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EP272: Raising Children In The Midst Of Tragedy and Ford v. Ferrari: The Sequel

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 21, 2022 3:00 am

EP272: Raising Children In The Midst Of Tragedy and Ford v. Ferrari: The Sequel

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 21, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Caleb Bailey shares his family’s story of hope and redemption after loss. Jon Elfner brings us this new Ferrari-slayer's story through the eyes of industry legends Neil Ressler, Scott Ahlman, and Mark McGowan.

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

 

Time Codes:

00:00 - Raising Children In The Midst Of Tragedy

23:00 - Ford v. Ferrari: The Sequel

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Hispanic heritage is magic, baby. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. Up next, we have a story from a young man named Caleb Bailey.

Caleb is from California and recently moved to Asheville, North Carolina for work. Here he is sharing his family's story, beginning with his dad, who from a very young age wanted to be a firefighter. My dad wanted to be a firefighter so bad when he was a kid that he set his backyard on fire just so the fire department would show up. He was so excited to see them.

And, you know, my poor grandma was just like, I don't know how to explain this to you. And then it's funny, you fast forward a few or some years later and he is a firefighter. He had a heart for serving others in that capacity.

But when I was born, 10 days after I was born, my dad, Joseph Dupuis, was killed in the line of duty as a Los Angeles City firefighter. He was a captain and had been on the job for a while at that point. He was responding to a structure fire early in the morning.

It was a pet food factory. And as him and his crew were fighting it, they decided to exit the building because the structure was kind of collapsing. And so he got a signal from one of the emergency devices there that they use if any of them are lost or trapped or anything and they'll set off that signal and the rest of the crew will go and find them and help them out. And one of his crew members dropped his and that's what set it off.

So actually no one was really in danger, but they didn't know. So he went back in to find that member. And so while he was in, he walked into a room where the roof collapsed and knocked his face mask off. So he was inhaling all the smoke and toxins and stuff. And then an oven in the building actually exploded and blew out and knocked him out at that point. So his crew members were close behind and came and found him and dragged him out.

But by the time they tried to do CPR and rushed him to the hospital, he was already gone at that point. So my mom received the news that morning. Mike Hilliger, who's the chaplain, was the one who told my mom about my dad. She's told me a few times about what was going through her mind when she got that news.

Obviously a billion things. You've lost your breadwinner of the family. You don't have any finances. You've lost the father of your two sons. And possibly most important of all, she lost her soulmate. This is her husband and she married for years and he was just gone and now they had to figure out life. And that's a dark place to be.

It's a place where most people would give up, especially realizing that these two little boys of yours have a lifetime of hurt and hardship ahead of them because of this. So they went to the hospital and many people from her church were there. Many people from the fire department and surrounding stations as well were nearby and supporting her. It was the first fatality on duty that the LA City Fire Department had seen in a long time, years, maybe decades.

I'm not sure the actual number. So it not only shook those of us who were close to my dad, but just everyone in the department. It was a really dark time for LA City.

And so yeah, that's where we stood in February or March of 1998. A family barely getting started as a family and now they're just ripped apart. And it's a pretty hopeless situation when you look at it any way that you cut it. It's just tragic.

It's sad. You hear stories like this all the time about people and different people deal with those things differently. My mom could have given up and felt no hope, which I'm sure she did at many points, but she didn't give up.

She resolved to raise her two sons to love on them regardless of what the next 10, 20, 30 years brought and whether or not her husband was there alongside her. So yeah, all of that, like I've said, you can read about all that online. All those reports are on LA City firefighter websites and the incident reports and the background on my dad. But a lot happened after that. And you won't read about those online, but they're the biggest parts of the story. So the first one is my uncle Robert Dupie, who was Joe's brother. He was similar to Joe in a lot of ways.

They're both just always up to no good and pulling pranks and doing rowdy things. But in terms of his faith and his morals, you couldn't have been more different. He hated everything about the church and the Bible and Christianity, no matter how much his brother presented it to him and pleaded with him about it.

