Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

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Rob
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Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Rob » Sat Feb 23, 2019 7:38 pm

As with many things Ford, the Ford Special racers made a big impact "in the day," yet seem mostly lost to history. As with Ford's two "big cars," Models B and K, I suspect part of the problem is they were on the scene for such a short time, and then they were gone.

The Ford Special racers (wish I knew how many for sure, at least four, and I suspect five or six) burst on the scene in mid 1910. For some reason, Ford Motor Company made a concerted effort to race in 1911, and race they did, finishing 5th in number of victories by any U.S. or foreign automaker in domestic competitions. While most companies had racing teams with stables of drivers and cars, Ford did it on the cheap, often sending Frank Kulick alone or with one or two Ford employees to major completions across the U.S.

The peak was reached when Ford introduced the last of their racers, the V-nosed 410 cubic inch M-II (parts drawings at Benson Library are labeled M through M-IV).

Think about it a moment. A Model T appearing racer, with a Chevy big block size motor. And not just any motor. A high compression, Bosch provided dual ignition, ported and pressurized oiling system.

Maybe part of the reason Ford Specials are so little known is because Ford didn't publicize the racers as "special." FMC seemed more than happy to allow press reports to read that a 20 hp Model T had beaten some of the worlds best racers of the time.

So......... on with story.

Arguably the greatest racer of the 1909-1912 period was the Bitzen Benz. A 200 hp 1300 cubic inch monster that Barney Oldfield, then Bob Burman drove to victories and records.

From Wikipedia:
On 23 April 1911, Bob Burman recorded an average of 228.1 kilometres per hour (141.7 mph) over a full mile at Daytona Beach, breaking Glenn Curtiss's unofficial absolute speed record, land, sea or air, set in 1907 on his V-8 motorcycle. Burman's record stood until 1919.

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And the Benz wasn't just a straight away speed merchant. In September the big Benz set the one mile circular dirt track world record:

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Barnstorming across his home state of Michigan, Burman thrills a crowd of 30,000 on the Grand Rapids MI track:
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Next up for the Burman Benz team, a two day meet Sep 25th adn 26th in Detroit. The primary time trial challengers are a Hotchkiss and a little Ford. What could go wrong?[/size]

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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by John Warren » Sat Feb 23, 2019 9:40 pm

One hundred and forty two miles per hour in 1911. It is a great looking car but WOW. Thanks
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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Rob » Sun Feb 24, 2019 8:47 am

Back from the blizzard of 19..... Several inches of snow following ice last night. I'm ready for summer. :shock:

September 25th, 1911 was the first day of the two day meet in Detroit. Held at the State Fairgrounds, the same track where Frank Kulick drove a model K to the world 24 hour distance record in June of 1907, and where he went through the fence attempting the world circular track mile record with the six cylinder racer in October 1907. The race meet had been postponed a week due to wet conditions. Although the track was still wet, the Blitzen Benz and Bob Burman picked up where they had left off, winning. Burman set a 20 mile record and Michigan 5 mile record:

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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Rob » Sun Feb 24, 2019 9:46 am

The stage is set for the last day of racing at Detroit. Burman will drive the Blitzen Benz against time, facing a 200 hp Hotchkiss driven by Judy Kilpatrick, and the Ford Special driven by Frank Kulick. As this report states, the Ford beat the two larger cars hands down. At the suggestion of a match race between the Benz and Ford for $5,000, however "Burman declined the issue with his present car."
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Nationaly, Motor Age magazine reported this of the race:
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Frank Kulick would compete against time once more, in 1912 on ice, covering a mile at the average speed of 109mph. He would compete once more in the summer of 1912, winning the prestigious Algonquin Hill Climb. Then he and Henry Ford would not race again.

Remarkably, the Blitzen Benz and Ford Special still exist today. How about a rematch?
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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by wayne sheldon » Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:57 pm

When men were MEN!
Wonderful stuff Rob, thank you.

