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mustang

The 1965 Ford Mustang, the right car at the right time. (Object ID: 66.47.1)
 

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. Continue Reading

Racing In America

Race Days in Detroit

June 5, 2014

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. Continue Reading

Racing In America

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.

Racing In America

Visitors to The Henry Ford may have noticed that we have a very special guest in the Driving America exhibit: GT40 chassis number 1075, one of the world’s most celebrated race cars. The car has six race victories to its credit, but it is best known for winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans – twice. Race fans know that Le Mans is not only the most prestigious event in motorsport, but also among the most grueling. Cars and drivers are pushed to their limits, running hard on the difficult course for 24 non-stop hours. Simply finishing the race is a major accomplishment. Winning is the capstone in any car’s career. Winning twice, well, that’s nothing short of extraordinary.

Car 1075 has its roots in Ford Motor Company’s legendary fight to beat Ferrari in the 1960s. After avoiding motor racing for many years, Ford jumped in with both feet in the early 1960s. The company actually tried to purchase Ferrari in 1963. It was a shrewd idea – the acquisition would have given Ford instant prestige and a massive head start in its racing efforts. But it was not to be. The two companies could not come to agreeable terms and the negotiations ended. Unable to buy the Italian automaker, Ford decided to beat it.

Ford turned to Eric Broadley, of British-based Lola Cars, to jump-start its sports car racing effort. Broadley designed a car based on Lola’s own sophisticated 1963 GT car and powered by Ford’s Indy Car 289-cubic inch V-8. The resulting racer stood a mere forty inches off the ground – hence its name, the GT40. Results in the 1964 season weren’t particularly promising, and Ford turned to its big NASCAR 427 V-8 to power the GT40 Mark II. The bigger engine started winning races in 1965, and a Ford-sponsored Mark II took the checkered flag at Le Mans in 1966. As if to prove the victory wasn’t a fluke, Ford came back and won again with the Mark IV in 1967. The Mark IV, having been designed and built entirely in the U.S. and piloted by Californian Dan Gurney and Texan A.J. Foyt, gave the 1967 win the further distinction of being an all-American effort.

Ironically, Ford’s domination with the big 427 engine provided a break for the smaller 289. The big engines regularly pushed cars past 200 miles per hour on the Le Mans circuit and French officials, fearing a catastrophic accident on a track designed for slower speeds, imposed a 305-cubic inch limit for 1968. The Mark I’s 289 cubic inches suddenly didn’t seem too few. Ford ended its involvement at Le Mans after 1967, but other teams continued to field GT40s. JW Automotive Engineering dominated the next two racing seasons with Mark I cars, including chassis 1075.

Mexican Pedro Rodriguez and Belgian Lucien Bianchi drove 1075 to its first Le Mans win in 1968. It was an unusually cold and wet race (held in late September, rather than the usual June, due to political unrest), but the drivers – and the car – performed flawlessly and held the lead for 17 of the 24 hours. It was the third win in a row for a Ford car, but the first for the original Mark I design. Sadly, Rodriguez and Bianchi both died in separate racing accidents within three years of their Le Mans triumph.

Car 1075 came back to Le Mans in 1969, this time with Belgian Jacky Ickx and Brit Jackie Oliver at the wheel. Ickx started the race with a bold protest against the fabled “Le Mans start,” in which drivers stood across the track, ran to their cars and then drove off – buckling their harnesses as they sped along. Ickx took his time getting to his car and carefully strapped himself in before setting off. Tragically, Ickx’s point about the inherent danger was proved on the first lap: British driver John Woolfe was killed in an accident before he had a chance to buckle his harness. The fatal crash foreshadowed one of the most dramatic Le Mans races. Car 1075 traded the lead with a Porsche 908 constantly during the last 2½ hours. On the last lap, the Mark I crossed the finish line a mere 100 yards ahead of the Porsche – in a race of more than 3,100 miles. With that second win, car 1075 earned its place in history and cemented the GT40’s reputation as one of the most successful cars in motorsport.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

Ford GT40 #1075 on exhibit at Henry Ford Museum.

