While Henry Ford’s name has became almost
a synonym for the motor car, he appeared only once
on the world record scene. He proved his point, that
he could make the fastest car, then turned to his
mission in life of making cars for the millions.
He was none too pleased when the French refused to
acknowledge his new record, but in any case it only
lasted for two weeks, when Vanderbilt was back, with
a Mercedes this time, to put the speed up to 92.30
with the Blitzen Benz.
You might have expected Henry
Ford, who in his early days was a follower of the
creed that racing improves the breed, to come back
and try for the magic ton, but he probably realised
that, as much as he would have valued the publicity,
the whole business would prove too time-consuming.
name is rightly celebrated for what he did to bring
motoring to the millions rather than for his early
motor racing and record-breaking exploits. He made
his first mass produced model, the immortal Model
T, in 1908 and by 1915 he was exporting his two-seater
model to the UK, where it sold for a modest £115
fully equipped, at a time when the average 12 horse-power
English car cost £350 to £400.
justifiably proud of his methods, he held no secrets,
and even invited English manufacturers to view his
works at Trafford Park, Manchester. His mass-production
methods began with simple operations like a machine
to drill many holes at once instead of one at a time,
this methodology then incorporating the conveyor belt
system, which would form the basis of all modern motor
car manufacturing for many decades.
The other thing
worth mentioning with regard to Henry Ford’s
world land speed record was that it was the first time
it had been set outside France, Ford choosing to make
his run at Ostend in the USA, a place that would later
become the home of the automobile. Ford built a car
quite unlike any he designed later, which he called
the 999 Arrow. He drove it on a frozen Michigan lake
to be timed at 91.37 mph.
Ford's car was a strange mixture
of the ancient and modern. It had no bodywork, used
tiller steering, and neither gears nor clutch
to transmit the power from its four-cylinder engine.
Yet the wheels were wire-spoked, not the old artillery
type, the tyres of good section, the power ample without
aid from wind-cheating bodywork. Ford was demonstrating
that he was then as always a rugged individualist.