The John Clark Racing Photographs collection at The Henry Ford is made up of 35mm color slides taken by John Clark between 1994 and 2000, and covers a number of types of racing, including Indy cars, stock cars, off-road trucks, and motocross motorcycles. Digital Processing Archivist Janice Unger updated and published the finding aid for this archival collection last year, and as part of that effort, selected some representative images from the collection for digitization. One particularly dramatic example is this photo of Rod Millen driving a Toyota Tacoma during the 1998 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. To see some of the other highlights from the John Clark collection, visit our collection website.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has rolled into Detroit to give us our annual look at the technologies and trends shaping the automotive industry. The two words that might sum up the 2015 show best are “power” and “performance.” On the former, nearly every manufacturer features some form of alternative fuel vehicle, while some – I’m looking at you, Tesla – offer nothing but. To the latter point, hot new cars from Cadillac, Ford and others promise old fashioned excitement behind the wheel.
Toyota wasn’t the first automaker to market with a hybrid car, but its Prius went on to define the type. The company hopes to do the same for fuel cell vehicles with its remarkable Mirai sedan. The car is powered by an electric motor, but the electricity itself is generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen that takes place in a fuel cell. The only emission from the car is water vapor. The Mirai is about as green as it gets but, while gas pumps and electrical outlets are a dime a dozen, hydrogen fueling stations are harder to come by outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Clearly, Toyota is betting on that to change. Interestingly, one of Toyota’s NAIAS displays includes a pair of faux hydrogen pumps. Visitors will be surprised and, Toyota must hope, reassured to see that they’re not much different from gasoline pumps.
George DeAngelis, a long-time Ford Motor Company employee and devoted student of Henry Ford and his automobiles, passed away on December 14, 2014. Mr. DeAngelis is remembered for his published works on the Ford Model A and the Ford V-8, as well as Henry Ford’s early 999 and Arrow race cars. Here at The Henry Ford, though, we especially remember him for a pair of three-dimensional contributions: his incredible 1963 and 1991 replicas of Henry Ford’s first car, the 1896 Quadricycle.
Regular visitors to Henry Ford Museum know that the Quadricycle – the original car built by Henry Ford himself – occupies a prominent place in our Driving America exhibit. While the original car was used frequently during Henry Ford’s life – indeed, he posed with it less than a year before he died – it was retired to Henry Ford Museum by 1963, the centennial of Henry Ford’s birth. DeAngelis set out to build a working replica for the celebration. DeAngelis had the perfect background for the task. He possessed the skills of a tool and die maker, but with the careful eye of an artist. He had a genuine love for antique automobiles, to boot.
There were no blueprints of the Quadricycle, so DeAngelis gathered every written description and photograph he could find. Of course, he also had the original Quadricycle as a pattern. The historic car sat in an enclosed display case, so DeAngelis estimated his initial measurements through the glass. Amazingly, when the original Quadricycle was removed for confirmation, DeAngelis found he had made only one error – and of just 5/8 of an inch!
What DeAngelis thought would be a one-winter project turned into three years of nights and weekends. He was able to source some of his parts from lawn mower catalogs, and some from antique shops, but most he made himself. While the replica stayed remarkably true to the original, DeAngelis made a few concessions to safety and reliability. Most notably, he gave his replica a brake – something Henry’s Quadricycle never had. The work was finished by June 4, 1963, when DeAngelis drove his replica along the same route Henry Ford took during the original Quadricycle’s first drive on June 4, 1896.
When the festivities ended, The Henry Ford purchased the replica from George DeAngelis. Over the years, the 1963 copy became a staple of our annual Old Car Festival, thrilling visitors each year as museum staff drove it through Greenfield Village. In a neat coda to the story, we commissioned DeAngelis to build a second Quadricycle replica nearly 30 years later. DeAngelis’s 1991 replica now sits in the reconstruction of Henry Ford’s Bagley Avenue shed in Greenfield Village.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
Dan Gurney possesses a wide-ranging curiosity and hands-on attitude that has resulted in a number of innovations including the downforce-increasing "Gurney flap." The only American to win a Formula One race in a car he built himself, Gurney also brought British race car builder Colin Chapman and Ford Motor Company together. The collaboration produced a Ford-powered Indy 500 winner in 1965. Chapman's Lotus chassis was the first rear engine car to the win the 500, and rear engine cars have won every race since. Although Gurney's California shop, All American Racers, no long produces Eagle race cars, they completed the prototype for the new Delta Wing race car in March 2012. In addition, Gurney continues to apply his talents and skills to the design and production of Alligator Motorcycles.
2014 Edison-Ford Medal Recipient
On October 29, 2014 Dan Gurney received the Edison-Ford Medal for Innovation in a ceremony at The Henry Ford, with Charlie Rose as Master of Ceremonies.
The prize honors individuals who fully leverage the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that resides in every one of us. Gurney's many accomplishments, first as a driver and later as a designer, builder and team owner, exemplify the character of American ingenuity.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
Maybe it creates a sense of legitimacy, maybe it’s a shrine to honor past heroes, or maybe it just provides a place for fans to congregate in the off-season. For whatever reason, every sport seeks to create its own Hall of Fame. Baseball devotees have Cooperstown, football followers have Canton, and, for NASCAR fans, there is Charlotte.
As Halls go, NASCAR’s is young. The building opened (and inducted its first honorees) in 2010 after a four-year site-selection and design process. While Daytona Beach and Atlanta were both considered, North Carolina – with its deep stock car racing roots and status as home to much of the present industry – was the clear favorite. I recently had a chance to visit the establishment.
