In the early 1960s, Ferrari ruled the roost. Ferrari’s cars were as desirable as they were successful at racing. The company and its founder, Enzo Ferrari, also had a habit of rubbing people the wrong way. In the year 1962, several different parties set out with the single purpose of giving Enzo and the Prancing Pony a black eye.
After World War II, entrepreneur Ferruccio Lamborghini launched a farm and industrial equipment business that made him wealthy, which allowed him to develop a taste for fine sports cars. According to an interview with British magazine Classic Cars, published abroad as Thoroughbred and Classic Cars, he bought several Ferraris in the late 1950s but found the clutch didn’t work to his liking in any of them.
Eventually getting an audience with Enzo Ferrari, he told him the cars weren’t up to snuff. Ferrari told him to stick to driving tractors, which inspired him to try his own hand at making sports cars. After installing one of his tractor’s clutches in a Ferrari and improving performance considerably, Lamborghini started his own car company in 1962, eventually releasing the Lamborghini 350GT in 1964, according to Lamborghini’s corporate history page, followed by the 400GT and the massively successful Miura in 1965, widely considered the original supercar.
Lord Mr. Ford
The other car magnate Enzo Ferrari managed to goad into unleashing a classic was Henry Ford II. In 1962, according to Top Gear, Ferrari was about to sell to the Ford Motor Company. However, Ferrari decided to kill the deal at the last minute Ford decided to teach Ferrari a lesson, so he put his engineers to work on a car that would hit Ferrari where it hurt. The car wasn’t going to just any race; the car was going to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The result was the GT40, which wasn’t successful on its Le Mans debut in 1964 or in 1965, but in 1966, tuning by Carroll Shelby paid dividends with the GT40 Mark II, with a mammoth 7-liter V-8 that produced 485 horsepower.
The race was an annihilation. The three GT40s that competed in the 1966 Le Mans finished in first, second and third place. A GT40 also won at Le Mans in 1967, 1968 and 1969.
Snake in the grass
In late 1961 and into 1962, race and tuning legend Carroll Shelby began experimenting, according to his website, with putting a Ford engine in the body of an AC roadster and founded his own company, dubbing the car the AC Cobra.
Shelby would go on to have a lively rivalry with Ferrari, trying to prove that a bunch of hot-rod enthusiasts from California could build cars that could best the European aristocracy, which the Daytona Coupe did at Le Mans in 1964, according to TheTruthAboutCars. Shelby also would tune the motor for the GT40. The rivalry between Ferrari and Shelby is the subject of a 2010 documentary, “The Snake and the Stallion.”
Interview with Ferruccio Lamborghini: http://web.archive.org/web/20030409114059/http://www.geocities.com/lamboguy/Intervu1.html
The Truth About Cars: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/04/the-cobra-ferrari-wars/