Category: documentary

The Ferrari-Ford Cobra Wars

I was watching Need For Speed, the 2014 movie that sought to establish Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul in the feature film genre when I kept hearing a plot point about a “Carroll Shelby designed Ford Mustang” over and over again. Yes, I’ve heard of a Shelby GT500 Mustang, but I got curious and decided to learn more about the iconic American behind the car’s design.

Carroll Shelby was a chicken farmer and a highly-decorated professional race car driver who had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 with British automaker Aston Martin.

When he retired from racing in October 1959, he took his talent to Chevrolet in order to convince them to build a new prototype of sports car. Chevy already had the Corvette as their signature car, so Shelby went to Ford and got a small amount of money and some Ford engines to begin work on the AC Cobra.

In 2002, the BBC produced a good documentary about Carroll Shelby and his role in developing the Ford GT40, which would usurp Ferrari at Le Mans, winning four times from 1966 to 1969. The GT40 itself was in development before Shelby joined the project in 1964, but his contribution to the team helped defeat the Italians, who had a solid lock on the Le Mans title, winning it every time from 1960 to 1965.

The other really good resource for understanding this era in car racing is the 2016 documentary The 24 Hour War:

“In the early 1960s, Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari went to war on the battlefield of Le Mans. This epic battle saw drivers lose their lives, family dynasties nearly collapse and the development of a new race car that changed racing.”

Today, auto racing has completely changed. Privateers are virtually nonexistent at the highest levels of racing. Even major teams with solid financial clout flail and seem noncompetitive against those with greater backing.

You also have to wonder: How much does a manufacturer’s success carry over into consumer sales? For instance, if a Toyota Camry wins the NASCAR title this year, will people go out and buy that car? Is there incentive for Ford to create a Mustang for NASCAR?

As it stands, the Ferrari-Ford rivalry was a good thing because of how it radically advanced technology and expectations about performance. I believe there are things to be learned that can be passed down to consumer versions of cars–but filtering out the truth from a million options available is where the buyer has to educate themselves.

Anyway, Carroll Shelby certainly made a huge contribution to the American car industry and researching him was really worthwhile.






“I Beat Mike Tyson”

Words that few can say, outside several amateur boxers, highly decorated pros like James “Buster” Douglas, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, and journeymen like Danny Williams, or in this specific case, Kevin McBride.

A new 12-minute documentary by Joshua Z. Weinstein uncovers the legacy (or lack thereof) of Irishman Kevin McBride:

Said Weinstein to ESPN, “It’s a film about a man whose greatest achievements are behind him…But boxing, the only thing McBride ever learned to do well, is how he defines himself. These polarizing ideas are what the film seeks to explore.”

As sadly as the story ends for Kevin McBride, it doesn’t seem much better for Mike Tyson, who ended his career with both his finances and reputation in serious states of disrepair.

The short documentary is a touching reminder of what’s at stake each and every day that we live. That great opportunities don’t come around often, and when they do, we can’t always make it to the next level.


The Smashing Machine

One of my favorite documentaries is The Smashing Machine (2002), the story of ill-fated MMA fighter Mark Kerr. The narrative traces Kerr’s career in Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championship, where he has mixed success. Outside the ring, he struggles with an abusive co-dependent relationship, and an addiction to opiates.

Why did Kerr turn to different methods of coping with his situation? I think it comes down to fear, anxiety and pressure. The fight game exerted too much force on him, and he was bound to break apart. The opiates helped take the edge off, to numb him, and allowed him to function.

He was never really at his best when he was using drugs. They decreased his sensation of pain, but suffering can be a barometer for calibration, optimization. We know what needs to be fixed when we are in pain. Changes have to be made, and they can’t be ignored.

What is Kerr’s legacy today? The documentary tracks his self-destruction. He lost many more fights than he won after 2000, fell from relevance, and eventually faded from the MMA scene.

At one point, Kerr was selling luxury cars in Arizona. Maybe he’s better off away from the sport.