Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Return to Glory

The Story of Ford’s Revival and Victory at the Toughest Race in the World

by Matthew DeBord

Fifty years after Ford’s landmark victory at Le Mans, a veteran journalist chronicles the creation, racing, and triumph of a new Ford GT.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date June 06, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2650-4
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00

About The Book

In January 2015 at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford unveiled a new car and the automotive world lost its collective mind. This wasn’t some new Explorer or Focus. Onto the stage rolled a supercar, a carbon-fiber GT powered by a mid-mounted six-cylinder Ecoboost engine that churned out over 600 horsepower. It was sexy and jaw dropping, but, more than that, it was historic, a callback to the legendary Ford GT40 Mk IIs that stuck it to Ferrari and finished 1-2-3 at Le Mans in 1966. Detroit was back, and Ford was going back to Le Mans.

Journalist Matthew DeBord has been covering the auto industry for years, and in Return to Glory he tells the recent story of Ford. A decade ago, CEO Alan Mulally took over the iconic company and, thanks to a financial gamble and his “One Ford” plan, helped it weather the financial crisis and a stock price that plunged to $1 a share, without a government bailout. It was enough for the company to dream of repeating racing history. DeBord revisits the story of the 1960s, details the creation of the new GT, and follows the team through the racing season, from an inauspicious debut at Daytona where the cars kept breaking down, to glimmers of hope at Sebring and the team’s first victory at Laguna Seca in Monterey.

Finally, DeBord joins the Ford team in Le Mans in June 2016. This fabled twenty-four-hour endurance race is designed to break cars and drivers, and it was at Le Mans, fifty years after the company’s greatest triumph, that Ford’s comeback was put to the ultimate test.


“What a great book! It’s the first time I actually enjoyed a car book all the way through. [DeBord] managed to combine racing with great historical insights about the consumer car industry, and why racing and the consumer car industry [are] connected . . . I truly enjoyed this book . . . Amazing writing, captivating, educational, but in a new cool way. I stopped reading books for awhile, but this book wants me to start again. It’s the exact right length too.” —Henrik Fisker, founder and CEO Fisker Inc. and founder of VLF Automotive

“Whether you’re a car-lover or not, Matt DeBord’s Return to Glory is a fun, lively read–and also a powerful story of American ingenuity and innovation. It couldn’t come at a more timely moment.” —Sheelah Kolhatkar, staff writer at the New Yorker and author of Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Waned Man on Wall Street

“Matthew DeBord’s book is the indispensable record of the Ford’s return to Le Mans and victory. A great story deserves a great storyteller.” —Dan Neil, automotive columnist at the Wall Street Journal

“This is more than a story of a Le Mans win. It’s a fast-paced lesson in Detroit’s history over the last decade, the mortgage crisis, the market collapse, and Allan Mulally’s brilliant leadership. The well-documented path to the GT’s brilliant Le Mans win is fascinating, and properly viewed as a fitting symbol of Ford’s, and Detroit’s, return to success. A great story, well told.” —Bob Lutz, former vice-chairman of General Motors


Only 500 GTs for the road and four for the track would be built, with two racing in North America and two in Europe. The car would be exceptionally rare, and that low production number, along with the steep price tag, signaled that although Ford was creating the race cars and road cars at the same time, the GT was first and foremost a competitive machine, committed to race in both the United States and Europe until 2019. Every other vehicle that it would race against in 2016 would be built (in some cases had been built) in far greater numbers for the road and would not be so strictly limited in terms of total production.

Interestingly, although the new GT was created under these unusual conditions, it wasn’t a fraught or difficult process. Under the circumstances, this was remarkable.

Moray Callum, who heads up design at Ford, said, “It was less of a challenge than designing, say, the next-generation Fiesta”—a small Ford vehicle I had checked out in Irvine several years before.

An inexpensive mass-market car like that has to be designed and built to a price point, engineered for the production of hundreds of thousands of units in many different countries. When designing such a vehicle, you’re always deciding what not to do.

The GT was different. “We tried to stretch the limits as much as possible,” Callum said.