He wanted nothing to do with it. And my dad would pray at night. My mom told me, Lord, please save Robert.

Like whatever it takes, even if it means taking my own life, would you save him? And we kind of laugh a little bit at that sometimes and say, careful what you pray for. But they got the news of my dad dying and my uncle was driving to the hospital and he remembers just parking his car, turning the car off and looking up and just saying, all right, you have my attention. And as soon as he walked in that building, he saw something that you don't see in these situations very often.

And it was the love of the church, the love of family, the love of the fire department, all surrounding my mom. And it overwhelmed him, you know, and it was something that stood out and was different than what he'd experienced in his life. And so he spent the next few months asking questions and wanting to know what it was that Joe believed. You know, what was this faith? He asked one of Joe's friends from church, will I ever see my brother again? Like I want to see him again.

You know, a few months later, he accepted Christ and started attending church regularly and wanted to not only live on his brother's legacy, but more importantly, to know the savior that his brother did. And you're listening to Caleb Bailey tell the story of his father, his mother and his father's brother and how he and his family dealt with a great loss, a great tragedy. Then we come back, more of this remarkable story about faith, love, and so much more here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country, stories from our big cities and small towns, but we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories.com and click the donate button.

Give a little, give a lot. Go to our American stories.com and give. And we return to Our American Stories. And we've been listening to Caleb Bailey share his family story. Caleb's birth dad died when he was just 10 days old in the line of duty as an LA firefighter. Through this tragedy, Caleb's uncle Robert came to Christ, but Caleb's mother was left a young widow and Caleb and his older brother Luke were left fatherless. Back to Caleb for the rest of the story. So then life goes on for our family.

Just two boys and a mom trying to make it by. And one of my mom's friends had a mutual friend named Kevin Bailey, who was also a firefighter. The fact that she thought my mom would want to marry another firefighter is crazy, but it worked. And introduced the two of them at a Super Bowl party and they hit it off. And that was Kevin Bailey.

And I could talk your ear off about Kevin Bailey. He had been working for a while and was single living in Southern California. And he was looking to get married and was blown away by my mom's story. In fact, before he had met my mom at that Super Bowl party, he had heard her speak at a firefighter event regarding my dad's death. And he was blown away. He was just like, because she spent that whole time just giving the gospel.

You know, here she was in front of hundreds of people in L.A. City and she was just giving the gospel. And he was like, whoa, that's that's different. Apparently, the two little rascals she was dragging along her side didn't scare him off. So he went on some dates with her. It speaks a lot to his character that during that time before they were even married, he would be coming over for dinner. He would be watching us if my mom had some event she needed to go to, he would babysit us.

When I had pneumonia and I was in the hospital at a year old, he was there supporting my mom, taking care of me and hanging out with my my older brother, Luke. Obviously, my dad was interested based on the fact that he stuck around my mom and me and Luke. And so as he was dating her, he kind of went to our pastor at our church and said, hey, look, I don't know what the next step would be or how soon that step would be, but I think I want to marry this woman. And my pastor just looked at him and said, hey, you either fish or cut bait. She's got two sons and the sons need a dad and she needs a husband at this point.

So you better make a decision. And so I guess my dad went with the fish instead of cutting bait and married my mom in nineteen ninety nine in July and adopted me and Luke. So he was now my mom's husband and our dad.

And people ask me sometimes, you know, was there ever any weird points in your upbringing? Just kind of like dealing with your stepdad and trying to navigate that and kind of the power dynamics or the parenting models and all those things. And I just tell them he wasn't my stepdad. Like legally, he he was my my legal dad.

And it wasn't just a legal obligation either. The way he raised us made it really easy to be his son because he was a great father. They had two more sons, my younger brothers, Brock and Rylan.

So we had four boys in our house and it was chaos all the time. But nothing really surprised my mom at that point after all she'd been through. So my dad retired from the fire department in 2010 or 2012. I can't remember.

