Henry Ford Museum's Racing In America Collection Featured in Ford Display At 2011 SEMA Show


DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 28, 2011 — When Ford Motor Company decided the theme of its 2011 SEMA Show display was going to be centered on the 110th Anniversary of Ford Racing, it turned to a trusted source to help find some of the most significant race cars in Ford history – The Henry Ford.

Four very significant race cars in Henry Ford Museum’s Racing in America collection will trek west for a rare appearance during the week-long automotive aftermarket business show:

The car that started the Ford Racing program – the 1901 “Sweepstakes” race car driven by Henry Ford
Jim Clark’s 1965 Indianapolis 500 winning Lotus-Ford 38/1
Bill Elliott’s NASCAR qualifying speed-record Ford Thunderbird
The 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans winning GT40 MK IV driven by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt

“We’re thrilled to be able to provide Ford Motor Company with these four very special race cars for the SEMA Show,” said Christian Overland, executive vice president, The Henry Ford.

“Although we don’t show most of these vehicles outside of Dearborn very often, we felt the chance to let the thousands of attendees at SEMA see these cars and understand the significant role they played in the history of racing here in America was too good to pass up.

“Each of these four race cars played a prominent role in Ford Motor Company’s race program.  But they also were race cars that were paradigm changers in the sport, which is why they are so important to our collection.”

The four race cars will be part of a specially-constructed exhibition at the center wall of Ford’s SEMA display, joining current race cars and a variety of performance Ford vehicles.

Background on the four vehicles from Henry Ford Museum:

Henry Ford’s 1901 Sweepstakes Race Car
Known as the car that won “the race that changed everything,” the original 1901 Sweepstakes race car is making a rare appearance outside of the Museum.   Henry Ford and three associates hand-built the race car in 1901, and Mr. Ford himself drove the car to a stunning upset of Alexander Winton – the greatest racer in America at the time – in a 10-mile race in Grosse Pointe, Mich.    The victory allowed Ford to find the investors who helped him start the Henry Ford Company, and then the Ford Motor Company in June, 1903.    It was the one and only race Ford ever drove.  He hired professional drivers from then on.

Sweepstakes is an ash-wood frame, reinforced with steel plates.  It has 28-inch wheels fitted with an early form of tubeless tires.   The engine is two cylinders, with a total displacement of 539 cubic inches that generated just 26 horsepower, but the car was clocked at 72 mph in testing.

The induction system, then called a “vaporizer,” is a rudimentary form of mechanical fuel injection, and the ignition system is a forerunner of today’s distributor-less coil-on plug system.

Jim Clark’s 1965 Indianapolis 500 winning Lotus-Ford 38/1
Jim Clark’s 1965 victory was significant because it was the first Indianapolis 500 win for Ford Motor Company, and also the first win for a rear-engine race car at Indy.    A front-engine car never won again in the 500-mile race.    Dan Gurney put Colin Chapman of Lotus together with Ford for this project, and Ford did a special double overhead cam, 90 degree, V8 engine for the car.  Firestone also did a special tire for the car that year that lasted the entire 500 miles.
The 1965 race also saw Ford bring NASCAR’s Wood Brothers Racing team in to pit for Clark, and the team stunned the sport with lightning quick fuel stops during the event.

1967 24 Hours of Le Mans winning GT40 MK IV
This car scored Ford’s second consecutive (of four) wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967, but it was significant since it was the first time (and still only time) an all-American built car driven by American drivers had won the event.    Powered by a 7-liter, 500-horsepower Ford engine, this car – driven by American racing legends A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney – beat the second-place Ferrari team by 32 miles. 

Gurney celebrated the victory at Le Mans by showering the media and crowd with champagne, a tradition that continues to victory podiums today.

Bill Elliott’s NASCAR Speed Record 1987 Ford Thunderbird
From 1985-1988, Bill Ellliott was the fastest driver in NASCAR, and his Melling Racing team was dominant on the sport’s superspeedways.  In 1987, Elliott kicked off the season at Daytona International Speedway by setting the NASCAR qualifying speed record with an average speed of 210.364 miles per hour. In this car, he broke his own qualifying  record at Talladega in April with an average speed of 212.809 miles per hour; the previous record he set in 1986 was 209.383 miles per hour.   It will be a record that likely will never be broken since a crash during that weekend caused NASCAR to put restrictor plates on the cars’ engines.

Elliott went on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship in 1988 and became one of the most successful drivers in the sport’s history.

For more information on The Henry Ford’s Racing in America proposed exhibition, please visit www.racinginamerica.com.