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Movie Magic

A behind-the-scenes look at the replicas from Ford v Ferrari

Story and photos by Steve Temple

Superformance group photo by TED7 Photography, road course and movie stills by Rob Johnson, vehicle art director for Ford v Ferrari, additional on-set photos by Torry Alonzo

Like us, many auto enthusiasts made the trek to the theater to see the Ford v Ferrari film. While Matt Damon and Christian Bale ably performed their respective roles of Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, the cars are the real stars for many viewers. We won’t rehash the storyline here, but instead we’ll focus on the replicas used for filming the action scenes.

Unlike so many films today, director James Mangold shot actual driving footage to create gritty realism, instead of relying heavily on computer graphics. Of course some computer graphics were used, such as adding the French countryside surrounding Le Mans to driving scenes, which were actually shot in the desert near Agua Dulce in SoCal. But by and large, the cars were real runners that hit triple digits at times.

Billy Stabile, president of Hollywood Car Co., supplied all of the cars to the film production company for a leasing fee. His firm has also provided vehicles for other movies such as Fast Five, Dark Night, Inception and others. For Ford v Ferrari, though, Hollywood Car Co. got creative, acquiring replicas from several different companies.

One such supplier was Fran Hall of Race Car Replicas, who managed to crank out 28 cars within a 16-week time frame. “We did a lot of preplanning to make that happen,” he recalls. Fran’s RCR-built vehicles “… included all the stunt GT40s, from the original early prototypes to the modified Miles crash car,” he says. Fran’s GTs, referred to as RCR 40s for trademark reasons, can be seen wearing authentic shades of dirt in many of the film’s hard-driving sequences.

In addition, RCR also provided the running replicas of the Ferrari GTB, P3 and P4 models, which are very similar in appearance. To hold up in the intense driving sequences, “All midengine cars were built the same way as the RCR products we sell,” Fran notes. “The cars use an alloy monocoque chassis with CNC-machined suspension.” FIA-legal race fuel cells were also installed for safety reasons.

As for still and background shots, the Ferrari 250 static displays in the Italian workshop were also provided by RCR, along with the vintage F1 cars.

As with any movie prop, certain details were omitted or altered if they didn’t appear on screen. This includes the midmounted engines, which were 450 hp GM LS3s backed by a Porsche G96 transaxle from the 996-series 911 model, using an RCR adapter. However, one of the GT40 replicas had a Ford power plant installed for scenes where Miles was wrenching in the engine bay. The LS3 engines came from LaFontaine Automotive Group, a Detroit Chevrolet dealer, and the Porsche transaxles from Georgia-based Cogs Cogs.

Why choose an LS instead? Both Fran and Billy point out that the LS engines are easier to work with for movie production since they are lighter, less expensive and easier to tune. The packaging aspect is also simpler for mating them with a G96 transaxle. Given how many endurance racing cars Fran has built with this setup, he knows it’s a proven drivetrain that would hold up to hard stunt drivers.

“They beat the shit out of ’em, and not a single thing broke,” he notes with pride. “And stunt drivers like to break things.”

For the remaining variety of vehicles in the film, Billy had to get even more creative. Several Corvettes were purchased from private owners, in addition to 20 1963 Falcons for the Ford factory scene. The Porsche 904 replica was supplied by well-known builder Chuck Beck, and the 908 and 906s came from Ghostlight and were fitted with Subaru engines.

In one of the opening shots of the film, there’s a red Porsche Speedster fitted with a “turtleback” headrest, which was driven with abandon by Shelby. That particular car, provided by John Steele of JPS Classics, was one of three.

“It has a Brazilian tube chassis and a 2,110 cc hot rod engine with specially geared 4.12 transaxle. So it would spin tires and go like a bat,” John relates.

That car, also fitted with four-wheel discs, a heavy-duty sway bar and a camber compensator, was repainted for a later appearance in the film, as were the other two cars he supplied. John plans to offer a Le Mans SE as limited production car patterned after these movie cars.

Another key contributor to the movie was Superformance, who leased the filmmakers six Cobras, two GT40s, two Daytonas and six Mustangs. If you liked the Shelby cars featured in Ford v Ferrari, duplicates are being made available in a partnership between Shelby American, Shelby Legendary Cars and Superformance. Serving as the ultimate souvenir of the movie, the Cinema Series will include Shelby Cobra roadsters, Daytona Coupes and GT40s in a limited run of only 100 vehicles.

“The epic story of Shelby American and Ford taking down the powerhouse Ferrari was worthy of a blockbuster film and a line of commemorative cars,” explains Gary Patterson, president of Shelby American.

Like Superformance, most of the RCR cars appearing in the movie have already been sold off, but road-ready versions of the RCR 40 can be ordered from the firm. The other companies mentioned can also help you get into their replicas seen in the film. So while you might not ever be a star in a movie, you can still get your own piece of glory in one of the film’s star cars.

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