I'm pretty sure it's 10. A man on his crew, Glenn Allen, actually died that year responding to a fire as a as a roof collapsed on a building. And my mom just said, hey, that's enough.

You know, I can't I can't be going to bed every night with you at the station and knowing that that could be you, you know, and go through all this all over again. So he retired after 30 years on the department. They've been present and very active in our lives. So six months back, I moved from California to Asheville, North Carolina. So Uncle Robert, he's one of the few family members of Joe that we've been in close contact with. He made quite an effort after everything happened to still be around to to support my mom, to love on me and my my older brother to spend time with us. And I actually visited him this past summer on my way down to North Carolina.

They live in Nashville, Tennessee. And so I spent time about five hours that first night there just kind of hearing stories about my dad, hearing kind of what went down on site of the incident, which was kind of a huge moment because I hadn't heard those things for a long time and not for bad reason. I mean, I just had never asked my mom. You don't really want to bring up those things unnecessarily. If I were her, I wouldn't really want to revisit that situation a ton.

So I wanted to be consider in that sense. And it wasn't of the utmost importance that I knew about some of those things. But my uncle didn't mind talking about it. So we talked through some of those things. And then he told me he had the actual original tape of the funeral.

There were a couple of funerals, actually, the L.A. City Fire Department did one and then Grace Community Church held another. One of the most impactful things about that video was watching my mom. Naturally, my eyes were just kind of directed towards her and just kind of seeing how she dealt with it. My mom is so sweet and so emotional to in both the highs and the lows.

So she gets the most excited about our achievements and our accomplishments. But she cries very easily, too. So I was just expecting her to be in a pool of tears during this video. And I kid you not, the whole time I watched it, she wasn't crying once. She had her two sons with her and she had to be strong for them. Obviously, she wasn't pretending like nothing happened deep down. Her heart was being ripped out. There's a whole range of emotions from overwhelming support of all these people being here for the service and then the reality of her husband being dead.

And yet she stood there and welcomed all the hugs, welcomed all the love and the condolences from people around. There's one little clip where they cut in and it's close and she's holding my older brother, Luke, who's two at that time. And she's pointing out things on the fire truck like, hey, that's kind of cool. You see that?

Oh, I see the big fire truck. And it's just like here she is facing the biggest moment of her life, the biggest tragedy of her life right in the face. And she's raising her son at the same time and knows that that's going to be the next, you know, rest of her life is doing that regardless of what happens. And she was strong in that. And she's continued to be strong. Even if she's emotional, she doesn't crack. You know, she has been joyful all throughout our upbringing, even when a lot of it wasn't joyful. So, yeah, even talking to her, I talked to her today because yesterday was the anniversary, 24 year anniversary. So I was talking to her today and I told her people always ask me how I process through that situation.

Like, how can I pray for you? What's difficult about it? And that's understandable. But the reality is there's not much grief in it.

You know, obviously in that time and at the moment there was, I was too young to really experience that. The only emotion that I feel is just being overwhelmed, seeing the Lord's kindness and providing through all of that. And she said that's exactly how she feels, which says a lot because she was the one that, you know, bore the brunt of what happened. And yet today, you know, 24 years later, she's saying, yeah, it's not sad. It's only like incredible what's happened.

There's so much redemption in the midst of all of it. Like if I were to plan that out from a third person perspective, I'd be like, they have a happy life as a family. Nothing bad happens to them. Okay. That's cool. That's great. That would be a good situation.

And then the Lord says, no, I'm going to take the husband out of the picture. And you're going, what in the world? That's not only a bad idea. That's the worst possible idea.

Like that's complete opposite. What are you thinking? And then he goes, but through that, I'm going to save his brother. And then through that, I'm going to provide another dad for this family. They're going to get more people to their family. And those, that whole family will know me as a result and praise me. And then they're going to tell this story to hundreds of thousands of people in the future. And those people will know the story now.

