A.J. Baime "Go Like Hell" Q&A

We discuss "Go Like Hell" with author A.J. Baime
Go Like Hell
With Le Mans weekend now in full swing, we decided to sit down with our friend, A.J. Baime, and discuss -- amongst other things -- fine caviar, contemporary military history, the pudding industry, seasonal allergies, neck tie fashion and the morality of pharmaceutical experimentation on animals. But mostly, we talked about Le Mans and Baime's new book, "Go Like Hell: Ford , Ferrari and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans".

Here is what transpired:

Q: In short, what is Go Like Hell about? 

A: It's about one of the greatest sports rivalries of all time, a rivalry for speed supremacy that pit two continents against each other. But what gives the story depth is the way it works on many levels. It's a business story - about the controversial ties between  the business of selling cars and the business of winning races in the 1960s. It's a cultural history - about the craze for speed, style and danger that swept across America and Europe during this era. And it's an action-adventure story--some of the most iconic athletes of the 20th century battling it out in the most beautiful racing cars ever built during a shockingly violent period in motorsport. Most of all, this book is about people.  

Q: Did you have any idea when you started that this story would be so topical now? 

A: I had no idea. I think the story of how an American car company built the fastest racing car on the planet in the 1960s to prove American cars were the best in the world is a story that will resonate big time today. What’s happening in Detroit is sad and fascinating. My book covers, essentially, the first chapter in the long story that’s now reached its climax: Detroit companies battling it out for market share during the age of globalism. In chapter 9, Henry Ford II says during a speech in 1963, Americans have grown accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the masters of the machine age. Fifteen years ago, such self-confidence was fully justified. Do we still have more to teach the world than it has to teach us?²  

Q: What compelled you to write Go Like Hell? 

A: I am fascinated by these characters. It seems unreal to me that they accomplished all that they did, risked so much, lived so high and, in many cases, died doing what they loved in front of massive audiences and countless cameras. The more I learned about these characters I was writing about--not just the racing drivers but the auto men of the day--the more humbled I was. They are true heroes.  

Q: What's new here? What are you saying in your book that hasn't been said before? 

A: No one has ever successfully written a book about cars and racing that can be easily enjoyed by someone who doesn't know a thing about cars and racing. My book accomplishes this. At the same time, reviewers who have studied this automotive era for decades have read the book and told me: they were shocked to learn so many things they didn't know.  

Q: How did you do your research?

A: For starters, I did dozens of interviews: Carroll Shelby, Lee Iacocca, Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Edsel Ford II (the son of Henry Ford II), Piero Ferrari (son of Enzo Ferrari), Lloyd Ruby, plus engineers, mechanics, PR men, executives, etc.. I conducted interviews in Italy, France, England, Los Angeles, Florida, plus countless others over the phone from my office in New York. On top of the interviews, I read everything ever written on the subject, and I saw every bit of footage, which in particular was a great source of dialog. In some cases, I took fast cars onto racetracks such as Daytona and Ford's Romeo test facility north of Detroit, to try to get further into the heads of the drivers during scenes that take place at these locales.  

Q: Any highlights during your research? 

A: My interview with Carroll Shelby. Afterwards, he drove me from his office in Gardena, California to the Long Beach airport. The guy can barely see, he's so old and half blind. But we were passing car after car on I-405 in a Mustang GT-H, which has ridiculous amounts of horsepower. We're talking about a guy who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans wearing chicken farmer overalls in 1959. Nearly 50 years later, he can't see much, but he can still drive. 

Q: What's new here? What are you saying in your book that hasn't been said before? 

A: No one has ever successfully written a book about cars and racing that can be easily enjoyed by someone who doesn't know a thing about cars and racing. My book accomplishes this. At the same time, reviewers who have studied this automotive era for decades have read the book and told me: they were shocked to learn many things they didn't know. Specifically, no one has ever written about this story with such a focus on the business side, why it happened in the first place, how Henry Ford II had a vision to create the first pan-European auto company in the 1960s, selling Ford cars from London to the border of Russia. How to prove his American cars were the best in the world and that Europeans should buy them? By winning Le Mans. There's a whole foundation to this story that I've never seen fully explored elsewhere. 



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