Ford Museum,
August 7, 2000 by Earl Cook

You walk in the front door of the Henry Ford Museum and you are greeted by the Spirit of St. Louis hanging from the ceiling... and that is only the beginning of this historical journey. Not since I was in the Smithsonian Institution have I seen such a fabulous display of American technological history.

Throughout the huge museum are examples of Ford's participation in international and American racing. This website focuses on the history that I think relates to the modern international sports car racing fan.

With the Panoz-Ford victory in the 1999 Petit Le Mans and with Panoz' attempt to win Le Mans, I think we are seeing history in the making. Walking through the museums, you see names that are related to Ford Racing...Andretti, Foyt, Gurney, Clark, Elliott, Panoz, Newman and more.

Sitting at the entrance of the "Automobile in American Life" section of the museum is this Ford GT40 Mk IV. This is the car that Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt drove to victory in the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is not a replica of the car, but this is the actual car that won Le Mans in '67.

The GT40 is only feet away from the impressive display of presidential limousines. The limos of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan are all only feet away. I was entralled with the GT40 and then walked over and realized that I was standing next to the limousine that Pres. Kennedy was assasinated. The historical 'shock value' of the museum is very high.

The Ford Museum is huge, but sitting in a very special spot is the GT40 greeting visitors. It is obvious that Ford places a large amount of significance upon its win at Le Mans in 1967 by the premier placement that the GT40 gets in the Ford Museum.
This display is a collection of articles celebrating the Le Mans victory. The article says, "Two weeks earlier, A.J. Foyt had won his third Indianapolis 500. A week later Gurney won the Belgian Grand Prix".

 

In 1967 Ford was proud of their racing program and rightfully so. The high profile that racing received diminished during the early 1970's and has never fully returned to the level that was evident in this ad. There is a possibility that it could return.
"Henry Ford hoped to gain public recognition and attract investors to his new company by building the fastest racing machine in the world. In 1902 and 1903, the '999' driven by Barney Oldfield broke several records.

In 1904, Ford achieved the publicity he sought by breaking the land speed record on frozen Lake St. Clair, Michigan with the '999's' sister car, the "Arrow". At 91.4 miles per hour, Ford broke the mile record with a time of 39.4 seconds."

 

 

'Old 16 - An American Racing Legend'

The first American car to win an international auto race in 1908 when it won the Vanderbilt Cup. The race had previously been dominated by the European cars.

Built: 1906 by Locomobile Co. of America at a cost of $20,000

Engine: 990 cubic inches (16 litre) 4 cylinder

Weight: 2204 lbs.

Top Speed: 100 mph plus

The car still runs and has 90% of its original parts.

A sign at the display states:

Special thanks: Ford Motor Company and Paul Newman.

Paul Newman's involvment in racing history runs deep.

This is the 1965 Lotus Ford which was the first rear-engined car to win the Indianapolis 500. The car was driven to victory by racing legend Jimmy Clark.

Thanks Rick!

 

One of Tom Sneva's Indy car can be seen behind the Lotus.

The NASCAR 'stock car' of Bill Elliott. This is the car that set and still holds the qualifying record in NASCAR. Elliott set the fastest qualifying speed in Winston Cup history with a lap of 212.809 mph at Talladega (Ala.) during the 1987 Winston 500. 'Awesome Bill from Dawsonville, Georgia' still holds this qualifying record.

Shortly after this achievement, NASCAR began slowing their cars by adding restrictor plates to the carburetors... similar to the intake restrictors now found on the sports cars.

Across the street from the main Ford Museum is a new museum called "The Spirit of Ford... Our people, our pride and our passion for excellence". Sitting in front of the entrance on the day I was there was Michael Andretti's Lola Ford CART racer raced by the Newman-Haas team.
It was interesting seeing the collection of aerodynamic devices on the side of the car just in front of the rear wheels.
From the rear, the upward bias of the suspension can be seen. Of course, at speed, the entire car squats as the downforce pushes the car down almost to the track surface.

 

Once inside the museum, I saw a familiar car. The Panoz WGGTS (Women's Global GT Series) car was sitting right in the center of the museum surrounded by other cars from Ford's racing history.

It was a tribute to Don and Dan Panoz by Ford to see this Panoz racer sitting in the middle of the museum and in such an impressive location.

Would you drive this car over 100 mph? One of the many racers on display in the Spirit of Ford museum .
This cutaway shows the chassis construction of a NASCAR 'stock car'. NASCAR has captured the attention of many of the racing fans in North America.

The cars are relatively low-cost, tube-frame chassis running normally aspirated, push-rod V8 engines without fuel injection.

This is a Ford concept car for a high performance open-wheeled roadster.

It was interesting seeing this display of Ford history, especially its racing history through these magnificent machines. In sports car racing, Ford has recently been at the front with the Panoz and Dyson Racing Ford-powered sports cars. One of these days, we will probably see a Panoz roadster in these halls, especially if Panoz wins Le Mans!

Edited June, 2003. Now that the Panoz runs with Elan Power, this might not be the case.