Over the last week I was looking into the Model T based racers Ford created, winning numerous competitions around the country between 1910 and 1912.
A well known quote attributed to Henry Ford is "we're building race cars, not trucks." A couple of years ago when looking into this quote, I couldn't find anything remotely similar attributed to Henry Ford or Ford Motor Company. Historians claim Henry Ford said this when entering the Ford Special (410 cu. in. record setting racer using a Model T appearing running gear) in the 1913 Indianapolis 500.
A problem I've dealt with is, where is the validation? Newspapers and journals of the period were more than happy to print any gossipy or salacious stories about major automakers. So how is it that something so widely accepted today didn't make a report (that I've found) "in the day?"
I believe I may have found the bit of fact that may have morphed into this interesting, but uncorroborated Ford legend.
First, a couple of well known authors who have perpetuated the "racers not trucks" story (myth in my opinion).
Well known author and Ford historian Beverly Rae Kimes in her book "The Cars That Henry Ford Built," pg. 47, attributed the quote "we're building race cars, not trucks" to Henry Ford, writing that Ford said this in response to being required to add 1,000 lbs. to the weight of the Ford racer to be eligible for the 1913 Indianapolis 500.
In another more recent publication covering Ford, author Tom Collins, "The Legendary Ford Model T," wrote about Henry Ford, "we're building race cars, not trucks," adding "Ford hissed." The sentence prior the author wrote "As always when he was rebuffed, Henry Ford stiffened his back, brushing off the Indianapolis crowd with a memorable remark."
It seems historians need to embellish or add new and additional remarks to an event, even when the original "event" probably never occurred.....
As a result, blogs and articles perpetuate rumor and myth, creating an acceptance of events that may not have happened. This from an online article on "Automotive News" website:
Museums and displays also promote stories such as this. This plaque with a mock up racer at the Gilmore Museum promotes the same story:
Photo by David Horst
I understand authors need to add information from previous accepted accounts when writing. They obviously can't be expected to investigate every bit of information in their book. However, it becomes next to impossible to revise history because so many accounts exist with accepted misinformation that it's virtually impossible to "set the record straight."
Now, for "the rest of the story," or Ford according to Rob.
Next, where I believe this story began, and what "really occurred" in my opinion....
Hi Rob, interesting research! We can hardly wait for "The rest of the story..."
Once it's in print, it lives forever. Ask Parson Weems.
I believe a lot of quotes are attributed to Henry Ford.
A search for a 1901-1912 quote yield zero.
The earlier reference to the quote was found here. You may want to find a copy and see where it leads...
Automobile Quarterly - Volume 10, Issue 4 - Page 384
1972 - ‎Snippet view - ‎More editions
"We're building race cars, not trucks," Henry told them and promptly forgot about the whole thing. The Ts problem so Henry said was that it was discriminated against in events requiring competitors to conform to the A.A.A.'s weight or ...
Rob, just wanted to encourage you and thank you for these types of posts. Its enjoyable and educational to read about the early history of Ford on this forum rather than the nit picking and criticisms that often are found. Great job and thanks.
Thanks George. I've noticed it too.
I do believe the following is the basis for this "quote." While not as sexy, it is corroborated through different sources "in the day."
Ford returned to track racing in the early winter of 1910.
Note: another "sore point," every "historical account" reads that Ford Motor Co. didn't enter another track contest after the six cylinder racer went of the track, nearly killing Frank Kulick, Ford's nationally known driver. However, Ford did indeed enter a track event in September 1908, just before the first Mode T sale. The racer, a Model K Roadster, with Kulick at the wheel. BTW, it won it's race.....
The new Ford racers were Ford based drivetrain with special engines and differentials, Bosch dual ignitions, and, yes, waterpumps. Between 1910 and 1912 Ford set track records and beat many of the best racers in the world. I believe the following story is the basis for "race cars, not trucks" due to weight requirements.
In August 1910, Ford Motor Company entered two Ford Special racers in the Elgin Road Races. These were nationally known races held near Chicago. Ford had already racked up several wins and high finishes in races around the middle and eastern U.S. at this point. The two racers entered had 187 cubic inch displacement according to the bore/stroke listed:
I need to run, but will get back with the rest of this later today.
Thanks Joe, just saw your post after submitting the above. It's my pleasure to put together things, and I've always liked to review and investigated "known facts." Might be from my old cop/investigator background. Or it may just be I'm obstinate...
I'll finish this afternoon...
I recall reading, some years ago, about a rivalry between Ettore Bugatti and W.O. Bentley. Mr Bugatti is alleged to have said: "Mr. Bentley builds the fastest trucks in the world".
I relish all of your historical postings and admire your deep research. Bravo and please continue. Bill
If Henry Ford had been born mute, it would only reduce his supposed quotes by half.
Mr Bugatti was probably vexed, however, by Mr Bentley's very sturdy, very fast "trucks".
Bill and Keith, thank you. Before this morphs into a Bugatti and Bentley story, I better finish.
On August 26th, 1910, newspapers reported the following:
The two Ford cars were disqualified because they were too light. Later magazine reports gave more details:
Both Fords were disqualified due to being under weight. Henry Ford had travelled to the race, and refused to allow additional weight be added to make them eligible. His reported comment: "the Fords he had offered were stock cars and that it would be going directly against his principles of light-weight construction if he added extra weight in this manner."
Not as exciting as "we're building race cars, not trucks." And not the 1913 Indianapolis 500, however a prestigious race nonetheless. Furthermore, this did not cause Henry Ford to leave racing. In fact, Kulick and the Ford Specials would perform admirably a month later at the Syracuse N.Y. Racetrack:
Ford would continue racing, picking up the pace in 1911, winning at an unprecedented pace. I'll put up a few more thoughts when I find my 1911 stats. Meanwhile, look at the photo below, with Frank Kulick driving a Ford Special, leading a Mercer. Had to (and still does) make Ford owners proud....
FWIW - Adding to automotive history, this link is to an article about a company in my hometown of Clintonville, WI. (2010 Census said 4,559 pop.)
Some may remember 'North Central Airlines', which was also founded in Clintonville to support the WWII effort.
FWD Corp raced at Indy, but is probably best now-known by their fire trucks and heavy utility trucks, military trucks, even as USAF & airport crash trucks in your locality. FWD-Seagrave builds these to explicit standards, known by my own working there right after high school. (Seems like it should be only a few months ago.)
Even trucks may have a 'racing history'... whether big city or not.
Wonderful stuff Rob!
The Mercer versus Ford photo is fantastic. I find the comparison between those two interesting because the Mercer and Stutz are often compared to each other. Of those two, the Mercer is the lighter car, while the Stutz has the bigger and more powerful engine on a much heavier chassis. In contests where raw power was needed, Stutz was often the winner. The Mercer often did better where handling and performance gave an advantage. It is just interesting to see the Mercer fighting it out against a Ford, with Mercer now the heavy car.
The Stutz Mercer rivalry is almost as bad as the Ford Chevy rivalry, and continues among their fans a century later.
Thanks Rob ! I look forward to further installments.
I have driven through Clintonville numerous times and never saw a sign or anything that would make it known that they had a museum. I will have to look for it next time I head up north.
If my memory is correct, going north into C-ville on what was US 45 before the by-pass happened, you'll want to turn right (east) on 11th street. Only a couple blocks and at the entrance to W.A. Olen Park. On the link I provided, at the 'Museum' tab, they do only show Saturday hours of 1-4 PM, along with a contact name and number for an appointment. Enjoy history in a small town!
Fun reading. Thanks for the racing Ford news!
Found this tidbit on the web, from old newspapers now on line. Mentions Ford won't be entering racing in 1912, but doesn't explain why.
I have a similar article saying that Ford withdrew from racing during the 1912 season too. Ford and Kulick had a few record making wins including Algonquin hill climb in 1912. There doesn't appear to be a reason, just that Ford left racing. I don't believe Kulick raced again, nor that the Ford Special saw another competition after the summer of 1912.
Ford definitely left racing while on top, with a world beater in the 410 cubic inch Ford Special. Another reason why the racer should be on display at THF in my opinion.
I'll have another thread covering Ford's incredible 1911 race year and finish with the abbreviated 1912 year.
May I use your article when I wrap up 1912?
Kulick and the Ford Special, winning over all classes in the late June 1912 Algonquin Hill Climb:
And the all class winning Trophy, also at THF should be prominently displayed with the record setting Ford Special: