Local racing legends restoring Ford GT – the car featured in ‘Ford v Ferrari’ that won at Le Mans

Data pix.

It’s interesting what a very rich man will do when he feels a little slight.

In 1963, Henry Ford II (the founder’s grandson) was running the company. He believed Ford needed a racing car to help sell more street cars. Meanwhile, Enzo Ferrari sold a few street versions of his famous racing cars as a way to fund that racing passion.

So, that year, Ford went to Italy to buy Ferrari for $10 million (about $83 million in today’s dollars) and just as the contract was about to be signed, Ferrari noticed that it put Ford in charge of Ferrari’s racing budget. Enzo would have none of that. The deal was off.

That’s when Ford vowed to beat Ferrari at their own game – defeat them at the famed 24-hours at Le Mans endurance car race. American cars had never won it. It would be like saying the US would win the men’s soccer World Cup the next time it was played. But, by 1966, it happened.

“It was huge -- it's probably one of the biggest deals that's ever existed,” NASCAR legend Tex Powell said. “Ford had spent all the money they had to try to beat Ferrari.”

“I think they spent $26 million just in the three years I was involved in it,”  Richie Barsz said.

Barsz worked on the #5 car that came in third in Ford’s historic 1966 sweep of the top three positions that’s memorialized in the new hit movie “Ford v Ferrari.”

“We were supposed to be the rabbit to run those Ferraris off the [track] into the sand, over there, and we just survived it,” Barsz said.

Barsz developed a reputation as a genius car builder in his years with building them for Richard Petty and Petty Enterprises. Now, he and Powell are finishing a restoration of a Ford GT, just like the ones that won at Le Mans.

Barsz says he learned a lot from some of the men he worked with, building those GTs.

“Those English fabricators, they were so good,” said Barszm with great admiration. “And you just sat back and watched what they did. And, man, I'm tellin' ya...”

Barsz and Powell could use machine-made parts to finish the GT.

“The machine doesn't get any fun out of it, though,” said Barsz with a smile.

See the car they're building and the surprise that will always remain in it in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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