We’re back from another great Car Week on California’s Monterey Peninsula. For those who don’t know, Monterey Car Week is arguably the world’s premier event for historic automobiles. Car owners and enthusiasts come in from around the globe for six days of driving tours, auto art shows, car auctions and races, all culminating with the incomparable Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on the shore of Carmel Bay. This year being the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, The Henry Ford’s one-of-a-kind 1962 Mustang I concept car was invited to participate in three of Monterey Car Week’s signature events.
The Dave Friedman collection at The Henry Ford is a massive collection of automobile racing–related images. About 4,300 of these are now available on our digital collections website. The latest additions are photos documenting Ford drag racing in the early 60s, including this image from the 1966 NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Nationals. Digital Processing Archivist and racing fan Brian Wilson notes that this particular image shows the “Brand Ford Special fielded by Lou Baney and driven by legendary Tom McEwen.” Visit our collection website to view more images from the 1966 NHRA Nationals, as well as images from the 1963 NHRA Winter Nationals, the 1965 Bristol Dragway, and the 1967 Riverside Drag Races. Or, browse through all of the Dave Friedman images in our online collections.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
Fifty years on, it’s almost impossible to imagine the American road without the Mustang. What would actor Steve McQueen have raced through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt? What would singer Wilson Pickett have regretted buying for “Mustang Sally?” What would the 11,000 members of the Mustang Club of America celebrate? The Mustang is more than a car. It’s an icon, an image and a lifestyle.
Of course, none of this was predicted when Henry Ford II unveiled the Mustang at Ford Motor Company’s pavilion at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. Ford was taking a chance with an unprecedented concept pitched at an untested market. How and why the company took that gamble is a fascinating story of vision, determination and luck.
While others might welcome the start of summer with the Memorial Day weekend, those of us in the Motor City know that the season begins when racing returns at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. The early-June event just completed a successful third year since its 2012 revival, and the drivers, venue and city all shined. Several races took place over the three days, giving fans a chance to see IndyCars, sports cars, and even Baja-style trucks compete on the 2.36-mile, 13-turn Belle Isle circuit.
The Cadillac V-Series Challenge, a part of the Pirelli World Challenge Series, pitted production-based cars against each other in two races. Fans saw some of Detroit’s best compete with foreign marques. The Grand Touring Sport class featured Camaros and Mustangs against Nissans, Kias, and Aston Martins. The Grand Touring class put Cadillacs against legendary names like Audi, Ferrari, Lambroghini, McLaren and Porsche. The “home” cars did well this year. Dean Martin won the GTS events in a Ford Mustang Boss 302S, while Johnny O’Connell took the GT events in a Cadillac CTS-V.R.
Can a car built in a vegetable stand be a national treasure? It can if it is packed with ingenious engineering ideas, set a world speed record, and embodies important national characteristics.
The long, low, slim car called Goldenrod is all these things, and is a national treasure.
Goldenrod was built by a pair of California hot rodders, brothers Bill and Bob Summers. For years they participated in the annual Speed Weeks competition at Utah’s vast Bonneville Salt Flats, where they went as fast as 323 miles per hour in a car they built themselves. In 1963 they decided to go after the absolute land speed record of 394.196 mph, set by John Cobb in 1947. Cobb was one of a succession of wealthy Englishmen who had held the record over the years, driving well-financed cars powered by huge airplane engines.
Before Bob and Bill could get started, another Englishman, Donald Campbell, broke Cobb’s record with a speed of 403.10 mph. In 1964 and 1965 other American hot rodders used cars powered by jet aircraft engines to push the record to over 600 mph. But many people, like the Summers brothers, thought using jet engines wasn’t quite fair—they believed that real cars were driven by friction between tires and the ground. So no jet engines for Bob and Bill.
The Summers brothers believed that the key to a successful car was minimizing the resistance of air flowing over the moving car--and that the best way to do this was to make the car as small as possible. To put it simply: it is easier to punch a small hole through the air than a large hole. After testing models in a California Institute of Technology wind tunnel, they designed a car lower and narrower than any land speed record contender in history—48 inches wide, 42 inches high at the top of the tail fin, and only 28 inches high at the engine covers. Into this slim space they packed a quartet of 426 cubic inch Chrysler “hemi” V8 engines and the machinery necessary to power all four wheels. At the extreme rear sat the driver, Bob Summers. It was an amazing feat of engineering, and was so logical and successful that it set the paradigm for future Bonneville streamliner racers. Over 40 years later, long and slim is still the way these cars are built.
Financing Goldenrod was as big a challenge as actually building it. As land speed record cars go, Goldenrod was an economy car. Its $250,000 cost was well below the $3,000,000 Donald Campbell needed to build the car whose record Goldenrod broke. But $250,000 was far more than the Summers brothers had. So they beat the bushes searching for companies who would help pay the costs in exchange for having their corporate name on the car. The turning point came when George Hurst, maker of specialty gear shifting mechanisms and forged wheels, agreed to be a sponsor. Firestone Tire & Rubber then signed on to make the special low profile tires and wheels needed to fit inside the narrow envelope of the body. Chrysler Corporation agreed to loan the brothers four “hemi” engines, while Mobil Oil provided fuel and funding.
Construction on Goldenrod began in January 1965 in a shop that had once been a vegetable stand. By August the machine was done, and in September the brothers were at Bonneville working out the bugs that were inevitable in a car this innovative and complex. After two months of testing and modification all was ready. On November 12, Bob Summers blasted down the Bonneville salt with a run of 417 mph. International rules required two runs, in opposite directions, within one hour. After the car was thoroughly inspected, he set off on his return run with only five minutes to spare. His second run was good enough for a two-way average of 409.277 mph.
The brothers had their record. It would stand for over 25 years.