1903: Ford driven by Henry Ford

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4 cyl. Petrol
72 bhp
16,708 cc
Bore x Stroke:
179 x 179 mm
Direct (no gears/diff)
Top Speed:

91.37 mph


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.

His 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.

Ford was 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 tires of good section, the power ample without aid from wind-cheating bodywork. Ford was demonstrating that he was then as always a rugged individualist.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource