Ken Miles has lingered in the fringes of motorsport history for decades, only recently being thrust into the spotlight due to the Ford vs. Ferrari film that profiled his role in Shelby American’s attempts at winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For anyone looking to see the real story unfold, I highly recommend Ken Miles: The Shelby American Years by Dave Friedman.
Now, I don’t recommend this book for anyone unfamiliar with Ken Miles or the story of Shelby American and their pursuit for a Le Mans victory. This is, above all, more of a coffee table book than anything else; it’s loaded with gorgeous photos that you’re going to want to spend all day poring over. There are captions and short paragraphs that help ground you in the action, so you really understand what you’re looking at — but you won’t get the full picture (no pun intended).
But it’s a gorgeous book. Friedman served as a photographer for Shelby American for years before later taking on the role of interviewing all the people he used to work with. As you can imagine, Friedman was thus very close to Miles and has, in this book, shed some light on what Miles was like behind closed doors.
So, not only do you have photos of Miles hard at work in the race shop, but you have rare photos of Miles waving to the camera when he passed Friedman, something that the man was apparently known for. There are gorgeous photos of Le Mans and Daytona in the middle of the night, just as there are images of Miles competing at Sebring, Laguna Seca, and Riverside in anything he could race.
I’m a person who loves her history, so while I did wish I could have had a deeper scoop into the life and times of Miles, I was more than happy to have over 200 pages of glossy photos to flip through. If you’re a motorsport history nerd like me, you’ll know just how hard it can be to find a collection of high-quality photos. That’s exactly what you’re getting here.
In terms of the text, I think the biggest surprise for me here were the admissions from team members about what happened at the end of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. There are poignant quotes from men like Carroll Shelby himself that lay it out in no uncertain terms: Miles won that race, and he was screwed over on a technicality. Friedman doesn’t believe anyone was really the villain in this situation (whereas Ford vs. Ferrari portrays Leo Beebe as a bit of an evil mastermind), but he also believes that Miles was robbed.
I won’t spoil that for you, because it’s one of the more fascinating parts of the book, and there’s a fair amount of space dedicated to it. You’ll just have to buy the book to find out.