The 2019 film ‘Ford V Ferrari’ portrayed the historical competition between the two companies, also touching upon the death of Ford’s racing driver, Ken Miles. But, while it outlined the incident, the film didn’t delve into the speculations surrounding his death.
‘Ford V Ferrari’ showed the J Ford car going out of control due to a brake failure while Miles was testing it at the California Riverside International Raceway during the 1966 Le Mans while a part of the racer’s death statement read:
“The car went off the track at the easiest curve to negotiate, a spokesman said, which drew speculation that the accident may have been caused by a mechanical failure.”
‘Go Like Hell’ author A.J. Baime supported this claim by writing that ‘driver error was out of the question’ in Miles’ case. Revealing what happened after the car crash, he held a second party responsible as follows:
“Ford’s Aerospace division, Aeronutronic, was sending in a team to study the wreckage…Every piece of wreckage was examined as if it were a flight crash investigation. But the car was so severely destroyed by impact and fire nothing could be proven, and the Ford Motor Company had its image to uphold…In the end, all the evidence proved inconclusive. To this day, the cause of the accident that killed Ken Miles has never been determined.”
Years later, an article from Car And Driver presented a different angle. It mentioned retired cop Fred Jones’ claims that Miles survived the accident and settled in Wisconsin.
Jones explained that Ford paid their driver to disappear and pretend to be dead after the failed test as they didn’t want ‘a badly injured survivor from their car crashes to be in public.’
On the other hand, according to the article, Carroll Shelby’s assistant, Phil Remington, told the retired officer that Miles was killed in the 1966 accident. So, the specifics of the racer’s death remained unclear throughout the years.
Still, the incident led Ford to redesign the J-car and name it GT40 MK, with additions for driver’s safety.