1968 Ford Mark I, Chassis Number 1075

  • Maker: Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan
  • Engine: Ford V-8 with Gurney-Weslake cylinder heads, overhead valves, 302 cubic inches
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Height: 40.5”
  • Width: 70”
  • Wheelbase: 95”
  • Overall length: 164.5”
  • Weight: 2186 pounds
  • Horsepower: 425 @ 6000 rpm
  • Pounds per horsepower: 5.1
  •  

    Competition History: Winner of Le Mans 24-hour in 1968 and 1969. Winner of BOAC International 500 in 1968. Winner of Spa 1000-kilometer in 1968. Winner of Watkins Glen 6-hour in 1968. Winner of Sebring 12-hour in 1969.

    Racing In America

    The Beach Boys "Little Deuce Coupe", 1964.
    Was there a group better than The Beach Boys to write so longingly about the automobile? (Object ID: 87.170.1)February is upon us and, with Valentine’s Day in the offing, our thoughts turn to love. Red roses and paper hearts are fine, but to me nothing is quite as romantic as a love song. Whether it’s from an old master of the Berlin-Gershwin-Porter variety, or from one of today’s stars, a simple love song communicates emotion in a wholly unique way. Anyone who has explored the “Car Tunes” activity in Driving America knows that automobiles have been a staple in popular songs from the start. It was inevitable, then, that the car song and the love song would blend. In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

    Many words have been written on the automobile’s effects on our courtship rituals. (See John Heitmann’s The Automobile in American Life for a good discussion.) Prior to the car, a young man “called” on a young woman at her home under her mother’s watchful eyes. The couple might find a few moments of privacy on the front porch, but that was about it. The automobile threw the old rules out the window and gave couples a literal escape from the confines of the home. It either took them somewhere where they could, ahem, be affectionate, or was itself the place for their amorous activities.

    Kenny Roberts, the Yodeling Cowboy, voices this shift in his 1949 hit “I Never See Maggie Alone.” As the title suggests, Kenny can’t get a private moment with Maggie – her large family is always there. He buys a car for a little seclusion, takes Maggie for a ride, but… Well, I won’t spoil it for you, but you probably know what happens. Fast forward 30 years and you’ll find Robbie Dupree covering the same ground in “Hot Rod Hearts” from 1980. Times have changed, though. While Kenny and Maggie were merely “huggin’ and kissin,” Robbie has “young love born in a backseat.” One suspects there’s more than innocent necking at play.

    How do you listen to your favorite song in your car today? (Zenith "Zenette" Transistor Radio, 1960-1963, Object ID: 92.46.2).

    When the car isn’t providing young lovers with a means to get away together, it’s often the means to bring them together. Many tunes tell of someone driving through the night to reach a significant other. Cyndi Lauper made a big hit out of this very scenario with 1989’s “I Drove All Night.” It’s been an enduring song, with subsequent hit versions from Roy Orbison and Celine Dion. (Celine’s version even backed a series of Chrysler commercials in the early 2000s.)

    Classic Rock fans recognize the “drive to romance” concept from Golden Earring’s 1973 smash “Radar Love.” While the title refers to the lovers’ seemingly telepathic connection, the opening couplet is pure road song: “I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hands wet on the wheel / there’s a voice in my head that drives my heel.” Country fans, meanwhile, might be reminded of Dave Dudley’s 1963 cut “Six Days On the Road.” In this case, the narrator is a professional truck driver longing to get home, but the sentiment is the same: “Well it seems like a month since I kissed my baby goodbye… My hometown’s comin’ in sight / If you think I’m happy you’re right / Six days on the road and I’m a gonna make it home tonight.”

    Tom Waits puts a nice spin on the situation with his 1973 song “Ol’ 55” (memorably covered by the Eagles in 1974). Instead of driving his car to his lover, he’s driving back home from his lover. So warm is the afterglow that traffic is a “parade” as he rides “with lady luck.” In the song itself, Waits never identifies his vehicle beyond a model year. In subsequent interviews, he’s pegged it as a 1955 Buick Roadmaster, but I still picture a Chevrolet.

    Chuck Berry is often cited as “rock and roll’s poet laureate.” His witty lyrics helped to establish rock’s very structure during the formative 1950s. It’s no surprise that Berry created some memorable car songs. His very first hit, 1955’s “Maybellene,” is one of the genre’s best. We find Chuck cruising in his hot rod Ford V-8 when he spies the eponymous Maybellene in her Cadillac Coupe de Ville. They race down the highway, “bumper to bumper, rollin’ side to side.” An overheated engine threatens to end Chuck’s race, but a well-timed cloudburst cools his flathead and allows him to catch the Caddy at 110 miles per hour. While the race goes Chuck’s way, the “Why can’t you be true” chorus suggests that the romantic relationship doesn’t work out so well.

    Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are rightfully credited as the masters of the car song. They gave us “Little Deuce Coupe,” “I Get Around,” “Custom Machine,” “This Car of Mine,” “Shut Down” and a host of other hot rod hits. (And really, who else but the masters could have written a song – and a good one at that – inspired by engine displacement?) But Wilson & Co.’s genius with the genre is perhaps most evident in the haunting “Don’t Worry Baby.” Casual listeners will hear the oft-told tale of a man who draws strength and support from his significant other. Those who listen more closely, though, will hear a song about… a car race! Brian boasts about his car, talks himself into a race, and shares his apprehensions with his love. She reassures him – makes him come alive, makes him want to drive – when she shares the titular advice. One of my favorite things about the song – apart from that deft modulation from E to F# between verse and chorus – is the ambiguity in the ending. We never do find out if Brian wins his race, but I suppose that’s beside the point. “Don’t Worry Baby” is the rare track that thick-skinned gear heads and sensitive poets can both embrace.

    Among the most atmospheric car/love songs has to be 1984’s “Drive” by the Cars. (And, by the way, how’s that for title/artist synergy?) While the song is open to wide interpretation, I think of it as being about a relationship strained by chemical dependency. The central question, “Who’s gonna drive you home,” is rhetorical. The narrator pleads that his lover “can’t go on / thinkin’ nothing’s wrong” as he watches her self-destruct. If he leaves, then who will be left to care for her? “Drive” isn’t a roll-down-the-windows and rock-down-the-highway hit, but it is a reminder that car songs can be subtle.

    Maybe the best twist on the car song/love song style is when the car itself is the object of the singer’s affections. Dan Seals’s 1985 country hit, “My Old Yellow Car,” is the perfect example. It’s a sentimental ballad in which, despite all of his fame and fortune (he’s “got a Mercedes-Benz with a TV and bar”), the thing Dan pines for most is his first car. Even though “she weren’t much to look at / she weren’t much to ride,” this yellow car made young Dan the king of the world: “There was no road too winding / there was nowhere too far / with two bucks of gas in my old yellow car.” It’s emotional stuff, and by the end of the song we realize just what that first car represents. It’s more than empowerment and independence; it’s a talisman of lost youth. There’s a reason we all get nostalgic about our first rides, no matter how humble they were.

    Enjoy your Valentine’s Day everyone. Light a few candles, open a bottle of wine, and put together your own playlist of favorite car-related love songs. It’ll put you in a romantic mood – and tide you over until its time to pull the classic out of winter storage.

    Like the songs you heard here? Watch them on YouTube or log into Hypster and listen to the whole list.

    Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

    Racing In America

    The Stingray Returns!

    December 9, 2013

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water… er, dealership… Chevrolet’s iconic Corvette Stingray* is back. The seventh-generation Corvette just received Automobile Magazine’s “Automobile of the Year” award. It’s a great honor, and it affirms the car’s right to wear the hallowed “Stingray” name – not seen on a Corvette since 1976.

    Given Corvette’s long-established status as America’s sports car, it’s easy to forget that the first models lacked a performance image. The 1953-54 cars featured inline six engines and two-speed automatic transmissions – not exactly scream machines. That began to change with the 1955 model year when a V-8 and a three-speed manual shift became options. Production figures climbed steadily thereafter, but the Corvette arguably didn’t come into its own until the 1963 model year when General Motors styling head Bill Mitchell shepherded the magnificent Sting Ray into production.

    Mitchell’s car was a radical departure from previous Corvettes. The gentle curves of the earlier cars (readily seen on The Henry Ford’s 1955 example) were replaced with sharp edges. The toothy grille gave way to an aggressive nose with hidden headlights, and the roof transitioned into a racy fastback. The car was a smash in its day and continues to be perhaps the most desirable body style among collectors.

    Bill Mitchell poses with the 1959 Corvette Stingray Special race car. (THF71553)

    The 1963 Sting Ray was inspired by two of Mitchell’s personal project cars. The 1959 Stringray Special was built on the chassis of the 1957 Corvette SS race car. When American auto manufacturers officially ended their racing programs in the summer of 1957, the SS became surplus. Mitchell acquired the car, rebuilt it into a racer, and sidestepped the racing ban by sponsoring the car personally. The rebuilt Stingray Special’s unique front fenders, with bumps to accommodate the wheels, became a prominent part of the 1963 production car.

    Bill Mitchell used this very mako shark as inspiration for the Mako Shark show car, which in turn inspired the brilliant 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. (THF153873)

    The second inspiration was the Mako Shark concept car introduced in 1961. While fishing in Bahamas that year, Mitchell caught an actual mako shark which he mounted and displayed in his office. The shark’s streamlined body and angular snout, combined with elements from the Stingray race car, produced a show car that turned heads wherever it was displayed.

    Fifty years later, some believe that the mid-1960s Sting Rays are still the Corvette’s styling peak. Clearly, the 2014 model had much to live up to if it was to carry the Stingray name. The honors from Automobile Magazine suggest that the latest Corvette is worthy indeed.

    UPDATE 01/13/14: The 2014 Corvette Stingray just took top honors as "North American Car of the Year" at the North American International Auto Show. It's further proof that the car has earned its legendary name!

    Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

    * Stingray nomenclature is a confusing business. Bill Mitchell’s 1959 race car was “Stringray” – one word. The 1963-1967 production cars were “Sting Ray” – two words. The 1968-1976 and 2014 cars reverted to “Stingray.” For what it’s worth, the fish itself is “stingray.”

    race cars, racing, Racing In America

    For three days, September 13-15, the clock turned back to the glory days of postwar British motorsport at the inimitable Goodwood Revival. Racing, aviation, music and vintage fashions of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s came together on the Goodwood race circuit, outside Chichester, England, for what may well be the world’s premier historic automobile event. As in past years, the 2013 Goodwood Revival spotlighted a legendary race driver. Jim Clark, the Scottish wunderkind who won 25 races and two Formula One world championships before he died in a 1968 racing accident, took center stage this year. Clark’s groundbreaking win at the 1965 Indianapolis 500 is among his best-known victories, and The Henry Ford brought to Goodwood the Lotus-Ford Type 38 that he drove that day.

    Once each day during the event, 36 cars associated with Clark’s career gathered on the track for an exciting parade lap around the 2.4-mile circuit. Dario Franchitti, a devoted Jim Clark fan and a three-time Indy 500 winner, drove our Type 38 in the parade. Some of Clark’s contemporaries, including Sir Jackie Stewart and John Surtees, also drove parade cars, making the tribute particularly special.

    Our Type 38 sits behind the Goodwood pace car prior to a parade lap. Fortunately, the pace car didn't use any smoke screens or oil slicks on our Lotus-Ford!