Yeah. Your whole thing with the family being happy and complete and everything that's special, but this is something different. He can redeem those things that are broken way better than we could ever picture it. And a terrific job, a beautiful job on the production by Faith and a special thanks to Caleb Bailey for sharing his story. And my goodness, his mother comes off as one heck of a star. She lost a breadwinner, lost the father of two sons, lost her soulmate and had to figure out life.

He said she could have given up, but she didn't. Caleb Bailey's story, his family's story here on Our American Story. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

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Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.

Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue with our American stories and up next, a story from John Elfner. He's a high school history teacher in Illinois who wants to introduce us to an incredibly special American car carrying on a celebrated tradition.

Here's John. That's the unmistakable sound of American V8 muscle that revs the hearts of the young and old alike. For some, the feeling has been with them since childhood, but for a lot of Americans, the thrill of high RPM V8s is new. And the introduction came from many with the Hollywood hit film Ford vs Ferrari. That movie tells the story of how in the mid 1960s Ford Motor Company decided to get into racing with one goal, beat Ferrari, the Goliath of endurance racing. In 1964, Ford set a goal of beating Ferrari in the most famous endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It took a few tries, but after three years of racing with the Ford GT, Ford did win and they would continue to win, beating Ferrari for the next three years at Le Mans.

And how did they do it? They built a supercar called the Ford GT 40. In 2003, Ford decided to take on Ferrari a second time, building an updated version of the same car, but this one would be available for the public. Here's Bill Ford Jr, chairman of the Ford Motor Company announcing the return of the Ford GT at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the return of the GT 40. Ford had decided to build a show car for the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. The thing was an absolute hit.

It was really a hit. That's Neil Ressler, and at Ford, he's a legend. He's worked with Ford Performance Cars since the 60s, holding just about any job you can think of at the company that involves cars going fast. Neil became a vice president at Ford in 1994, and then he retired in 2001, but he continued to do work with Ford on special projects. And one day while at the Ford headquarters, he bumped into Bill Ford Jr.

I felt some hands on my shoulder and I looked up and it was Bill Ford Jr, who was the chairman at the time. And he said, so we got this show car in the Detroit show that's going on right now. It's just taken the show by storm. People say I should put it in production. I don't even know if I should.

You might be thinking, why was that even a question? But the thing about a show car is they aren't really road ready. The show car was really a three dimensional picture.

It made a lot of noise, but you wouldn't have driven it more than five miles an hour. It looked great, but it wasn't a car. Bill Ford Jr. could think of a lot of reasons to not put the Ford GT into production.

This project would be expensive and the project might fail. Furthermore, the Ford Motor Company wasn't known for these kinds of projects. People thought of Ford and they thought reliability, nicely built trucks, a little bit sporty Mustang, but the Ford GT was something entirely different. In spite of that, Ford had one very big reason to build this car.

They were about to celebrate an anniversary. Finally tonight here, made in America, the Ford factory celebrating its 100th birthday. Celebrating 100 years at Ford's Rouge factory means looking at the past while keeping your eyes on the future.

Looking at the past while keeping your eyes on the future. That's what the Ford GT project was all about. And that's why Bill Ford decided to go ahead with production of the Ford GT. And according to Neil Ressler, there was another reason Ford needed a project like this.

We needed, uh, we need something to talk about. We were a little bit light on a product at the time. Building a modern version of the Ford GT 40 was a chance to rebrand the image of the company or as insiders at Ford would say, polish the blue oval.

It had captured the imagination, both of the magazines and the newspapers and the prospective buyers. So Ford made a lot of it, but, uh, it came at a time when we needed to have something made of it. Bill Ford Jr asked Neil Ressler to come back to Ford for one more project and Neil's specialty was racing and finishing this car in time for the Centennial celebration.

