I prepared this for another group, and thought I'd put it up on the forum. Many of us (myself included) forget that Henry Ford built, and drove, some of the fastest cars in the world. In this 1904 article, he describes the world record run he made in the winter of 1904. It's amazing to think that at the age of 40 he is driving a racer in these conditions.
We've had many threads and posts about Henry Ford and his personal life lately. While I don't have a judgement to make about his personal life or character, I certainly am in awe of his daring and skill, both as a race car builder, and driver. I hope you enjoy reading the story of the run in Henry Ford's words.
(this is a link showing the actual news article along with transcription)
RIDING 91 MILES AN HOUR
HENRY FORD DESCRIBES HIS RIDE OF A MILE IN 39 2-5 SECONDS AT BALTIMORE BAY.
"Minneapolis Journal" February 6th, 1904
Henry Ford, the automobilist who, on Jan. 12 at Baltimore bay, near Baltimore, Mich., drove the big racing car 999 a mile in 39 2-5 seconds over an ice track, thus describes in the New York Journal, how it feels to travel ninety-one miles an hour:
"It was bitterly cold and snowing when I came out to make the attempt at 3 o"clock in the afternoon. It was so cold that I found I could not keep my foot safely on the throttle, so I got Edward Huff to ride on the front of the car for the purpose of adjusting the carburator. It took a lot of nerve to cling to that water tank in the way Mr. Huff did. In fact, it was bout the nerviest thing I ever saw done by an automobilist. it was too cold to wear goggles. They would have become frosted and therefore useless.
"We went up the path a mile or so above the starting point and turned around. We signaled that we were ready and I started slowly in order to get the machine exactly in the middle of the path. Once we were started right all I had to do was to hold the wheel perfectly tight. We were soon flying along at a great rate. The wind and snow cut my face like a knife and I had to keep bobbing up and down behind the shield, only catching a glimpse of the path now and then.
"When I thought we were near the starting point I let the machine out at full speed. The car seemed to bound along instead of run. They tell me that the car leaped fully thirty feet as it passed the timers at the starting point. It seemed to me that we sometimes leaped fully fifty yards. The course appeared like a long, black thread stretching in the distance. I could see practically nothing but this strip of black and the form of Mr. Huff clinging to the water tank.
"Soon after passing the crowd at the starting point I felt the car swerve. I saw we had left the path and were in the snow. Gradually I brought the car back to the course. A sudden turn, however small, might have upset us when traveling at that speed. It took fully 100 yards to get the machine back to the track. Before I could fairly realize it, we were flying past the shanties of some fisherman and I happened to remember the shanties were opposite the finish point of the mile.
"I let the car fly along in order to make sure that I had passed the finish line while going at top speed. Then I began letting off power, but we seemed to bound along as fast as ever. Soon we were off the path and plowing thru the soft snow at a tremendous pace. The snow was thrown up like a sheet sheet and I cold hardly see anything ahead.
"Suddenly I made out a long, black object about 200 yards in front of us, and, for the first time, I almost lost my nerve. I realized at once that the black object was the wreck of an old schooner. We were still flying along at too great a rate of speed to make an abrupt turn, so I changed our course gradually. Owing to a snow-spray we could not see how close we came to the wreck, but we found out afterward we had cleared it only thirty feet.
"We finally stopped the car by running it into a big snowdrift. Mr Huff was so completely exhausted and stiff that I had to help him from the car. There was a peculiar sensation in my lungs and my eyes smarted so that I could hardly keep them open. I thought we would surely suffer some ill effects from the ride. We were all right the next day, however."
If Henry was scared what about Spyder Huff hanging onto the radiator tank.
New Baltimore still has several of the buildings used in that period. Several years ago I passed on purchasing the ice boat that Henry was going to race.
The City of New Baltimore has a winter festival and I have considered having a speedster run on the Bay to recreate the HF race etc. Model T and A speedsters. Trouble is no one will insure such craziness. When I tell them it is what HF did, they just reiterate...nobody will insure such craziness...100 year old race cars on the Bay.
I was even going to have a banquet dinner at the church and serve muskrat stew. More CRAZINESS
Very interesting to see the car with no oil pan and grease cups on the rod bearrngs.Bud
Rob, I recently posted a photo from the HFM collection which I think is of Henry in front of the same car in the spring.
Yes, Henry Ford is looking at the camera. On his left is Gaston Plaintiff, the New York District sales manager. Frank Kulick has his back to the camera, second to the right of HF. I don't know who the other three are.
Below is another photo with most of the same people pictured. You are able to see Frank Kulick more clearly second to the right of HF. I believe these two photos were taken at Cape May NJ in the summer of 1905.
Below is the "Ford Special". It raced between 1910 and 1912, and was a wolf in sheeps clothing. It looks like a stock Model T and has a 410 cubic inch four cylinder engine. This Ford racer, with Frank Kulick driving, won many races against some of the best drivers in the world, including wins against Bob Burhman and the "Blitzen Benz".
In this photo Frank Kulick is driving, and they are "recreating" the ice run from 1904. The Ford Special ran over 100 miles per hour on the ice.
I should have added, this is the six cylinder racer that the Model K is based on. It seems Henry Ford didn't race the big four cylinder racers again publicly (999 and Arrow). However they do keep showing up in racing headlines for a few more years with other owners. There also seems to be some confusion about which racer is which. With technological advances occuring so quickly it's amazing these two racers keep being modified and raced for several years.