115 years since the race that changed everything



This grainy picture is the only known image of the race that changed the world.
Long before a blue oval badge had even come close to the nose of a car, Henry Ford was tinkering away in his garage trying to attach an engine and four wheels to a seat and make it go as fast as possible.



In 1901, along with friends Oliver Barthel and Ed "Spider" Huff, he built the Ford Sweepstake race car. Incredibly advanced for its day; the induction system was a rudimentary form of mechanical fuel injection, patented by Ford, while it’s widely believed that the porcelain insulated spark plugs, which were constructed by a Detroit dentist, were the first ever to be used in a motorised vehicle.

The engine had only two cylinders, but they were huge; bore and stroke were seven inches each, which works out to a displacement of just under nine litres. Power was estimated at 26 BHP and Ford claimed that the car reached 72mph during testing, which doesn't sound that impressive today, but in 1901 the official world land speed record was 65.79 mph.

On October 10, 1901, at a horse racing track in Grosse Pointe, Michigan Ford entered the car in to a race known as a sweepstakes, hence the car’s name. Henry's opponent was Alexander Winton, a successful auto manufacturer, and the country's best known race driver. No one gave the inexperienced, unknown Ford a chance.

The Ford Sweepstake won the race and it was from the proceeds of this race that Ford created the Henry Ford Company.

And the rest is history.