It was going to be a race. We had to have a finished car in June of 2003 because that was going to be the Ford Centennial celebration, which was a major blowout. The Ford Centennial was going to be huge. Ford knew the event was an opportunity to highlight how Ford motor company had been a consistent thread in the fabric of 20th century America. During that century, Ford had invented the consumer car in the form of the model T. Then during world war II, they quit making cars and built airplanes, tanks, and Jeeps, which were vital to winning the war. After the war, Ford re-imagined the sports car for the post-war generation. As a result, Americans not only drove their car to work, but in a Ford Mustang, they look cool doing it. And of course they dominated endurance racing in the 1960s with the Ford GT 40. In each of these cases, Ford had attempted a moonshot, something that seemed nearly impossible.

And in each case they'd succeeded. The reissue of the Ford GT in 2003 was a chance to do that again and remind people that the Ford Motor Company was woven into the fabric of America. But building three production level cars before this event, well, that was going to be tough.

16 months. That's the amount of time the team had to build a car, basically from scratch. We had less than two years from the start to get the finished cars ready.

It designed, developed, test, developed a supply base, get a factory up. We didn't have a car. We didn't have a location. We didn't have a team. We didn't have any suppliers lined up. We didn't have anything.

All we had was a dream. Given his background in racing, Neil knew exactly what he would need on this team to make it work. We would obviously have to form a very small core team. And I was interested in having guys, but who had been involved in motor racing. And the reason for that is that if you're an engineer in motor racing, and most of all, you're concerned with timing and there's never enough time in racing, because as the old saying goes, the race starts.

The only question is whether you're there. So Neil started to assemble a team made up of a lot of people who came out of professional racing. Primarily, I would always tell people, what I do is help make the cars go faster through the corners. That's the voice of Scott Allman. He was one of the first engineers that Neil chose to help build the car. And Scott was the profile of the kind of person Neil wanted on his team. He was in my motorsports department.

He had spent, I think, two years with Bobby Rahal's team down in Ohio. Rahal was very impressed with Scott, as I was too. My vehicle dynamics role at Team Rahal was to help figure out the best setup for our lead drivers at some of the fastest racetracks in the world. Neil asked Scott to be part of the design team. For Scott, there were a lot of good reasons to take this job. The GT40 was Scott's favorite car. He loved this car so much that before the program started, the Ford GT40 was his screensaver. And don't tell anybody this, but all of Scott's passwords included GT40 in some way. But despite his love for the GT, Scott knew this was going to be nearly impossible.

The normal program would be like three years with almost three times the amount of people versus our 14 months with one-third of the people. The pressure on the design team was going to be immense. And the challenges of finishing this car in time, well, they were real. Despite these problems, Scott really wanted to work on this car.

And that car, actually, just the style of the car, the beauty of the car was my favorite car in the world. But it wasn't going to be easy. We obviously only had time for one pass. You had to design it and develop it, and you didn't have time to fix anything. It was going to be what it was. And when he was introduced to a guy named John Coletti, the director of engineering, he told Scott the score. He said to me, he said, well, we have no time, no budget, no people, no choice.

Welcome to the team, Allman. All of that was absolutely right on. And timing wasn't the only problem. At the beginning, all we had was the body.

Anything underneath was not done. We had to start from scratch. In the early days of the program, Scott didn't think this job could get done.

Even with my experience of working 70 to 100 hours a week, deadlines every single week in racing, in IndyCar and then in NASCAR, this seemed really insurmountable, impossible. But Ford didn't see it that way. The eyes of the company were on us. And they were expecting us to succeed. And failure is just not going to work. And you've been listening to this story of the making of the updated version of the Ford GT, celebrating, of course, not just the 100th anniversary of Ford itself, but remembering the remarkable feat of producing one of the great race cars of all time, the Ford GT40.

When we come back, the story of the Ford GT 2.0 continues. Making millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.

And I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious. And there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done.

I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.

Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we're back with our American stories and we're continuing with the story of the Ford GT and its reincarnation. Here again is Jon Helfner. The Ford Motor Company had its 100th anniversary coming up in July of 2003. And to mark the occasion they wanted to do the impossible. They wanted to build a supercar in the image of the Ford GT40 that beat Ferrari in the 1960s Le Mans races. And they didn't just want this car to look good. They wanted this car to beat Ferrari just like they had 30 years earlier.

