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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Posts Tagged racing in america

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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.

Racing In America

Wheels, Women and Song

March 9, 2015

The 1962 Ford Thunderbird, the perfect car for a young woman in search of “fun, fun, fun.” (Object ID: P.833.122703.226)

Late last year, I was invited to present to students at Wayne State University in Detroit. Their seminar, “Women Who Motor,” examined the many connections between American women and the automobile industry, whether as the producers who design and build cars, or as the consumers who buy and drive them. The class also studied depictions of women and their autos in popular culture, from literature, to film, to music. That’s where I came in – with a look at the relationship between women and automobiles in popular song.

It’s no great revelation that the automobile is fertile inspiration for pop music. The car is a rolling metaphor for social status, wealth, style and any of a hundred other things. Sing about someone in a Cadillac, and you paint a picture of an affluent sophisticate; sing about someone in a Chevrolet, and you describe someone more down-to-earth or – if that Chevy is old and tired – someone down on her luck. In other words, the car is a spectacular lyrical shortcut. (And I’ve said nothing about the car as a metaphor for romantic activities… but I will.) In sharing some examples with the students, I broke female-focused car songs into three general groups: 1.) those about using the car to attract a mate, 2.) those about the car as a setting for romance, and 3.) those about women behind the wheel. Continue Reading

Racing In America

Buick's 2016 Cascada convertible, one of the many new cars vying for attention at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

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’s innovative Mirai. Powered by hydrogen fuel cells, its only tailpipe emission is water vapor.

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. Continue Reading

Racing In America

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about The Henry Ford is that we are “a car museum.” Certainly, automobiles and related material form one of our core strengths, but our collections also cover the entire breadth of American history.  Our ongoing project to digitize our collection and make it available online really demonstrates both sides of this coin: our vast and deep collections covering autos and auto racing, and then the wide breadth of other material documenting the American experience.

In that vein, instead of doing a typical “year in review” post for our digitization efforts in 2014, I played around with our collections database and came up with some interesting facts and figures about the portions of our collection that we digitized over the last year.  I hope you’ll agree that the details below reveal the deep strengths of our collections, as well as their breadth—and that they encourage you to spend some time browsing our digital collections as well! Continue Reading

Racing In America

George DeAngelis sits at the tiller of his Quadricycle replica in 1963. He’s on Detroit’s Bagley Avenue, where Henry Ford built the original car in 1896.

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.

George DeAngelis rides in his 1963 Quadricycle replica at Old Car Festival in 2012.

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.

Racing In America

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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.

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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.

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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.

Racing In America

The magnificent Great Hall, which welcomes visitors to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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. Continue Reading

Racing In America

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Back in June, we announced the digitization of selections from our collection of slot cars, model race cars most popular in the 1960s and 1970s.  Recently, we’ve been digitizing a collection acquired last year of spindizzies, an earlier type of model race car.  Spindizzies were popular in the 1930s and 1940s, incorporating model airplane engines powered by gasoline, and were either raced together on grooved tracks or tethered to a pole and run singly on circular tracks.  Our new collection, donated by Eric Zausner and the E-Z Spindizzy Foundation, includes cars, tools, and accessories.  You can now view a number of these, including this 1939 “Silver Streak” model, on our collections website.  Check out all the cars and accessories we’ve digitized from this collection so far, and keep watching as we add more over coming months.

Ellice Engdahl  is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Racing In America

Monterey Car Week 2014

August 21, 2014

Monterey Car Week. Where else can you see supercars at the supermarket? (In this case, it's a Hennessey Venom GT parked nonchalantly in downtown Carmel.)

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. Continue Reading

Racing In America

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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.

Racing In America