By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. Study the print ad below (sorry for the disjointed presentation, it was a full magazine spread originally) and immerse yourself in a different time and a different era. Longtime AE economics correspondent and first-rate enthusiast, Tom Bartkiewicz, was doing some research when he came across this memorable print ad that appeared in Motor Trend and other enthusiast publications back in 1967. Those of you of a certain - ahem - age out there probably remember this ad, but for others it will be a revelation.
Back in the 60s, the Ford Motor Company did something no other American automobile company had ever done - at least not to this degree - and that was to stake almost its entire marketing platform on high-performance. The "Total Performance" Ford campaign was designed to pull the company's image away from the workaday reliable transportation positioning that had served the brand well for decades, and push it into the sizzling hot high-performance market that powered the "go-go" 60s. America was on an upward trajectory back then, and Ford wanted to ride the cultural rocket of change that defined one of this country's most dazzling decades.
To that end, the company immersed itself in almost every form of motorsport imaginable, as this famous print ad shows. That meant everything from Indianapolis, NHRA drag racing and NASCAR to the top rung of sports car racing. And, of course, near the end of the decade, the pivotal decision to build a Grand Prix engine in conjunction with Cosworth. Ford not only did this above board (unlike GM's True Believers who were forced to adhere to an arbitrary - and silly - ban on factory-supported racing, and in turn had to supply and support racers via back engineering channels), they did it with massive promotional campaigns that shouted their involvement from the rooftops.
Take a close look at the ad and you'll see Mario Andretti next to a Ford GT Mk II. Connie Kalitta next to his 427 SOHC Ford-powered dragster. Don Peckham and his 427 Cobra. Road racer Skip Scott next to his Ford GT. A rare shot of Peter Revson in a Ford-powered McLaren. Don Pike and his SCCA "A" Sedan class Mustang. Dick Brannan and his Ford B/Stock drag car. Gas Ronda and his 427 SOHC Ford "experimental" Mustang drag car. Bill Ireland and his 427 Fairlane A/Stock drag car. The great Fred Lorenzen and his famous No. 28 Ford stock car. Jerry Titus and his Shelby GT350 Mustang. A. J. Foyt and his Indy car. And Tom McEwen and his wild 427 SOHC dragster.
This diverse display of horsepower is unthinkable in today's ROI-dominated corporate world. Though Ford Racing recently renamed itself "Ford Performance," the Ford Motor Company and every other auto manufacturer in the world adheres to strict guidelines when it comes to motorsport involvement, as in, there better be a real good reason to do it that centers around a verifiable transference of technology to our production cars. Or else.
The whole notion of racing because "we feel like it" went out the window long ago. (Well, I take that back, because motorsport involvement is not always revolving around ROI. Take the VW Group, for instance. You get the impression that it allows its Porsche and Audi divisions to hammer on each other at great expense in the WEC, because it races for the sheer enjoyment of it. And as for F1, that egomaniacal-driven greed circus, well, the manufacturers involved are there for the sheer, unfettered craziness of it all. The whole technical transference part of the equation is nothing but an afterthought.)
Yes, Ford (and other car companies) could muster their various racing teams together for a group shot like in the ad below, but it wouldn't be nearly the same, or nearly as fun. You just can't go for it like that anymore. There are too many corporate constituencies that have to be served and too many fiefdoms that have to be appeased.
Oh well. There are still car companies out there who are going for it, at least within context of the current era.
And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.
Check out the latest episode of The High-Octane Truth on AutoextremistTV below. -WG
Note that this episode is a two-parter...you can see Part 2, plus all episodes of AETV, here!
Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases here and here. And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia here. -WG
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
(Courtesy of the Ford racing Archives)
Sebring, Florida, April 1, 1967. The moment of the Le Mans start of that year's 12 Hour race. The No. 1 Ford Mk IV driven by Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren is on the pole, with the No. 6 Chaparral 2F driven by Mike Spence and Jim Hall right next to it. The No. 2 Ford GT Mk II B driven by A. J. Foyt and Lloyd Ruby Mk II started in third. The Andretti/McLaren Ford dominated the race winning by 12 laps. The No. 2 Foyt/Ruby Ford finished second, while the Chaparral retired from the race with differential issues. The No. 36 Porsche 910 driven by Scooter Patrick and Gerhard Mitter finished third. Watch a cool video here.
Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out www.fordimages.com. Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD