detroit, Michigan; the 1969 Ford GT40 IV, the last American made car to ever win Le Mans.  The car has a 4942 cc V-8 under the hood and a 4-speed manual transmission that screams “Shelby American”.  The most beautiful part about this car doesn’t come from the horse power it puts out or the incredibly designed body.

This car, to me, represents everything American automotive engineering should be.  It was ahead of its time, sure, but it represents a degree of individual genius than had never rolled out of an American car factory before.  It was quick, agile, and mean, but it was the under dog, the car that shouldn’t have won simply because of who built it.  Because of this fact the car loses the reality of its mechanistic being and becomes an animal with a spirt that simply outdid that of the spirt of Ferrari.  It becomes Secretariat.  The fact that it gave Ferrari the middle finger doesn’t hurt, either.

ImageSources:

http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/1599/Ford-GT40-Mk-I-Gulf.html

http://www.horseracingnation.com/polls/current/PowerRankings_All_Time

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