This may be the most widely photographed and displayed Model K in Ford history. If not it's a close second to the Ford Model K s that won the 24 hour endurance run in Detroit, 1907.
However, this Model K was extensively photographed and seen in newspapers across the country in 1909, over a year after the last Model K was produced in the spring of 1908. To begin the story, let's look at probably the most well known car in world history up to that time, the Thomas Flyer that won the New York to Paris Race in 1908. The famous Thomas Flyer N.Y. to Paris winner was selected as the Pathfinder for the Ocean to Ocean Race. I suspect this was a good choice for both Thomas and the race organizers:
With the selection of the Thomas Flyer came publicity, and Thomas made use of the PR with extensive national advertising:
And suppliers like Diamond Tire also made good use of the opportunity with national advertising:
By May, 1909, thirteen cars were entered in the Ocean to Ocean Race, including two Thomas and two Ford cars:
to be continued.........
By the day of the race, five cars made the start, Two Fords, an Acme, Shawmut and Itala. A Stearns car would start later but failed to make it out of the State of New York due to mechanical problems. The following news reports segments appeared in "The Automobile." Henry Ford, New York Ford branch manager Gaston Plaintiff, Louis Block and Harvey Firestone were present at the beginning of the race.
The competitors and pace car:
The following photographs appeared in newspapers and magazines with the story of the beginning of the race.
This photo ran in the "Sunday Oregonian:"
The same surviving photograph shows the Ford 6-40 and another car at the beginning of the race. F. W. (Fred) Teves is the driver and John Gerrie, race judge, is beside him:
This newspaper photograph shows the procession as they leave New York City Hall. The Ford 6-40 leading the procession, followed by the two Ford Model Ts and other contestants. The photo ran in several major newspapers including the NY Tribune and Sun:
As with the Thomas Flyer pathfinder, suppliers used the race to promote their products. The advertisement below says Firestone supplied the tires for the Ford racers, the Acme, and "the Ford car in which John Gerrie set the pace" (Model K):
I've been aware that a Ford Model K was the pace car for some time. However, I've also wondered, why? As seen with the Thomas Flyer, an official position in a high profile race or competition creates good advertising and promotional opportunity. I assume other car makers would have jumped at the chance to have their car photographed and written about leading the procession west. Why would a Ford car no longer in production be used as the pacemaker? Did Henry Ford approve of the Model K being the "leader" in the race? Was he, or other Ford officials, even aware the old Ford would be used?
Obviously, the idea that Henry Ford "hated" or disliked the Model K, and then would be a party to using one to lead off the first race Ford had participated in for some time seems difficult to reconcile. This race was meant to be a showcase for the new Model T. Henry Ford entered the race early, and was a strong supporter of it. He was present at the beginning of the race, met the racers along the route, and was at the completion of the race in Seattle to meet the winning Ford.
To me, these are interesting questions. Short of finding eye witness statements, we probably have to answer these questions with opinions and best guesses.
If your following along, I hope your enjoying the photos and articles. Everyone will draw their own conclusions, and there is no known right or wrong answer, as far as I'm concerned. As usual, I'll have more to follow......
I suspect that the Ford K was simply a private machine, owned by one of the Auto Club officials who were monitoring the event and leading the way. As far as Thomas goes, the 1908 race left the company with many large debts. The company took advantage of any opportunity to make a dollar off the old Model 35 NY-P Flyer. The 1909 race orgnizers paid for the use of the car and also paid George Miller's expenses, as well as the official photographer that was also along. For several years The Thomas Co. shipped The Flyer all over the country for appearances at auto shows. Dealers that requested the car paid a fee to the company for this. The Flyer made an appearance here in Salt Lake City at Utah's first big auto show in 1910, along with a big Thomas Vanderbilt Cup racer.
It is fairly amazing the depths to which Ford stooped in cheating on this one occasion. From period newspaper reports:
"Few gave the Shawmut a chance, with no factory to provide spare parts. But Pettengill and relief drivers Earle Chapin and Robert Messer, all of Stoneham, stayed neck-and-neck with the Fords for much of the race, as the Acme fell far behind and the Itala dropped out. But, the Shawmut consistently ran into what seemed like rigged obstacles. On June 8 in Glasgow, Missouri, the Stoneham car reached the Missouri River moments after the Fords, only to watch as a ferry carried the Model T's across, then shut down for unscheduled maintenance. The Shawmut had to scramble along the eastern bank searching for a railroad bridge to cross.
Undaunted, the Shawmut gained a five-hour lead by June 15, when it arrived at Wyoming's Fort Steele and found the Platte River's wagon bridge washed out. At the nearby railroad crossing, the armed agent for Union Pacific refused to let them onto the bridge without permission from management in Omaha. The Stoneham men, waiting all night and into morning, watched in disbelief as the Fords sped by with permits, having been alerted to quirks throughout the race by its national dealership network. Shawmut lost 17 1/2 hours there, more than the eventual disparity at the finish." Copied from Boston.com.
"After 22 days and a horrible push through deep snow with R.P. Rice, the local Ford dealer and Henry Ford himself working to get the car over Snoqualmie Pass, the Model T No. 2 arrived at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and was heralded as the winner of the race. Bert Scott was at the wheel assisted by mechanic C. J. Smith. Henry Ford initiated a huge marketing scheme trumpeting the victory and assuring the dominance of the American automobile market for his lightweight vehicle for nearly another 20 years." AYP Web site
[From an unidentified race analyst:]
Most researchers say that the axle [on Ford No. 2] was changed in Idaho, but I would say that it was changed in Rawson, Wyoming. Both Fords broke down a few miles out of Rawson and had to be towed back to Rawson and spent four hours for repairs. The NO. 2 Ford was in bad shape. This is the only checkpoint that I could find where a significant amount of time was spent.
The Seattle AAA Club set the rules for the automobiles. Why didn't they and the Referee, Guggenheim, inspect the automobile on arrival to see if the Ford had replaced forbidden parts? They made the rules. Why were Ford automobiles used for Pace Keepers instead of neutral automobiles? It is beyond imagination that this was carelessly forgotten.
On June 23, formal complaints by the Shawmut Company were issued against the winning Ford:
First: At Fort Steele, Wyoming, where the wagon bridge was washed out, the two Ford cars were allowed to cross on the railroad bridge by virtue of special permits [they had requested the permits from the Union Pacific in Omaha while in Cheyenne], while the Shamut was refused access to the bridge, being delayed 16 hours.
Second: That the Ford No. 2 broke the rules regarding the actual driving. In the Snoqualmie Pass, it is alleged, an employee of the Ford branch in Seattle met the racer and proceeded to get into the driver's seat and operate the car. Later, the regular driver, who had sent the car across the continent, went back to the wheel.
Third: That the Ford No. 2 arrived in Seattle with a new axle, one that had not been stamped in New York City, thus breaking the rules against putting in new axles if the old one had worn out.
Eventually AAA overturned the Ford victory, upholding the complaints from Shawmut. In accordance with Rule 5:"
The car first arriving at Seattle which has complied with the rules of the race and whose passports shall be found to be correct, will be declared to be the winner of the M. Robert Guggenheim $3,500 trophy and the entrant will be presented with the trophy and with a cash prose of $2,000 in gold. The entrant of the second car arriving at Seattle will receive $1,500. The entrant of the third car arriving will receive $1,000. The entrant of the fourth car arriving will receive $500.
The Thomas Flyer could have easily won the race. I wonder why Thomas and Pierce did not participate? In any case it was a truly embarrassing event in Ford history.
The Thomas arriving in Seattle before the race:
The magnificent Thomas Flyer in 1952 at Henry Austin Clark's Long Island Museum:
Thank you for the information on the Thomas Flyer. I've seen articles written along the route as the Thomas made it's way to Seattle. Of course, it looks as though it's the Thomas crew's fault the southern route was chosen for the O2O race, due to mud in Nebraska. We evidently lost out to MO and KS (and have never fully recovered ).
As the late Paul Harvey used to say, "now, for the rest of the story."
As it turns out, the Model K driver, F. W. (Fred) Teves was a Ford Motor Company New York Branch employee. Apparently the Model K was owned by Ford Motor Company, and there is little to no way Henry Ford was unaware of and in all likelihood, agreeable to the Ford owned Model K acting as Pace Car.
From the July 15, 1909 Ford Times:
Yes the Itala droped out! The rest of the story is it was hit by a train!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bud.
Just for interest sake if something is done well and has the desired result for those involved it is often done over again! In 1978 an around Australia Reliability Trial/Rally was held incorporating a full clockwise lap around Australia on often non existant roads or very poorly formed ones. The event was open to all manufacturers. The rally coincided with the launch of the new model for General Motors Holden, the new VB Commodore. General Motors Holden entered two cars with full factory backing and recruited the best known drivers with the highest profile names. The event was a whitewash with the two Holden cars running first and second in the rally. The resultant publicity for the new model Holden Commadore was crazy with the winning cars featuring on the front pages of all National newspapers and big colour posters popping up in dealership windows. The car went on to be a massive sales success and all the other rally participants that poured their own and sponsors funds into their race were quickly forgotten about. Amazing paralells between two companies, and two races held nearly 80 years apart but got similar results.
It looks as if the Itala was able to keep going after the train incident. By the time the two Fords and Shawmut are approaching Seattle this report in "Automobile" magazine says the Itala is at Denver.
I believe I read this car may have been Robert Guggenheim's personal car, or he drove one (memory?). The Itala had a lot of bad luck, with an I'll driver early in the race too:
It looks as though the Itala ended it's run at Denver two days before the Ford racer #2 made Seattle. According to "Automobile Topics" magazine the cause was a bad axle: