Who Can't Afford
We must make the cars simple. I mean we must make them so that they
are not too complicated from a mechanical standpoint, so that people can
operate them easily, and with the fewer parts the better.
—Henry Ford, 1903
Auto racing is not something normally associated with Henry Ford. But in the wake of the Detroit Automobile Company debacle it was an activity that not only brought the failed carmaker a measure of fame and respect, it also was directly responsible for attracting backers to his next attempts at manufacturing “the most perfect machine on the market,” including his most enduring venture, the current Ford Motor Company.
Automobile races were part spectacle, part product demonstration. Racing champions such as Alexander Winton, William K. Vanderbilt, and Henry Fournier regularly shared space on the front page of sporting sections with pitching sensation Cy Young, prizefighter “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, and other famous athletes of the day. In the case of Winton, his success on the track brought loads of free publicity to the powerful cars built inside his Cleveland factory.
Racing stirred the blood of most men, though it was the deeppocketed members of the silk-stocking set who were uniquely posi