A significant facet of the modern competition world is the part that Ford seems likely to play in almost every field of motoring sport in the near future. In America and Britain, Ford motor-cars (or should I write motoring cars?) are being built with many aspects of motoring sport in mind.
This is right and proper, because although the name of Ford is associated primarily with providing the peoples of the World with basic transport and the legendary Henry Ford I remains the greatest exponent of mass-production ever to set an assembly line in motion (more than 15-million model-T Fords, in the empirical years, autumn 1908 to May 1927), he was also a constructor of racing cars.
His initial essay was a 26-h.p. 2-cylinder with which he beat a 40-h.p. Winton late in 1901. This publicity ensured a resumption of interest amongst financial backers and, again established as an automobile manufacturer, Ford built two big racing cars, with 70-h.p. 4-cylinder engines of 7-in. bore, known as “999” and “Arrow.” The former, with its two-handled steering tiller, was entrusted to OldfeId, and vanquished the celebrated Winton again, in 1902.
Driving himself, Henry Ford covered a mile over frozen Lake St. Clair near New Baltimore, Michigan, in 39.4 sec., a speed of 91.37 m.p.h. The affair must have been dramatic in the extreme, because we are told that after the snow had been cleared for four miles to make a course, cinders had to be strewn on the ice to provide wheelgrip and that so furiously did “999,” which was virtually a bare chassis without clutch or gears, vibrate that a mechanic had to ride on the bonnet to hold the throttle open—all in the best American tradition. The date of this run is variously given as 1903 and January 1904, and it bettered Duray’s kilometre record on a Gobron-Brillié by 6.64 m.p.h., but was unrecognised in Europe. What is perhaps or greater importance, it is said that Ford’s motor-racing exploits led to his discovery that France was using vanadium steel for her competition cars, and it was to the use of this steel that the immortal model-‘T’ owed much of its reputation of indestructibility.
After 1904 Ford forsook racing for big business. But after the 1914/18 War the improbable model-T began to appear in very considerable numbers on American race tracks, modified to a degree and invariably using Chevrolet Frontenac cylinder heads.* The ultimate of the Frontenac head was the type DO with sixteen valves actuated by twin o.h. camshafts. Through the kind co-operation of Mr. Alfred Moss, Stirling’s father, I am able to illustrate one of these twin-cam engines which he used in a single-seater Barber-Warnock Fronty Ford which he drove without disgrace in the 1924 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race; after qualifying at 85.27 m.p.h. So anyone who hails the new Harry Mundy-designed, Cosworth-developed, Cheshont-assembled Lotus-Ford Classic Cortina 105-b.h.p. engine as the first Ford twin o.h.c, power unit is at least 39 years behind the times….
Although Fronty Fords had no association with the Ford Motor Company, by 1935 they built some special V8 racing engines for use in Miller f.w.d. Indianapolis cars; provided their name was not associated with those cars. They then let up on this stipulation, became interested and allowed the famous V8 motif to appear on the Millers. All four retired, but with chassis, not engine, failures, it was said.
With the advent of the 30-h.p. Ford V8 engine in the ‘thirties trials competitors in this country found an ideal power plant, which figured in the “Jabberwock” team, in various L.M.B. Fords and numerous one-off “specials,” and in the original Allards, with one of which Sydney Allard won a 100-Mile Race on Southport sands. It was the very potency of such Ford-powered trials cars that led me to create the 750 M.C., to give the little fellows a chance in mud-plugging events, and from this developed, after World War Two, the 750 and 1172 racing formulae, the latter centred expressly round the side-valve Ford Ten power unit.
Since the war we have seen the domination of Formula Junior racing by Ford engines, particularly in Team Lotus cars, in which the production Ford 105E engine developing 40 b.hp. in the Ford Anglia saloon has been extended to give around 100 b.h.p. for racing purposes. Then there is the aforesaid twin-cam Lotus-Ford Cortina—an outwardly innocent saloon able to do some 92 in 3rd and 115 m.p.h. in top gear—how delightfully ridiculous!—of which a team, sponsored by Colin Chapman, will appear in saloon-car races this season as well as being used in Lotus sports/racing cars, and which will probably take its place with the Anglia, Cortina and Zephyr Ford rally cars entered by the Dagenham factory and prepared at Lincoln Cars at Brentford by Jack Welsh, with Syd Henson as Team Manager. So far Ford of Dagenham have failed to achieve greatness in the rally world but this may come to them in the near future.
In the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally we saw a team of 4.5-litre V8 Ford Falcon Futura Sprints establish fastest time over the five special stages between Chambéry and the finish, these cars having been prepared at considerable expense and elaborately attended by support cars round the route, Anne Hall being one of the drivers. Ford of Detroit are apparently entering at least three more major rallies this year.
In America Ford have been achieving notable speeds in stock-car contests after renouncing the Trade ban on racing—these cars finishing in the first five places ahead of the Pontiacs in the Daytona 500, the winning Ford averaging 151.6 m.p.h., seemingly to the acute discomfort of General Motors. Team Lotus have entered Ford-powered cars for the forthcoming Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, using all-aluminium Ford V8 engines developing 370 b.h.p. on petrol. Known as the Lotus 29, these Indianapolis cars are of similar layout and monocoque construction to the successful Lotus 25 F.1 car. One Lotus may, in fact, run in the race with a Ford o.h.c. V8 power unit. And it would not surprise me if one day Colin Chapman got Ford to make him a Grand Prix engine. . . .
In a recent speech at Monte Carlo, where Ford of America introduced their Futura Sprint and other models, Benson Ford, grandson of Henry Ford I, after recalling the “miracles” perfirmed by the old “999,” said: ” Most obviously, racing is stimulating interest, concern, even passion for automobiles within the general public. We Americans are beginning once again to hearken to the deep, full-throated music of a fine-tuned engine pouring it on, the whine of the gearbox, the squeal of hot rubber on asphalt. We are looking under the hoods and under the sheet metal and demanding more and more the attributes of the great coursing cars of Europe. The race track and road rally are the test grounds of a new era. Here are being created improved engines, drive trains, suspension systems—all the components that will add up to a vastly improved breed of automobiles. Such automobiles will be capable of being driven with safety and security at much higher average speeds than are normal today.
“Unfortunately, in our efforts to further highway safety, we have singled out speed as a villain, even though all past experience tells we must and will have more speed, not less. We know that speed is not really the villain, that the jet pilot today, flying at the speed of sound with only human reflexes, is far safer than were the Wright brothers at Kittyhawk. The problem is not to reduce speed, but to make greater safe speed possible”—obvious confirmation that Ford of America believe firmly that racing improves ordinary cars.
Further “writing on the wall” was seen when Ford supplied Shelby with an aluminium engine for his A.C. Cobra project, when Dearborn designed the revolutionary front-drive V4 Taunus 12M for Cologne production and built the Lotus-like Mustang rear-engined experimental sports car round this V4 unit, and was obviously watching closely the 4.75-litre V8 Fords that ran in the G.T. class at the Nassau races, and in the fact that Joe Schlessor has bought a couple of F.J. Brabham-Fords which will receive benevolent treatment from Ford of France this year. The motor racing world may well pose the question: What is Ford up to? The answer, it would seem, is that in the immediate future Ford International intends to take a prominent part in all the aspects of motoring sport that matter.—W. B.
*Motor Sport, March and April 1942