About the Innovator
He dived into California car culture when his father, John Gurney, a singer with the Metropolitan Opera, retired in 1947 and moved his family to the city of Riverside. There, the teenaged Gurney soon found himself caught up in California hot rod scene and discovered his enormous talent as a driver. In addition to this gift, Gurney also possessed "the engineering gene," which ultimately led him to be keenly involved in how his cars were set up. Interested in the state of the sport overall, in later years Gurney also played a pivotal role in reshaping American auto racing into the institution we know today.
Despite cutting his teeth as a teenage hot rodder on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, Gurney always wanted to be a road racer. His first break came in 1957 when he drove a Ferrari to second place behind established star Carroll Shelby at the Riverside Grand Prix. Impressed, Ferrari importer Luigi Chenitti arranged for Gurney to drive another Ferrari at Le Mans in 1958. By 1959 Gurney was on the Italian manufacturer's Formula One team. Perhaps his most famous win was the 1967 24 Hours of Lemans, world's most important sports car race. Gurney and A.J. Foyt beat the second place Ferrari by 32 miles in a Ford Mark IV. In the midst of the victory celebrations, Gurney famously sprayed the crowd with champagne, starting a racing tradition. After retiring from driving, he continued to shape racing as an innovative manufacturer and influential team owner.
Why He Innovates
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
In 2014, Dan Gurney received the Edison-Ford Medal for Innovation in a ceremony at The Henry Ford. 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.
The tribute film, narrated by Brian Williams, premiered on October 29, 2014 during the ceremony at The Henry Ford.