from Ford World article (May 2001) by Mickey Moulder
1901 Ford Racer showcased at the 2002
International Detroit Auto Show
photo C. Edwards
a small shop in Sterling Heights, Michigan, a group of automotive
craftsmen is stepping back in time, restoring and replicating Henry
Fords 1901 racecar. While the glistening, high-tech conditions
in which they work are nothing like what Ford faced 100 years ago,
the recreating of SWEEPSTAKES highlights several similarities
between that racecar and modern ones.
is a very sophisticated car for its time said Glenn Miller,
a Ford development engineer in charge of the restoration and replica
process. Very innovative ideas went into this car. Until we
started this project, people didnt realize all the technology
it had in it. For the past 25 years, people at Henry Ford Museum
have questioned the authenticity of this car, because it appears
so advanced. But were sure its the original from 1901.
October 10, 1901, Henry Ford entered and won his one and only race.
And if not for winning that race in front of some 8,000 spectators
at the Detroit Driving Club in Grosse Pointe, Ford might not have
created what is today the Ford Motor Company.
Henry Ford entered that race to win money and get free publicity
for himself and his ideas. After winning and receiving $1,000, Ford
hit the front pages and his speed unofficially broke the existing
land speed record of 68 MPH by 4 MPH.
Why? Because the technology used by Henry Ford was so advanced.
Modern-day racing ideas included tires with no treads, non-carburettor
fuel injection system (rudimentary by todays standards), distributorless
ignition and variable valve timing (camshaft lift). The racecar
called Sweepstakes was also lightweight and sat low
to the ground compared to racecars of that era traits that
are still sought after by race teams today.
According to Miller, William Rands purchased the car from Ford early
in the century, eventually donating it back so the Ford trade school
could recondition it and rebuild the body. After a time at the trade
school, its believed the car went to the museum in the 1930s
but was not displayed for some 50 years.
Ford Racing had the 1901 racecar replicated in duplicate
for a wide variety of uses to celebrate 100 years of racing.
The original engine has two cylinders, measures 538 cubic inches
(close to 10 litres) and creates about 26 horsepower. By comparison,
todays Ford production engines range from 2.0 to 4.6 litres,
while making 130 to 300 HP.
Henrys car was also lightweight. The other racecars had larger
engines but heavier bodies. The body and frame are made of ash wood
and the frame has steel plate reinforcement. The engine and pistons
are cast iron, while numerous parts are made of brass. Iron is the
component most used. The planetary transmission a direct
predecessor to todays automatic transmission was side-mounted
next to the engine with a chain drive to the rear axle.
To think that if Henry Ford had not become famous after winning
this race, he would most likely not have gone on to found the Ford
Talk about betting the farm on one race!