OT - 108 years ago today, Henry Ford left racing, again.....

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2015: OT - 108 years ago today, Henry Ford left racing, again.....
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Sunday, October 18, 2015 - 05:42 pm:

On October 18, 1907, Frank Kulick, driving the third version of the Ford six cylinder racer, attempted to lower the world one mile circular track record at the Michigan State Fairground track. A.A.A. sanction had been received, and timers were ready. A month earlier, at the Highland Park race track, Kulick had wrecked the same racer, and Henry Ford swore off racing then until a classification is made to "limit the possible speed to something within reason."

September 14, 1907:


Most Ford historical perspectives say the Ford six cylinder racer did not live up to Henry Ford's expectations, or was a downright failure.

However, when compared with the top racers of the day, it appears this Ford racer may indeed have been the fastest in the world. In April, 1907, Barney Oldfield lowered the one mile circular track record to 54 seconds driving his famous Peerless "Green Dragon." Walter Christie and Oldfield had shared the record at 55 seconds prior to this:



more to follow......


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Sunday, October 18, 2015 - 06:08 pm:

Following the mid September wreck, Kulick is soon driving the Ford racer again. On Oct 10th the Boston Post reports the Ford has set a new world record at 52 3/5 seconds:


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Dave Hjortnaes, Men Falls, WI on Sunday, October 18, 2015 - 08:57 pm:

The Milwaukee Mile speedtrack is exactly one mile, so I see no reason why Rob cannot come to Milwaukee and attempt the 1 minute mile in his new Roadster. I have a leather helmet he can borrow so as to stay authentic. If he makes a mile a minute I will buy him lots of beer to celebrate. Not that cheap Miller Lite stuff either.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Sunday, October 18, 2015 - 09:45 pm:

Dave,
I would like to take our K on a one mile track to try and maintain the 47 mph average the K maintains when it set a 24 hour record for miles traveled in June of 1907, although just for a few miles). :-)

Henry Ford had good reason to be concerned about track accidents. Not only had Kulick recently went through the fence at Highland Park, Walter Christie also had a close call and another driver was killed during speed events in September:




What the Boston Post reporter evidently didn't know when reporting that the Ford had set a ne record, Christie had run a faster time and set a new record before wrecking, so Ford did not hold the mile mark:



Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Monday, October 19, 2015 - 09:52 am:

So, where was I?

Henry Ford had sworn off racing following the accident September 14th. Within three weeks, he and Frank Kulick are back at it, close to (and thought to be by the Boston Post) a world mile speed record.

Only two weeks after the accident, Henry Ford is at the wheel of the racer, "reeling off miles in 55 seconds." At this point, Henry Ford is president and majority owner of the largest auto maker in the world, and still pushing the racer near the world speed record. My guess is this is the last time Henry Ford Would drive a racer for time:



On October 18th, the same day Kulick attempts to bring home a world record for Ford, the Christie racer, driven by Louis Strang (Christie is still recovering from the September accident) sets a new record of 51 3/5 seconds:



The stage is set for the attempt at the world speed record. The event is sanctioned, timers are on hand, and Kulick begins his warm up laps. This is how The "Detroit News" reported it:



With an unofficial time of 49 4/5 seconds, the racer is ready for an official run for at record:


This newspaper photo was taken of Kulick seated on the racer before the attempt:


Next, the accident.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Monday, October 19, 2015 - 07:48 pm:

More interesting stuff! I keep coming back, reading, and enjoying. Thank you Rob for all this research and posting.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 03:15 pm:

Thank you Wayne. This is obviously a labor of love......... :-)

The Detroit News reported the following:




In a separate article, the News quoted Henry Ford saying "I have said it many times before, but this time I say it finally - never again will I build another racing machine. I hope that machine is wrecked beyond recognition." He went on, "I thank God that Frank is not dead, and I can promise that he will never race again for the Ford company."



Next - never say never......


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Keith Gumbinger, Kenosha, WI on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 04:30 pm:

Rob, Your discovery of these articles and facts is great. This could be a whole chapter in your (someday) book. Thank you for all your work on this.

This accident with Kulick driving and trying to set a record makes me wonder why an ambulance wasn't at the track ready if needed. Perhaps they just weren't as concerned about accidents, injuries and possibly deaths then. I've seen pictures of other races and there doesn't seem to be any barriers to keep the spectators off the track.

Keith


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 07:16 pm:

Thanks Keith. Fences and crowd control seemed lacking, and I've seen several press reports of spectators being killed when cars left the track. I suspect ambulances probably had little in the way of first response equipment, so chopping the front seat off a Model K and hauling Kulick to the hospital may have been as good as an ambulance anyway.

