I posted a thread earlier this week with a portion of a newspaper account of Henry Ford secretly building a "mystery" machine. The beginning of the article sounded much like the story of Ford's development of the Model T (in the "secret" room) that I posted that portion of the article"
Several MTFCA and EFR (Early Ford Registry) posters made their guesses as to what "secret" the article was talking about (results below). Thanks to everyone for participating.
Model K*.............................................. 2
Model T Prototype w/mag.....1908.............1
Following is the complete article, dated January 21, 1905:
Youtube link with Ford "six" racer info:
1905 photo of the six cylinder racer with Henry Ford driving:
Why did Henry work on this race car in secret?
What could be gained? Was there something about it that he didn't want his competitors to know about?
Or was it just for publicity purposes? (All right, what's Ford up to now? After all,inquiring minds need to know....)
Good questions. I think Henry Ford (unlike the Henry Ford we think of as the manufacturing genius who perfected mass production techniques) was one of the premier American race drivers and developers of his time (as of 1905). He held the World Mile record just one year prior to rolling out this racer. Ford had also built "Baby", the lightweight racer that captured World Speed Records in the fall of 1904, only months prior to the completion of the six cylinder racer.
It seems any move he made regarding race car development showed up in major newspapers, so the need for secrecy may have been more important than we suspect.
Also, he (Ford) had just built a "revolutionary" racer, with six cylinders. While some European makers were building six cylinder racers, I believe this was the first U.S. version (of a six cylinder racer, not the first U.S. six cyllinder engine).
One thing this does show is that Ford "shareholders" had virtually nothing to do with Henry Ford building his first six cylinder racer (engine). This is ultimately the same engine used in the Model K, that won't be seen for another year.
One thing is certain, Henry Ford (and Ford Motor Company) received significant media attention shortly after revealing the new racer. The photo below appeared in newspapers throughout the U.S., from the east coast to the Los Angeles Times:
So it seems that the reason behind this secrecy was twofold:
1. That Henry didn't want others to know about the 6 cylinder engine and race car until he was good and ready, and
2. When the 6 cylinder engine and the race car was finished, and Henry was good and ready, he would make a really big splash about it and get free publicity all over the USA and abroad too, for free! This would generate interest in the Daytona races and also prime people for the 6 cylinder car (Model K) to be introduced the next year.
Not only that, but this engine and the Ford built race car showed the world that Ford builds powerful and dependable cars, thus generating interest in the Ford cars already on the market. "Come and see the exciting Ford cars in our showrooms now!"
This shows that Henry Ford not only knew how to build engines and cars, but that he also knew how to work the media to get lots of free publicity.
Early NASCAR,"Race it on Sunday, sell it on Monday"
I agree the amount of media attention must have been invaluable to the fledgling company. Ford Motor Company placed racing expenses ($14,000 for FY 1905) under the "Advertising" column. I suspect this attention helped the public perception for a six cylinder when Ford rolled it out in January 1906.
Rick, I think not much has changed with marketing cars in 120 years .
This December 1906 article discusses the large number of six cylinder cars placed on the market for 1907. Only five U.S. automakers sold six cylinder cars at the beginning of 1906, and for 1907 almost one hundred automakers have announced plans to sell a "six".
I find it interesting the article writer leads with Ford, and shows only a "Famous Ford Six" in the article photograph. I'd say the advertising (racer) was working:
Franklin claimed to be first in US with a six in 1905.
Yes, Franklin and Stevens Duryea both claimed to have the first six cylinder cars on the market (as did Ford).
What I do know about that controversy:
1. Henry Ford probably had the first successful six cylinder (running competitively as a racer by January 1905).
2. Ford probably sold more six cylinder cars in both 1906 and 1907 (about 300 in 06, 450 in 07) than any other automaker, in the world. According to Franklin statements, they were selling about 250 sixes per year by 1907. Stevens sold 870 sixes (two models) between late 1905 and 1908.
3. I think the first six cylinder car/racer was built in the U.S. in 1902 (at least according to some period media accounts). However it was not put into production.
4. Napier was probably the first widely successful builder of six cylinder automobiles, I believe starting in 1905.
It seems the industry accepted Ford as the leading six cylinder builder by early to mid 1907. Finally, we now know Henry Ford reported he would race the six cylinder racer well into 1909, although it didn't make any races (that I'm aware of, yet....) after running for time and wrecking in the fall of 1907.