    Significant though it was, the Jim Clark program was only one element at this year’s revival. Of particular interest to me was the 50th anniversary celebration of Ford’s GT40. Goodwood brought together 40 such cars, 27 of which competed in a 45-minute race complete with a mid-contest driver change. The GT40 dominated Le Mans in the late 1960s, and Goodwood’s collection included chassis #1046, the car that won the 1966 24-hour and started Ford’s reign. Appropriately enough, Goodwood displayed #1046 and several of its siblings in a recreation of the Le Mans pit building where they looked right at home.

    C’est si bon! Goodwood recreated the Le Mans pits in commemoration of the GT40’s 50th anniversary.

    Typical of the level of detail at Goodwood are these replicas of the famous Le Mans clock and race lights. Note that the clock permanently reads 3:50 PM – ten minutes to race time!

    Goodwood’s airfield housed two Royal Air Force fighter squadrons during World War II, so it’s only natural that vintage aircraft have a presence at the Revival too. The most impressive exhibit this year – for sheer size if nothing else – was a German-built 1936 Junkers JU 52. (With its three engines and corrugated aluminum skin, it bore more than a passing resemblance to a certain Ford aircraft of a decade earlier.) The Junkers flew several demonstration loops around the Goodwood grounds on Sunday. Few things can divert your attention from a vintage motor race, but a 1936 airplane with a 97-foot wingspan flying overhead will do it!

    This 1936 Junkers JU 52 loomed over the vintage aircraft gathered at the Goodwood Revival.

    The Goodwood Revival is a magical experience. With so many historic automobiles and airplanes around you, and so many of the visitors and participants attired in period clothing, it’s quite easy to get lost in time. That wonderful vintage atmosphere is one of the two strongest memories I take from this year’s event. The other is of people jumping back startled whenever our Type 38 fired up. After all, 495 horses make a lot of noise!

    Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

    Racing In America

    Our 1965 Lotus-Ford Race Car is currently in England for this weekend's Goodwood Revival.

    ford-lotus-jim-cardLegendary road racer Dan Gurney concluded that the proper application of European Formula 1 technology could capture the Indianapolis 500. He brought Ford Motor Company together with Colin Chapman, English builder of Lotus sports and racing cars. The chassis made by Group Lotus in Hethel, England, and the engine was made by Ford Motor Company here in Dearborn.

    Vehicle Specs

  • Lightweight Lotus monocoque chassis, four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes
  • Specially designed rear-mounted Ford 256-cubic-inch, 495-horsepower, double overhead cam V-8 engine
  •  

    Racing History

  • 1965 Lotus-Ford 38/1 gave Ford Racing its first win in the 500
  • The first victory for a rear-engine car at the 500
  • Jim Clark was the first driver to average more than 150 miles per hour in the Indianapolis 500 (150.686)
  • Jim Clark became the first foreign competitor to win since 1916. He also went on to win the Formula 1 championship a few months later and remains the only person to win the Indianapolis 500 and F1 title in the same season
  • Ford swept the top four finishing positions. The win also started a run that saw Ford win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” three straight years and six of the next seven
  •  

    Just like last year, The Henry Ford is at Goodwood and will be taking in all the sites and sounds during this year's festivities as we pay tribute to legendary driver Jim Clark. Make sure to keep tuned to our Museum category here on the blog for updates from the team.

    Team Manager Chris Dinnage gets ready to take the car out for a test run.

    Lewis Cullington and Tim Gardner

    antique cars, Car Shows, racing, Racing In America, vintage cars

    The Indianapolis 500 is America’s premier motorsports event. Since its inaugural run in 1911, Indy has exemplified our country’s obsession with speed. It is ironic, then, that one of its most significant victories came from a Scottish driver in a British-built (though American-powered) car. In one fell swoop, Jim Clark’s 1965 win in the Lotus-Ford Type 38 marked the end of the four-cylinder Offenhauser engine’s dominance, the end of the front engine, and the incursion of European design into the most American of races. The Henry Ford holds many important objects, photographs and documents that tell this fascinating story.

    From left to right: Dan Gurney, Colin Chapman and Jim Clark in 1963 (THF110625).

    By the early 1960s, four-cylinder roadsters were an ingrained tradition at the Indianapolis 500. Race teams were hesitant to experiment with anything else. American driver Dan Gurney, familiar with the advanced Formula One cars from the British firm Lotus, saw the potential in combining a lithe European chassis with a powerful American engine. He connected Lotus’s Colin Chapman with Ford Motor Company and the result was a lightweight monocoque chassis fitted with a specially designed Ford V-8 mounted behind the driver. Scotsman Jim Clark, Team Lotus’s top driver, took the new design to an impressive second place finish at Indy in 1963. While Clark started strong in the 1964 race, having earned pole position with a record-setting qualifying time, he lost the tread on his left rear tire, initiating a chain reaction that collapsed his rear suspension and ended his race early.

    The lightning-fast Wood Brothers crew refuels Jim Clark’s car at the 1965 Indianapolis 500. After a fiery crash the year before, Indy officials mandated smaller fuel tanks. Quick refueling stops became essential (THF110504).

    Based on his past performances, Jim Clark entered the 1965 race as the odds-on favorite. Ford was especially eager for a win, though, and sought every advantage it could gain. The company brought in the Wood Brothers to serve as pit crew. The Woods were legendary in NASCAR for their precision refueling drills, and they were no less impressive at Indianapolis where they filled Clark’s car with 50 gallons in less than 20 seconds. This time, the race was hardly a contest at all. Clark led for 190 of the race’s 200 laps and took the checkered flag nearly two minutes ahead of his nearest rival. Jim Clark became the first driver to finish the Indianapolis 500 with an average speed above 150 mph (he averaged 150.686) and the first foreign driver to win since 1916. The race – and the cars in it – would never be the same.

    Many of The Henry Ford’s pieces from Clark’s remarkable victory are compiled in a special Expert Set on our Online Collections page. The most significant artifact from the 1965 race is, of course, car #82 itself. Jim Clark’s 1965 Lotus-Ford Type 38 joined our collection in 1977 and has been a visitor favorite ever since. Dan Gurney, who brought Lotus and Ford together, shared his reminiscences with us in an interview on our OnInnovation site, shown below. The Henry Ford’s collection also includes a set of coveralls worn by Lotus mechanic Graham Clode at the 1965 race, and a program from the 1965 Victory Banquet signed by Clark himself.

     

    Photographs in our collection include everything from candid shots of Gurney, Chapman and Clark to posed portraits of Clark in #82 at the Brickyard. The Henry Ford’s extensive Dave Friedman Photo Collection includes more than 1,400 images of the 1965 Indianapolis 500 showing the countless cars, drivers, crew members and race fans that witnessed history being made. Finally, the Phil Harms Collection includes home movies of the 1965 race with scenes of Clark’s car rolling out of the pit lane, running practice and qualifying laps, and leading the pack in the actual race.

    Jim Clark smiles after his 1965 win (THF 110641).

    Jim Clark died in a crash at the Hockenheim race circuit in Germany in 1968. It was a tragic and much-too-soon end for a man still considered to rank among the greatest race drivers of all time. The Henry Ford is proud to preserve so many pieces from his seminal Indianapolis 500 win.

    Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford

    race car drivers, race cars, racing, Racing In America

    This week, the 2013 Goodwood Revival kicks off in the United Kingdom, celebrating classic auto racing from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in a three-day period-themed festival. The Henry Ford team will be there, and so will our Lotus-Ford race car usually on exhibit in Driving America. In honor of the Lotus and the driver who drove it to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500, we’ve digitized several dozen photos of the car, the race, and Jim Clark. View this photo of Jim in the car at Indy, plus other highlights from this digitization effort selected by Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation, in a set titled Jim Clark and the 1965 Indianapolis 500.

    race car drivers, race cars, racing, Racing In America, vintage photos