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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Kaiser » Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:35 am

Ah yes, a rematch.... if only it were possible !
I know the Benz is run every now and then, the 410 Ford on the other hand not so much ;)
But... you could try your hand at racing your car against the Benz :mrgreen:
When in trouble, do not fear, blame the second engineer ! 8-)
Leo van Stirum, Netherlands
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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Rob » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:08 am

Frank Kulick would only drive one more competition, and an exhibition in 1912. A couple of months after the win over Burman and the Benz, Kulick made national headlines again:
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And so, Frank Kulick saved Ford and Detroit face, beating the world record holder in both the mile and for fastest speed ever recorded, clocking a 50 second mile on the circular dirt track at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

However, someone did clock a faster mile on the same track................ The rest of the story in a bit.

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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Rob » Mon Feb 25, 2019 9:33 am

Brrrr. It's below zero in balmy eastern Nebraska.

Ok, the Ford Special's 50 second mile wasn't the fastest run on the Michigan State Fairground track. That honor belonged to another racer, almost four years earlier to the day, in early October 1907. Kulick talks about it in this 1910 article after Barney Oldfield claims he's going to lower the track record:

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See, it always comes back to a Ford Six........... :)[/size]

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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by bobster1 » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:35 am

Great History, I bet if you asked any of the NASCAR Boyz if they'd drive one of these cars today the answer would be NO! These guys had to be crazy, no protective gear and very poor steering let alone tires that were never subjected to those kind of speeds. WOW!
Bob Richmon, 804-339-0584,bobveco@aol.com, 07' Model N, 1911 T Touring,1913 Overland, 1919 Paco Speedster :lol:


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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by wayne sheldon » Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:55 pm

More great stuff! And a fitting closure to the racing history, connecting back to the sixes!
And, just in case anyone thinks I don't actually read all of this stuff? I wonder if Harry Ford is related to Henry? And does Henry know about Harry taking over the company? A simple and basically pointless snide remark from me, for an explanation reread the "KULICK QUITS RACING GAME" clipping a few postings above.

Thank you Rob!

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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Duey_C » Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:35 pm

This is totally wicked! :)
I had no idea the vee nosed Ford racer beat that mighty Benz! That's just too cool for school.
I wonder if the Ford racer needed this much to get it going? The Blitzen Benz starting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMa3_tT5mKA
Then they don't warm it up proper. 'Spose they can't at the fancy show.
I hope it's OK I posted this link about the Benz. ?
As it nears touring status, I'd wager you may show us the starting procedure for the 300 cubed Ford.
Thanks Rob. Your digging helps us all understand the earlier Fords. In a very good and positive way.
Much appreciated.
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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Rob » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:48 am

Wayne, Henry's little (known) brother Harry. Rumor is he's the one who hated the model K...... :)

Duey, I think much like the six cylinder racer (over 1,000 cubic inches), Henry Ford realized they had reached the pinnacle of horsepower to weight ratio with the 410 cu in V radiator racer with regard to technology at the time. I also suspect, with the speed witnessed at Detroit that day, and following the death of a Ford mechanician earlier in the summer of 1911 with the Ford Special sent to France, and several other 1911 racing deaths, Henry Ford was truly ready to be finished with track racing.

Unfortunately it's difficult to know which racer is which (engine size) because many reports don't publish bore/stroke or engine size of the motors. Fortunately, most races were size limited, so we often know a racer running in the 201 - 300 cubic inch class was not a stock T. We also know from other race info, cars were not allowed (typically) to "race up" in brackets for larger motors.

As a result, I think the 410 cu in racer only ran a few times, one being this race in which it beat arguably the most powerful racer in the world, both in the mile sprint and in top end straight line racing.

Another link and photo of the "Blitzen Benz." Horsepower and wet roads don't go well together......

