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The Greatest Endurance Racer
The epitome of Italian racing perfection
Welcome to Time & Pace! Here is your Saturday Story.
With the Le Mans 24 Hours just one week away, I wanted to tell the story of one of my favorite race cars of all time. Le Mans was introduced to the mainstream in 1971 with Steve McQueen’s aptly named film “Le Mans” which popularized the now iconic Heuer Monaco.
In today’s letter, we’ll explore the stories of both these icons.
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The Ferrari 330 P4, ah, what can I say? This beauty was the epitome of Italian racing perfection.
To know how Ferrari got to the P4, we must first understand what caused them to create one of the greatest endurance cars in history.
Ford v. Ferrari
1954 Le Mans winning Ferrari 375 Plus
In the sultry haze of the late '50s and early '60s Europe, the Italians were stirring up a storm on the racing tracks. They would rack up win after win, etching their name into the very heart of the automotive world.
And while Ferrari's star was rising, the Blue Oval couldn't help but take notice across the Atlantic.
Desperate to inject a touch of magic into their brand image, the Ford elite hatched an audacious plan: buy out Ferrari and claim the spotlight for themselves. In a whirlwind of cigar smoke and bravado, a delegation descended upon Maranello in '63 to woo old man Enzo himself.
For a hot minute, it seemed like they might nab a piece of that tantalizing Italian pie. But Enzo, ever the shrewd operator, played Ford like a fine Stradivarius.
After marathon negotiations, the whole thing went belly up - and like a jilted lover, Enzo flirted their way right into the eager arms of Fiat.
That was enough to light a fire under the prodigious behind of Henry Ford II. Enraged, humiliated, and hungry for revenge, he embarked on a quest to take down the Italian monolith that was Ferrari.
Ford wins the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans
Enter Carroll Shelby and his ragtag band of renegades. Together, they crafted a machine so ferocious it managed to exorcise the ghosts of their Italian adversaries in the hallowed battleground of endurance racing. Thus 1966, the Ford vs. Ferrari rivalry was born – an epic dance of roaring engines, burning rubber, and the unquenchable thirst for victory.
The Ferrari 330 P4 is Born
Moss isn’t wrong. Ford's 1966 victories were financial wins rather than true racing victories.
After a long, grueling season, Ferrari retreated to their Modenese cave, determined to return stronger than ever. And boy, did they ever.
The P family was reinvented and reinvigorated with three fierce new cars: the 330 P3/4, 330 P4, and 412 P. Looking at these beauties made Ford tremble with fear. The 365 P2 and 250 LM? Pfft. Those were child's play compared to what Ferrari had in store now. They were ready to take on the world again, and nobody could stop them.
And the mandate from Enzo was simple: win.
The designers gave it a new engine with three valves per cylinder and slick new heads derived from an F1 unit. Its fuel injection system was smartly moved between the camshafts to boost efficiency. With its upgraded components, the V12 churned out an impressive 450 horsepower — 🤤
But even more importantly, it was finally reliable, so there were no more breakdowns on the tracks.
With the addition of ex-Ford driver and Le Mans winner Chris Amon, the 1967 season kicked off with a bang on American soil. After 560 test laps at Daytona a few months before the 24-hour race, the P4 was ready for its official debut.
Now, when it comes to the Daytona race, it was epic. The Ferraris were like hellfire on the road, ripping through the competition quickly. As the race progressed, more and more Mark II GT40s had to make unplanned pit stops, which proved very beneficial for Ferrari.
And when they crossed the finish line, it was a sight to behold: not one, not two, but three Ferraris in a row, like a royal flush on the poker table. It was the ultimate "Revenge of Il Commendatore," and even Enzo kept that photo close to his heart until he died.
After the wild and explosive victory in America, the Ferraris returned to the old country, ready to keep their hot streak alive. And that's just what they did. Italy was no match for their slick and speedy autos, and the Ferraris raced ahead to claim the top spot at Monza.
But the good times were not meant to last forever. The subsequent few events were a struggle for both Ferrari and Ford, leaving them all wondering what was going on. But in their hearts, they knew what was really important: the upcoming 24-hour race in France.
Le Mans. The stuff of legends.
And in 1967, the Ferraris were tested against the edgy, muscle-bound Fords. They fought with everything they had, but it just wasn't enough.
But remember what this magnificent creation did for Ferrari - it helped them easily snag the 1967 World Sportscar Championship manufacturers' title. And the P4 not only wowed on the tracks but became a legend among enthusiasts and experts hailed as one of Maranello's greatest endurance racers ever produced. It's no wonder collectors, and billionaires fight over this car like virgins at a brothel.
The legend of the Ferrari 330 P4 lives on through stories whispered among car enthusiasts and collectors worldwide. With its sleek design and powerful performance, this beast of a car continues to captivate and inspire.
Chassis number 0846, the only P3 Spyder model converted to a P4, is especially significant for its first-place finish in the dramatic 1967 Daytona race alongside two other Ferraris. But alas, the car met its untimely end later that year in a catastrophic crash at the Le Mans.
The other P4 models fared somewhat better, experiencing victories and setbacks on the racetrack. The 0856 delivered big at the 1000 km Monza. It claimed a spot on the podium at the Daytona race, while the 0858 battled it out in Monza and the Le Mans, finishing second in both. And even though the 0860 didn't fare as well, it soldiered on through numerous body conversions and changes in ownership.
Today, some of these iconic cars can still be found in the garages of dedicated collectors, continuously appreciated and revered for their beauty and power. James Glickenhaus even acquired the remnants of the ill-fated 0846, preserving the car's memory forever. And while time may have passed, the legend of the Ferrari 330 P4 continues to burn bright, a testament to the passion and innovation of the automotive world.
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In 1969, nestled amongst the buzz of a restless watch industry, Heuer unleashed a magnificent beast of timepiece innovation – the original Monaco. This contemporary marvel stood proudly beside its siblings – a trio of watches harboring the cunning Caliber 11, one of the earliest automatic chronograph movements ever to grace a wrist.
Heuer's collaboration with Breitling, Hamilton-Buren, and Dubois-Dépraz paved the way for the birth of the caliber 11, affectionately known as the "chronomatic consortium," as they raced against time, Seiko, and the mighty Zenith in the pursuit of horological innovation.
Enter the enigmatic Monaco.
Replete with a hypnotic blue dial, this irresistible timepiece adorned the wrist of the legendary Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans. One of McQueen's on-screen companions recently fetched a staggering $2.2 million at Phillips, setting a record for vintage Heuer. You could taste the history in the air.
The original retail? Just $260.
Le Mans, the film
In 1971, Steve McQueen chose a watch that would become one of the most iconic timepieces in history for his role as Michael Delaney in the movie 'Le Mans.'
At first, an Omega Speedmaster caught his eye, but prop manager Don Nunley reminded him of the Heuer badge on his character's uniform, the same as most real-life competitive drivers at the time.
Nothing was more important to McQueen than authenticity. So he switched gears: his character would wear a Heuer Monaco in the film.
And because authenticity was so crucial to McQueen, he did all his own driving for the movie. He wore the Monaco while screaming down the infamous Mulsanne straight in a Porsche 917 at almost 200 mph on the last day of filming.
With its unique design and innovative technology, the Heuer Monaco was part of the first wave of automatic chronograph watches designed to compete with the quartz-powered pieces threatening the Swiss watch industry.
As a testament to the Monaco's timeless appeal and its continued success through its association with McQueen, Tag Heuer, who purchased Heuer in 1985, still uses stills from 'Le Mans' to market the watch.
After filming 'Le Mans', McQueen gifted a Monaco inscribed with "To Haig Le Mans 1970" to the film's chief mechanic, Haig Altounian, who wore the watch for a few years before tucking it safely away for nearly five decades.
Content I Consumed this Week
Fun fact: Schumacher’s first win at Ferrari came during this race weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1996 at Barcelona.
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