Now, that article shines the light a little more than some others and would seem to indicate Fords interest in the six was more than pressure of stockholders.
Thank you, Rob for finding and showing it. This one I had not seen before.
I have been a bit slow responding to things lately (been dealing with sick family). Before you posted this article, I was planning to say about your contest "Snookered us again, eh? Slipped in another six cylinder, eh?? And it was the racing car too?" All kidding aside. I have enjoyed your quest and enjoy participating in even a small way. Even if I guessed wrong.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Obviously Ford's enthusiasm for the six cylinder engine was fleeting. He didn't build any six cylinder cars for racing or for sale after 1908. It speaks volumes what Henry Ford actually did, rather than what he told the media.
Henry Ford had a habit of leading the reporters down a path that was often far from the truth, as can be seen here. The article notwithstanding, for Henry Ford the six cylinder engine was no more than a fad.
Henry Ford never built, nor sold any two cylinder cars after 1906. And never a another "non waterpump" motor after 1927. And of course not another 400 plus cubic inch engine car after 1908. More "volumes".
As for "enthusiasm" for the six cylinder racer, I'll get back to that.....
Following are "things we know" about the Ford six cylinder racer:
Henry Ford completed the racer by late 1904. To put this in context, Henry Ford drove a "revamped" 999 (actually Arrow) to the one mile world record in January 1904, making a big splash in the media.
In the fall of 1904, Frank Kulick, Ford's chief race driver (and one of his first five employees to remain with Ford for years) drives the next Ford racer, "baby" (probably the least known of the Ford racers) to a series of world records, including fastest mile and five miles. "Baby" is a 20 hp racer consisting of two Model A/C engines joined together. The records it achieves are in the light/middleweight class, although the racer comes close to the "big car" mile record.
In January 1905 the Ford six cylinder racer makes it's debut, promptly breaking a crankshaft at Ormond (Daytona) Beach.
By the summer of 1905, the "Six" is back in action, and has two significant meets, at Cape May and Ventnor Beaches in August and September 1905. At Cape May, the Ford Six ties the existing one kilometer record (set previously by Walter Christie). Unfortunately for Ford, Christie breaks his own record, denying Ford a space in the record books for the tie.
At Ventnor Beach, two memorable races. The Ford Six runs a mile time of 38 3/5. This establishes a beach record for Ventnor, and breaks the world record (no longer a record) time of 999/Arrow. This now places the Ford Six as the fastest Ford racer up to this time.
Next, the Ford racer breaks the world one mile for competition record. However, following a protest by the competing Darracq driver, the record is disallowed. Had this record stood, the Ford Six racer would still have a space in the record books, as does Ford's most famous racer, 999/Arrow.
The racer runs again in January, 1906 at Ormond/Daytona beach, with no places (running against the world's fastest racers, and is competitive).
Now, again remembering where we are in time, Ford Motor Company is rolling out Models N and K at this same time. Production is lagging, and Model K doesn't reach the market until April 1906. The Model N is even slower, not reaching market until mid July 1906. The Ford Six racer does not appear to see action during this period, and I suspect that is due to Henry Ford frantically trying to bring his new models to the marketplace.
In early 1907, we again read that Henry Ford is preparing to race the six cylinder racer, now completely rebuilt. The racer was already in the 1100 cubic inch range, and reports say the bore was increased by 1/2 inch, making the racer almost 1200 cubic inchs. Ford announces the racer will run in the Vanderbilt Cup races for 1907. However, I believe the races were cancelled, anyway the racer does not compete.
In late September, Henry Ford tells the press the six cylnder racer is performing well, and will "attempt several world records before the snow flies".
In early October, two newspaper accounts report that Henry Ford drives the Ford racer, one at 59 seconds and one at 55 seconds on the circular track (I believe at Highland Park, although it may be the Michigan State Fairground track). The world record for one mile circular tracks is 51 seconds, held by Walt Christie's nephew, Lewis Strang, drivng, you guessed it, a Christie racer.
In mid October, Frank Kulick is timed at 49 seconds on the same track (that would be a new world record, however an "official timer" was not in place). Shortly afterward, Kulick has a serious accident, and the racer is reduced "to a pile of junk" according to one report. Henry Ford is quoted saying "we won't race again".
However, only a few weeks later, in late October, Henry Ford is quoted saying he intends to rebuild the racer, and send it to England to race on the 3.5 mile banked oval at Brooklands. The racer does not make it to the Brooklands. Was Henry Ford "lying?" Was he gaining "free media attention?" Not being clairvoyant, I don't know. Regardless, evidently HF was still interested enough in the Ford Six racer to claim it would race again.
In the summer of 1908, Ford sends Frank Kulick to Savannah GA to survey the track for the Grand Prize race to be held on Thanksgiving Day, 1908. Frank Kulick tells the Washington D.C. press Ford intends to run the six cylinder racer in the race. The racer does not make the meet.
Kulick races again in 1908, at least two times with a Ford Model K automobile, once near Chicago and once at Kalamazoo, winning his class (cars costing $2000 to $3000) in MI.
Then in 1909, following the Ford Model T victory in the 1909 "Ocean to Ocean" race, Henry Ford tells the media Indianapolis Speedway officials have requested he place a racer in the "big car" event, and he says he will race the six cylinder racer. Later in the summer, he (Henry Ford) gives an interview where he explains the "six cylinder racer" has been sitting at the Ford factory, and that he will rebuild and race it.
As late as August 1909, a Ford Branch Manager, Thomas Hay, describes the six cylinder racer being prepared for the first Indianapolis Speedway race. The racer does not run in the race, and is never referred to again (that I've found, yet). Was Henry Ford "lying?" If so, why, to bring attention to the Ford six cylinder racer?
I think, to a reasonable person (not always easy to find) it would seem Henry Ford is still intrigued by the racer he built so long ago, in late 1904, and continued to race and prepare until August 1909 (well into the tenure of the Model T).
This is my "theory". Others have their "theories". Few are as well researched, and probably none up to now had the luxury of obtaining so many public references about the racer over this time span.
Following are public references made by Henry Ford to the press during the summer of 1909.
June 24, 1909 comment to Indy officials"
June 27, Henry Ford gives detailed account of why he is "re entering the race game" and information about the "six cylinder racer". If a person reads nothing else, read this:
July 28, 1909, "The Automobile"
And the last reference I've found, dated August 1909:
My conclusion is, Henry Ford still "likes" the six cylinder racer (and engine) as of late summer 1909. I invite anyone with a different opinion to provide documentation from the period that suggests otherwise.
One must remember that Henry Ford personally was 45 years old by this time. A somewhat "advanced" age for racers even today with our longer lifespans and better general health.
He was also crossing the threshold to the largest manufacturing project in all of human history up to that point. He was managing his company, trying to design and build the most popular car ever out of a small plant on Piquette Avenue while beginning to try to set up the largest plant in the world up to that time.
He was also the largest automobile producer in the world by that then. Did he really need the added publicity?
He really did not have time to do anything else. I would think he must have had some personal interest in the racing and the six cylinder engine to have given it ant attention whatsoever.
I may be wrong. Some people will never accept even the possibility that what they believe may be wrong. Such is the nature of humanity.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Henry Ford was willing to say anything that would gather media attention. If he said he was going to run the car, then didn't, it still shows that he didn't run the car. What he said is therefore just that, and nothing more.
Henry showed everyone what he wanted to do by doing it.
Wow; profound, Royce, profound.
We're you on "debate team" in high school? You sure know how to put forward a convincing argument.
Wayne, sorry, I became too wrapped up in my snarky reply to acknowledge your really good post. I've often thought about Henry Ford involved in so many different aspects of the empire he was creating.
In addition to designing and racing this car, he was preparing for the rollout of two new models (K and N, soon followed with R,S and K roadster). Meanwhile, he was maneuvering to gain financial control of the company and beginning plans for the Model T. Throw in the beginning of Highland Park planning while accomplishing everything at a cramped Piquet plant. Amazing, and it all came together for him.
Thank you for the post, and I hope all is well,
I sure enjoy these post! Bud.
Wow. I had to look back to see what I wrote that was so good and found three mistakes. That may be a record for me. I usually do better than that. I know I proof red.
Rob, You certainly do not need to apologize to me. Thank you for all your research. I just hope I can contribute in some small way.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
(That last one I did on purpose. Just my silly warped sense of humor)
Thanks Wayne (and Bud).