Link - Benz spins out:

https://youtu.be/8dWkhSCfGs0

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IMG_2395.JPG (64.26 KiB) Viewed 1458 times
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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by John Warren » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:28 am

Thanks Rob, Great stories and kudos to Harry :) Ford and Frank. I really appreciate you sharing all this history.
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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by wayne sheldon » Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:59 pm

Racing in those days was a very dangerous sport indeed! Drivers were running at speeds that ten years earlier practically no human being had ever experience in all of known human history. They really did not know what would happen. Some people actually believed that a person exceeding some given speed would simply die because the human heart or mind or soul could not work beyond a certain speed. We may think today that it is a silly notion, but in the days when the fastest thing ever on land or sea was a steam locomotive doing 60 mph? Fear and beliefs take over. A racing driver today, doing even 200 mph knows that the only thing he really needs to fear is an accident. And even at that, the safety equipment, roll cages, and fire suppression systems make most accidents something they walk away from. Engineers today are trying to break the sound barrier on land. Since men have already done about twice that in the air, they know the greatest thing to fear is not having enough room to get up to that speed and still be able to stop without hitting anything first.
In the early days of forming his companies, Henry Ford knew that racing was the best way to get free publicity, encourage investors, and increase sales. And, Henry in spite of his age, was not only a brilliant engineer, he himself was a nearly fearless and VERY capable driver. He was also a good man, who cared about the people around him. So it was almost inevitable that he would question the risks, and threaten to quit racing a few times. However, for some years, there was still more to learn, and more to promote. By 1912 however, he probably did realize that for the needs and technology of the day, he had learned enough from racing. So it really was time to retire from most of that game. For the next ten years, he had enough to do just to keep up with the demands for his cars.

For me, there is another interesting connection to another car-maker of the day. When I was fifteen, my dad bought a 1927 Paige sedan that was supposed to be the "great family project". Unfortunately, my dad was better with ideas than he was with follow-through. The car was taken apart, but never restored. In spite of that, I developed a fondness for the Paige and Jewett automobiles, and their history. Harry Jewett (There is where Harry could have come from! :lol: ) was an early investor in the Paige Detroit Automobile company. He had made a fortune as a coal merchant, and needed some place to invest some of his money. He soon discovered that the engineers and businessmen running the company a friend had suggested were not up to the task of building a successful product. So, he took over the company (this is the short version of the story, the long version covers a couple pages). Along about 1911, Harry was ironing out the business, had totally redesigned their cars, and was trying to promote them. A driver was seriously injured in a speed trial, and that was the last real race that the Paige Detroit Automobile Company ever participated in. Harry Jewett decided that he would not be able to live with himself if a company driver were killed during a race or practice. In the early '20s, they ran the new Jewett automobiles in numerous fuel economy trials, but never races. By the way, in their class? The Jewetts always scored very high in economy runs.
Interesting also to note, that the Paige automobiles were often raced by independent owners, and sometimes dealers. And they often won or placed in the top finishers. No less than E L Cord of Auburn and Duesenberg fame raced Paige automobiles before he had his own company cars to race.

It seems that Henry Ford was not the only wealthy businessman automobile manufacturer with a heart.

The only real exception to that "NO" factory racing, was when Paige speed tested a new chassis design about 1920, and set a new stock chassis record (which stood for less than a year). The factory almost immediately sold the car, and it went to Australia. The production version of the car was the Paige Daytona, named for the beach where they set a speed record.
There was also the Pike's Peak "record". Maybe a story for later.

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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by John Warren » Wed Feb 27, 2019 9:14 am

Nice extra story Wayne, Love the history guys, Thanks.
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Re: Ford Special notes, The Vanquished

Post by Howard Tomlinson » Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:58 pm

Hello Rob,

I was reading in some of the race documentation that the 288 and 410 cars both ran 2 to 1 gearing (racing stats so I don't know if they are accurate).

Is that what is in your racer? Just curious.


Thanks,

Howard

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