Over the last week we've had two threads covering the Ford six cylinder racer, 1905-06 and the 1907 version. After the famous wreck in October 1907, Henry Ford said the racer would race in 1908 at the Savannah GA Grand Prize races and again in the inaugural Indianapolis Motor Speedway race in August 1909. The racer did not run in the 1908 race, however several articles said the racer would run in the Indianapolis race.
The racer didn't make the 1909 race, and we don't have any information that the racer ever ran again following the 1907 wreck. We do have accounts of the racer and it's legacy after 1909:
In September 1910, this "Detroit Free Press" newspaper article says Barney Oldfield will attempt a new one mile speed record at the Michigan State Fairground. Oldfield is reported to be attempting to break the ONE MILE TRACK RECORD HELD BY THE FORD SIX CYLINDER RACER AND FRANK KULICK, MADE IN THE FALL OF 1907. The reported record time was 49 2/5 seconds.
This corroborates reports at the time of the wreck in 1907 that the Ford racer was unofficially timed at 49 seconds on the track. It seems that although A. A. A. (sanctioning association) timers were not available, possibly Michigan State Fairground track officials timed Kulick and as a result the six cylinder racer held the track record. This time was more than two seconds faster than the world record time Henry Ford and Frank Kulick were attempting to break when the racer crashed.
To put this time in context, Caleb Bragg driving the Fiat "Cyclone" made a one mile track record in New Orleans in 1911 with a time of 52.3 seconds. Bob Burhman driving his "Blitzen" Benz came in second at 53.09 seconds.
Before the New Orleans races the New Orleans newspaper ran the following story about Frank Kulick and the Ford six cylinder racer (Kulick would also race a Ford "special" in the New Orleans races).
New Orleans News, February 14, 1911:
The point being, Ford and Frank Kulick, along with the press, are still talking about the Ford six cylinder racer, as of 1911.
In May, 1914, "Motor Age" magazine ran a six page story titled "History-Making Racing Cars" about famous race cars between the years 1901 and 1913. As the last sentence in the lead paragraph says "facts about racing cars that really did something."
The first car covered, Barney Oldfield and the Ford 999:
The second and newest racer, a 1913 Sunbeam:
In all, photographs and stories of nineteen racers were included in the article. One of the nineteen covered, the 1907 Ford six cylinder racer:
My impression is, the Ford six cylinder racer, often referred to as the "Model K racer", was not forgotten.
Tomorrow I have an an idea why Henry Ford did not run the six cylinder racer in the 1909 Indianapolis Motor Speedway race, but first I need to do a little more work on the "theory."
For anyone following these threads, they are a culmination of my research and opinions. While you may not agree with all my findings or suggestions, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy putting the pieces together.
Thanks Rob, this is an interesting look at history.
The six cylinder racer didn't have any suspension. It was best suited to brief demonstrations of speed on straight, level track. A 500 mile oval like Indianapolis is a grueling drive even in a car with adequate suspension.
The six cylinder Ford was simply outdated by 1909 by any number of other standards (lubrication, size, weight, suspension, fuel storage, seating, driver protection, etc, etc, etc,,,,,,,,).
It is interesting but not surprising that Ford publicists kept sending out press releases. It is sad that Ford as a company never participated in the Indy 500 until the 1930's.
As of July 5th, 1909, Ford is still listed as an entrant. Henry Ford will also serve as one of the honorary officials at the first race:
If you read the news clips from the 1907 six cyl. Racer thread, Henry Ford still says the six cyl. Racer is the "fastest car in the world." This doesn't sound like a man who did not like six cylinder cars, nor the Model K (at least the racer) for that matter.
However there is a reason the Ford racer did not run in the Indy race, and it had nothing to do with the suspension.
If the Ford six cylinder racer had run in a 500 mile race it would have been a torture test for the driver, and likely would have flipped and killed one or more people. That is if the crankshaft didn't break first.
It's a good thing it did not run, it was not going to be competitive against all the more modern designs.
It appears the Ford six cylinder racer still held the Michigan Fairgrounds race track record in 1910 when Barney Oldfield says he'll attempt to break the record.
I wonder why Henry Ford would still claim as six cylinder racer is the "fastest in the world" when he no longer makes or sells six cylinder cars. Maybe he really liked the car and engine he says he designed? If so, we'd have a trifecta, the car (K) was profitable, was a top performer, and Henry Ford liked it (as of 1910).
Any more guesses why the six cylinder racer didn't run in the 1909 Indy races?
Trifecta? Is that going to be the name of your speedster Rob?
I found it really interesting in the Feb 1911 article the mention of the 5 mile free for all fastest time held by M Mitchell on a Merkel. Though it's been 30 years since the peak of my motorcycle days, I've become somewhat interested in classic bikes like the Merkel, the Thor as well as several others. After all it was the automobile that had such a great effect on diminishing the popularity of the motorcycles. Which for the most part, early on, were bicycles with motors on them and until the invention of the ratcheting kick starter were pedaled to start the motors. Now those old bikes sell for hundreds of thousands dollars to nearly a million.
