“First Car” Of Auto Racing Restored; Ford Celebrates 100 Years Of Racing
Thu, 19 Jun 2003, 22:48
(NAPSI)—A significant piece of history was there all along. The car that Henry Ford drove to victory in 1901 in his one and only race, and not a replica, was in a warehouse of artifacts owned by the museum in Dearborn, Mich., that bears his name.
That car, known as “Sweepstakes,” will take center stage when the Ford Racing Centennial Festival takes place on the grounds of Greenfield Village in Dearborn on Oct. 13-14, 2001.
When Ford defeated noted auto racer Alexander Winton in a highly publicized 10-mile event in Grosse Pointe, Mich., on Oct. 10, 1901, he won a glass-cut punch bowl and $1,000—and, more importantly, the financial backers who would help him start the Henry Ford Company and, ultimately, Ford Motor Company.
“Sweepstakes” was sold in 1902 and re-acquired by Henry Ford in the 1930s. It had been stored in a warehouse for many years, and the wooden body had been destroyed by fire. It was restored, used for some promotions and moved to Henry Ford Museum, where it remained, displayed to the public off and on, until 1987. Then it was again put into storage. With no papers to verify it as the original “Sweepstakes,” museum personnel came to believe it was a replica built by Henry Ford in the 1930s.
That is, until last October when Glenn Miller and Malcolm Collum made an historical discovery: The “replica” was actually the original!
“We walked into a house full of goodies that day,” recalled Collum, conservator at Henry Ford Museum. “We knew about the location [in Dearborn], but everybody thought the automobile stored there was just a replica of Henry’s original race car.”
Collum and Miller, a development engineer at Ford Special Vehicle Engineering, removed the car’s bodywork, took a closer look and realized they were staring at, well, one of the most significant cars in automotive history.
“We were just seeing things that just never would’ve been replicated in the 1930s to make a display car,” added Miller. “There were holes in the frame in various places—in the steering box, for example—where it was obvious that parts had been attached, then moved or replaced with something else. In other words, this car had evolved, as all race cars do.”
That changed the scope of the restoration project. Now, it was a thorough restoration of the original car, and the building of two running exact replicas for displays and special events.
“My job was to see that the 1901 race car was disassembled and refurbished as carefully as possible,” said Collum, “so as to preserve the original integrity and document the process. From the start we set the ground rules. We had to make sure the original car was not damaged.”
“Sweepstakes” will be among the main attractions when the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, in conjunction with Ford Motor Company, hosts the Ford Racing Centennial Festival in October—an event that will feature cars and stars.
The 1967 GT-40 that won LeMans will be there. Dan Gurney, one half of the team that drove that car to victory (with A.J. Foyt) will be there, as will Jackie Stewart, Ned Jarrett and Bob Glidden, all champions.
Event organizers are hopeful to draw Ford and racing enthusiasts from all over to this once-in-a-lifetime event, and are calling on the general public, as well as private collectors, to contact Village Special Events about bringing their Ford, or Ford-powered race cars to this special weekend event.
“We wanted to have this festival as close as possible to the actual anniversary date of Henry’s race,” said Brad Frohn, North American Marketing Manager for Ford Racing Technology. “We’ll have opportunities for people to get up-close to some of the most famous race cars in history, and meet and speak with some of the greatest drivers of all time.
“This will be a special event, and one we think people who attend will never forget.”
Individuals who want to learn more about the Centennial Festival, or have a Ford race vehicle they would like to display, are asked to contact Village Special Events at (313) 982-6100 ext. 2302, or see more information at www.fordracing.com.
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