It appears all tracks were not created equal either. The same Michigan State Fairground track was used for the 24 hour race that the Model K set a world record on a few months before. It's dirt surface and flat curves were made for horse racing, as were most one mile circular tracks of the day. Below is a Ford ad showing the State Fair track and Ford leading the second and third place finishers. That race, held in June, 1907, claimed to have the largest crowd ever to witness an auto race in the U.S.:



However, the new record set by Strang driving the Christie racer was made on a banked track newly designed for auto racing:



Fortunately, a few of the newspaper photos still remain, including those above showing Kulick at the wheel and the wreck scene:

Photos courtesy of The Henry Ford, all rights apply:



Most historians write that Henry Ford stuck with his self imposed moratorium on racing, and that Ford did not build a racer or enter racing again, at least until the 1910-1912 Ford Special racer competed.

However...........


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 10:09 am:

Author Allan Nevins described the incident in his widely read book, "FORD: THE TIMES, THE MAN, THE COMPANY" page 348, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1954:

"As man and car crumpled, the onlookers were momentarily frozen with horror. Then Ford and the others tore down the track to the rescue. When one hospital, reached by telephone, refused to send an ambulance outside the city limits, Ford used a crowbar and saw to tear the front seat from a Model K car, had a cot from the groundskeepers house placed on the floor, and drove Kulick—badly, but not fatally injured—to Grace Hospital. This was a telling lesson;
Ford never raced again."

Several "Ford"8 authors appear to borrow from Nevins book, declaring that Ford did not build a racer again, or enter racing, at least until the Ford Special years (1910-1912).

However, it seems Henry Ford still has the racing "itch" to show what his six cylinder racer is capable of. Only nine days after the wreck, the Chicago newspaper "Inter-Ocean" reports that Ford is planning to send the racer to England to attempt records at the newly constructed Brooklands race track, a 2 3/4 banked racetrack built specifically for automobile racing:


The racer did not make the trip, the next mention of Ford racing and the six cylinder racer comes on the May 1, 1908 cover of "Ford Times," and Ford reiterates his intention to "stay out of the racing game:"



By July, 1908, Frank Kulick is quoted by two D.C. Papers saying the six cylinder racer would race again, in the upcoming Thanksgiving Day Vanderbilt Cup race.



Once again, the racer did not show. So, did Henry Ford not race again? Was this the end of the six cylinder saga for Ford? Meanwhile, what happened to the six cylinder racer that was demolished in the October 1907 wreck?

Later, the exciting conclusion........ :-)

(Message edited by Rob on October 21, 2015)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 10:09 am:

The big racer didn't make the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup races.

Then, following the 1909 Ocean to Ocean race, Henry Ford again discusses the six cylinder racer with the press, saying the racer will be rebuilt for the in natural Indianapolis Speedway races to be held at the end of the summer:




Henry Ford is quoted saying he will rebuild "the big racer," and that the "engine has been lying at the factory for a couple of years now."

The racer again did not participate at the Speedway, possibly because, as Henry Ford had pushed for, engine size restrictions were finally imposed, with a 600 cubic inch maximum (the racer was over 1,000 cubic inches).

Today, the six cylinder racer still exists, off display at The Henry Ford:




My goal is to have the six cylinder racer, along with up to five Model K, displayed at the 2016 Old Car Festival, the 110th anniversary of the introduction of Ford's Model N and K.

And, since the six cylinder racer did not make a race in 1908 or 09, it appears Frank Kulick and the Ford Motor Company did not officially race a six cylinder after the 1907 wreck.

Not necessarily.........


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 11:02 am:

Interesting to see almost all except the first Ford race cars were single seat when most others were twin for a riding mechanic.This car pictured looks like it had a real differental? Also a pump to pressurize the tank? Bud in Wheeler,Mi.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 07:51 pm:

Bud,
I believe there is room for a second seat. This racer was originally designed (early 1907) to be entered in the 1907 Vanderbilt Cup Race. However, the race wasn't held in 07, and the next time we see the racer is attempting the mile track record in the fall of 1907.

Regarding accepted historical perspective that Ford did not enter races after the wreck of the six cylinder racer, in August 1908, Frank Kulick and Harry Cunningham, Ford employees and longtime race car drivers (Cunningham drove against Barney Oldfield when he was competing with 999 in 1902-03), entered cars for Ford Motor Co. at Kalamazoo, MI. Also entered were nationally known drivers Oldfield and Soules:


I


In a fitting end of the final race by a six cylinder car for Ford Motor Company, the Model K won the last race it was entered in, with Frank Kulick driving:



The driver of the second place Buick was a man named R. E. Olds.

As the late Paul Harvey used to close with, "and now you know,.......the rest of the story."


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Dave Hjortnaes, Men Falls, WI on Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 08:34 pm:

You must have pulled some strings to get in to see the old race car. Are they on the HF grounds or in a storage facility somewhere?

After I had a ride in a Model T at Greenfield Village I decided I needed one of those. Now I have 2 1/2. My wife thought I should stop at 1.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Keith Gumbinger, Kenosha, WI on Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 11:06 pm:

Rob, Dave has a point. I'm kind of curious also on how you got to see the old race car.

I've often thought it would be nice to be able to have small groups of say 6 to 12 guys to have an escorted tour of their off site storage for cars and such. They could charge a fee for it, enough to make some $ for the museum.

The AACA did that this year during the Hershey week. They charged $45.00 each, and included a very nice buffet dinner with wine, & beer, etc. in their storage building not too far behind the AACA Museum building. They did this for three evenings. We went and I thought it was a good side event for that week.

It's common knowledge that most museums are looking for more revenue and this could be a good one for The Henry Ford.

Keith


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Friday, October 23, 2015 - 01:07 am:

Was the R E Olds driving the Buick the elder or the younger?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Friday, October 23, 2015 - 11:09 am:

Dave, I received pics of the racer, in a warehouse at THF, from a friend who saw it and the 1910-1912 Ford Special racer (410 cu. in. Record holding Ford Kulick drove to several wins).

Keith, yes, it would be a good opportunity for THF to add value and a chance for history buffs to see important step cars not on display.

Wayne, you have uncovered a mystery I've not been able to definitely explain. It seems Ransom E. Olds, 44 years old in 1908, would not be driving a Buick as he is building REO cars at the time. I've only found two references to R. E. Olds Jr., one for the driver in a race a month later in 1908, also driving for Buick:



And in a 1936 article as a Republican donor to a lobby group. In this article, "R. E. Olds Jr. has a Lansing, MI address, making me think it is indeed THE Ransom E. Olds:



Only problem, R. E. Olds family tree does not appear to have a junior (neither R. E.'s father or a son have the same name). It does appear a son has the same initials, R. (Ralph) E. Olds, but this son was only a child in 1908. Does anyone have more info?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Friday, October 23, 2015 - 08:37 pm:

Interesting. This is one of many minor points I have been curious about for some time. I had read something somewhere a few years ago about R E Olds Jr driving a racing car. The author commented that it was Ransom Eli's son. But the source was not what I would call reliable. As I recall, it was on the internet. None of my handy references offered any support either way, and I never followed it through, just leaving it in my memory as a question (guess I need to spend more time with Google?). When I read your posting, I wondered, maybe? Guess it is just more questions.
It apparently does not come about often, since this is only the third or fourth time I have run into it. It could be a distant relative? No relation at all? Or even a reporter's typo? Maybe it really is Ransom himself driving a competing car?

Ransom Eli Olds has always interested me. My first car I drove was a 1929 REO coupe that I bought and sometimes drove to high school. The fact that he built a couple of experimental cars (a gasoline and an electric) before Henry's quadricycle was done (1895 as opposed to 1896) made him particularly interesting. The fact that he built a steam car even earlier (in the late 1880s) made him truly an automotive pioneer. The fact that he was one of the very few really successful American automobile producers that never worked for Ford makes him truly independent. I have believed for years now that GM was foolish to drop the Oldsmobile name, just because of its historical significance.
Thank you for all you do Rob H!
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Friday, October 23, 2015 - 09:04 pm:

Yup,it stoped short of mentioning Calvin Olds who was related and i worked with at Olds.I have a book Setting the pace which is/was all about everything Olds and Randsom's father built steam and gas engines in Landsing,Mi previous to REOlds . Spelling/i just put in 13 hours in a truck and my give a damn is broken!! Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 10:50 am:

I found my copy of Setting The Pace last night and yes the racer is in there.I just looked on e-bay and the book can be bought cheap! Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 12:43 pm:

Bud, what is the racer, and caption, etc?
Thanks...


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 05:04 pm:

Rob,It was called The Pirate Sept 12 1903 it set a record for cars under 1200 pounds.Pioleted by Dan Wurgas it ran 5 miles in 5.49 or about 52mph. There is also a picture of the 1908 New York auto show. There were later production racers much like the 6-40.Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 05:06 pm:

Rob,It was called The Pirate Sept 12 1903 it set a record for cars under 1200 pounds.Pioleted by Dan Wurgas it ran 5 miles in 5.49 or about 52mph. There is also a picture of the 1908 New York auto show. There were later production racers much like the 6-40.Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Thursday, November 05, 2015 - 09:15 pm:

Just came across this. Frank Kulick was released from the hospital six weeks after the accident. His nephew told us as a result of this accident, Frank used a leg brace "like the ones Forest Gump had" until he died in the 1960's:


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Friday, November 06, 2015 - 08:52 am:

If i remember right after all Frank Kulick did for Ford the story about his fire ing seames very harsh?? It was a far different world then.Bud in Wheeler,rained out!!


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