Here again is Neil Ressler, the project's director. We picked as our image cars a Ferrari 360. After nearly 30 years, Ford was going to take on Ferrari again, this time selling a supercar. But beating Ferrari, the makers of the best supercars in the world, was no guarantee. Given the extraordinary time pressures that were placed on this team, this project was different than anything Ford had done before, at least since 1963. And Neil's decision to pick people who'd been involved in professional racing was essential to completing this project.

Here again is Scott Allman, one of the chief engineers on the project. What we would say in racing is you have to unload fast. Basically the car has to be fast as soon as we unload because we have so little time before we race. It was the same kind of mentality, the same mindset, the same importance on the Ford GT program because we didn't have time to iterate. We had to get it right the first time. And according to Scott, a lot of people within Ford didn't even think this project would be a success. So they backed away. I mean, there was almost no one who thought that we would achieve the performance at the cost we were supposed to achieve it at and within the timing. The short amount of time was certainly a challenge, but it also created an unexpected opportunity for the team.

Executives not directly attached to the program begin to back off and the team got an enormous amount of room to operate in the way that they wanted. So beyond just not having to have meetings for meetings, we didn't have all this tracking and checking that would go on typically at Ford and everybody trying to understand your status of every element of design, every part of the timeline, we didn't have this tracking and checking. That allowed the team to operate more like a racing team. The Ford Centennial in June of 2003 was our race day. We had to have three production level cars ready for the Centennial. By viewing the Ford Centennial as a race day, all these engineers with racing experience really became comfortable with the process. No, there wasn't going to be any real race, but they saw the Ford Centennial as the starting line. When you do racing, you can't show up late.

That's Mark McGowan and he was the test driver for the program. It's like you have to get it done and show up at the start line. Nobody's going to wait for you.

If you can't make it, they're going to leave without you. And Neil Ressler felt the same way. We were only going to have time for one design iteration. There was definitely not going to be time to go back and fix things. So they had to work the first time. And that meant there would be plenty of long nights in this program. So my first all-nighter on the program was two weeks in.

I think he was working on the tire design. We all went home, you know, seven o'clock at night, head home. Of course, we come back in at seven in the morning and there's still Scott, because Scott needs to get this thing done.

I'd spent an all-nighter and I was wearing the same clothes the next morning when my manager came in and he looked at me, he did a double-take and he's like, did you stay here all night? And I said, yeah. And he said, we're not doing that on this program.

And I said, what choice do we have? And that became the mentality of the 30-person team. They worked for the next 14 months getting that car ready quickly. And out of that, the team developed the motto, no churning.

No churning came from our director, John Colletti. And really it was an important aspect of the program that once a decision was made and pretty much every decision was big on the Ford GT, but once a decision was made, it was not revisited unless there was really a major issue. It was like racing. We had race day.

We couldn't push back that deadline. Because Neil Ressler had put together a team that was used to the pressures of a deadline, they did get their cars built. And in a few months, the first prototype was ready to test drive. Fortunately, our first drive by our ride and handling development guys and the first prototypes, they're really quite happy with how the car behaved. Right out of the box, this car was an eye-opener. It doesn't take long to realize that this car is going to be good. Making the car an extension of the driver was the goal. You knew the car was so good because you didn't think about it. The car would just go where your mind put it. And it was like your brain was hardwired to the vehicle. It just did what your brain said to do. And it was so effortless. They were just excited about the car and it was just, it was so different than what they had experienced before our first level prototypes. After one lap, we knew this was going to be really a good car.

It didn't have any problems, nothing. It just worked. It's just so rewarding. It's actually intoxicating. It's almost like a drug. It exceeded what they had experienced in the past by far.

This thing is going to be something and it's going to be something very special. First drive was a huge success, but later the team needed to push this car to its limits. That's why they went to Italy's Nardo Ring. I really was insisting that the top speed start with a two. I wasn't interested in anything that was going to go 199. We had to have something that would go over 200.

We couldn't do that anywhere in America. The only place we could go was Nardo. I think it's something like an eight mile oval or something. The Nardo Ring is a famous test track in Italy designed for high speed testing. Speed records of all sorts have been achieved at Nardo and Neil knew the team could push the Ford GT to its limits there. It was flat foot the whole time. Here again is test driver Mark McGowan and he was going to drive the Ford GT to its limits. The first time we ever got one of these cars over 205 miles an hour was in Italy at a track called Nardo. I can still hear the distinctive tink of the accelerator pedal hitting the aluminum floor and just sitting there for four laps, never lifting.

And that's a little mind blowing. It's like, I haven't lifted and I've been on the floor for 15 minutes now. And of course after 15 minutes you're out of gasoline. You go through 18 gallons of gas in 16 minutes, by the way. The testing at the Nardo Ring was an extraordinary success. McGowan drove that car around the eight mile ring at 212 miles an hour. The team knew what they had in the Ford GT and they were excited to get some of the automotive magazines to review the car.

We're pretty much at the end of the program. We're at a track on the Western Michigan called Gingerman. Car and driver was invited to come out and drive the car. After all that work, production and testing, the day of reckoning had arrived. They show up with a Ferrari 360 Stradaglia.

Hold on a second. The Stradaglia was the race version of the 360 Modena. This wasn't the car that they were trying to beat. This was the much faster car that Ferrari produced. That car was specifically meant for running at the racetrack.

For 14 months, all of the targets had been based on the Modena, not the Stradaglia. So how would the Ford GT compare to the Stradaglia? We didn't know. We didn't have one of those to compare against.

And so we, you know, we weren't sure. But they tested it anyway against the Ford GT. And what did car and driver and motor trend and road and track have to say? First place Ford GT.

It wasn't even a contest. If we had wanted to make this a real challenge, we would have had to go way up the supercar price ladder. The GT narrowly edged the Ferrari in the lane change and track lapping test. Two second per lap advantage over a Ferrari. Far more downforce than the Ferrari Modena. Much easier to drive hard than the Ferrari 360.

The Ford was the quickest in a straight line in every measured test. Ferrari 360 Modena, a wonderful car that the GT should be able to leave in its dust. The turn of the Ferrari Slayer. Ford GT passed its test with flying colors. It had beaten Ferrari.

There was still one thing waiting for them. Race day, the Ford Centennial. Did they make it?

You bet they did. Ford was so excited about this car that they bought a Super Bowl commercial to brag about it. Introducing the Ford GT.

This is the one. The pace car for an entire company. In fact, Neil gave a speech to the entire team at the celebration just before the car was introduced.

They said, you know, I'm at the end of my career. For me, this will likely be the highlight of my career. But you guys, you will remember until the day you leave Ford and even after that. Being my dream car and this is all I wanted to do. It was an incredible program. See it from start to finish for sure. It was, I mean, there was a lot that kept me there.

What other job would anybody else want? It was the car to work on. It was definitely a pinnacle. It was the highlight of my career. As far as I can tell, everyone who was on the program regards it as the highlight of their career.

And I regard it that way myself. They'd done it. They delivered a car to the starting line for the Ford Centennial celebration.

They'd beaten Ferrari. And by treating the project like a race team, they didn't just recast history. They ended up creating a modern day classic that became for Ford Motor Company, a pace car for a new generation. And a special thanks to John Elfner for digging in on that story. And it's a classic, an American classic. And my goodness, we got to hear from test driver Mark McGowan, Scott Allman and Neil Ressler, legends in the business. A great American car story.

The second version of the Ford GT, the updated version, the improved version. That story here on our American story. Making millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th.

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What up, it's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on L.A. TV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in. Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-15 14:41:19 / 2023-02-15 14:58:39 / 17

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