Henry Ford, International Motorsports Hall of Fame Member
Class of 1993
Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, in Springwells Township, Michigan. From a young age, Henry understood machinery and instinctively realized that he had to pursue it’s further development.
Ford was the chief engineer of the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit when he decided to experiment with a 2-cylinder, 4-cycle engine which would power a low-cost automobile. He left Edison and while working on the engine and the automobile, he repaired steam engines and mended watches to earn a living.
In 1893, Ford’s first working engine came to life, and that same year, Edsel, his only son, was born. Henry received encouragement from Thomas Edison for his concept of the engine, and three years later, in 1896, the first working Ford car was completed.
Ford built race cars and his success in racing attracted backers. In June 1903, Henry Ford and 11 backers founded the Ford Motor Company with $28,000 capital, and a month later he sold a car.
Ford went out on the ice of Lake St. Clair on January 12, 1904, in his “999” race car and made a land speed record of a mile in 39.4 seconds. “999” was driven all over the country for Ford by Barney Oldfield, which helped both Ford and auto racing. He also used cross-country racing to prove his vehicle’s worth.
In 1908 the Model T was introduced and became a huge success because of nationwide publicity from racing activities and it’s low price. Because of it’s success, Henry Ford evolved assembly-line production.
Ford was one of the early backers of the Indianapolis 500, and several times during the long history of that race, entries affiliated with Ford Motor Company were around the Brickyard. Ford had used racing, but he also supported it. Henry Ford passed away on April 7, 1947.