I thought this is a "Model T" forum??????????
Well, that's why there's a T as part of the OT in the title.
Yes, it is a Model T forum. The thread was marked OT for "Off Topic", as are many other threads. Hopefully anyone interested in this "off topic" subject will enjoy the thread, while those who do not will avoid it.
I have to say, Royce is correct, the Ford six cylinder racer was unable to qualify for the first indianapolis Motor Speedway race. Any ideas why it failed to qualify?
Just a guess - in order to qualify the car would have to show up at the track on qualifying day. Mighty hard to qualify when the car is nowhere to be seen.
A few hints. First, this report says the Speedway has received sanction for the races.
From the "Fort Worth Star-Telegram", July 18, 1909:
Details of the races to be held August 19, 20 and 21, 1909:
Does anyone following this see why the Ford six cylinder racer could not qualify?
Might it have something to do with Seldon?
So far there is no class for engines larger than 600 cubic inches.
Correct. With a 6 inch bore by 6 inch stroke, the Ford six cylinder racer has a 1,017 cu. in. engine.
Ironically, Henry Ford had pushed for displacement limits since Frank Kulick's crashes with the six cylinder racer in September and October 1907, almost two years before this first Indy race:
This August article in "The Automobile" lists the engine displacement limits. The largest allowable class is 451 to 600 cubic inches. The Ford racer wasn't allowed to run regardless if Ford wished to or not:
Makes sense that Ford retired the car. It was a real antique compared to any of the 1909 competition. The displacement likely would not have been an advantage at Indy. Pit stops for gas and tires would have made it uncompetitive even if it was as powerful as the 1909 cars, which it likely was not. No suspension means it would not corner or handle the bumpy brick surface well.
Let's face it, the six cylinder Ford racer was designed for straight line record attempts in 1905. It was yesterday's news in 1909.
No, Ford didn't "retire" the car. It wasn't eligible.
The 1907 Ford racer was built to attempt a world record ON A CIRCULAR TRACK. Additionally, Ford said they would use different size fuel tanks for the different races the racer would run at the Indy races.
At least that's what this guy said:
In this September 1909 story recapping Henry Ford's successes, he embraces Ford history, including the Model B, the six cylinder racer and the Model K:
Next up, the most well known Model K of 1909.
OK so it still didn't happen. The six cylinder racer did retire, never having set any records.
Link to official world speed records here:
We get a bunch of bellyaching and whining from Henry because Indianapolis doesn't have a Model T class. Wonder why Henry didn't just build a brickyard in Dearborn for Model T races?
The link doesn't work for me.
Try this one:
I thanks Mark.
1910 and before only show two U.S. made record holders, Ford (999/Arrow) and Stanley. If this is the test of racer greatness, no other U.S. automakers make the list.
Royce, you said
"We get a bunch of bellyaching and whining from Henry because Indianapolis doesn't have a Model T class. Wonder why Henry didn't just build a brickyard in Dearborn for Model T races?"
I don't intend this to be taken wrong, but I'm not sure why you consider yourself a Ford enthusiast?
The six cylinder racer did set one record (in addition to a tie, having one disallowed and one still pending more research).
This is a link I like for early record and race winners:
A few excerpts from the site above "Dirt and Board Races in America 1895-1917"
Of course my favorite is the race highlighted on June 21, 1907.
In the New Orleans 1911 article it states the car was buried where it was wrecked. If this was true, was it ever dug up or is it still there waiting for "Diggers" to discover it?
I am a great fan of all things Henry Ford. He had plenty of successes to make up for his mistakes. I am also a fan of truthfulness and integrity.
The cut off article about the 6 cylinder Ford racer shows something that you are hiding. The article says the car set a "record for the beach" - not a world record.
I didn't say "world record". there weren't many world records to go around. The Ford six racer was on the cusp of setting world records twice. The Model K did set a world record. I'll compare "integrity" in posting with you anytime.
Sorry, I was sidetracked for a bit. I've read that the racer was buried and that it was returned to Piquette. Due to the 1909 article in which HF says the car was sitting in a corner at the plant and this is the racer Ford intends to rebuild I think it wasn't buried. I do believe HF said he would like to bury it where it crashed and that evolved into "was buried."
From my iPhone
"I am also a fan of truthfulness and integrity" Ha Ha Ha, oh stop! stop! stop! He oh Ha Ha Ha Oh boy.... good thing I was not drinking when I read that or would be cleaning the screen right now :-)
The six cyl. racer engine was listed as a 6 inch bore by 6 inch stroke. I've wondered if the engine was really significantly larger than the standard K engine, and today I took a few pics of our K engine, and pasted the engine and oiler beside a racer pic.
The oilers are the same, so it's my reference to size the two engines. The Model K engine is 406 cu. in.. The racer engine should be 1017 cu. inches: