To go further, Ford and its competitors know that buyers between 18 and 24 purchase six times as many used cars as new ones. They are winning jobs and forming families and in the main haven't the means yet to swing a new car. If their used car has been trouble-free they are likely to select the same make when a new car becomes feasible. That is one of the cardinal reasons for the recent competition among the automakers to upgrade quality and therefore be able to extend warranty periods and normal service intervals. (After a half-century of the hallowed "90-day deal," Ford in 1960 started a warranty race by increasing the terms to 12 months or 12,000 miles. Today warranty offers vary, but 24 months is the most usual.
This same youthful market is sportier than older ones. Detroit knows that racing, rallying and other forms of competition have historically provided a means of identifying one's cars with sport and status, and this is particularly true of the young in spirit. Such appurtenances as bucket seats and floor-mounted gearshift levers—in which the industry is awash these days—provided another means. The carmaker, Ford feels, that catches the fancy of the mushrooming youth market—and has already built for the young a sturdy car to take them acceptably through the used-car phase—can regard its future with serenity.
As followers of motor sports are well aware, Detroit in 1957 renounced the automakers' time-honored privilege of participating in races and other speed events. The horsepower race of that day had precipitated talk of restrictive legislation in Congress. Detroit was alarmed; the manufacturers announced a pact not to engage in high-performance events. But it soon became apparent that mighty General Motors was strengthening its appeal to youth. Ford men mainly attributed this to: 1) a remarkable string of Pontiac privately-sponsored stock-car racing victories and 2) the emergence of the Chevrolet Corvette as a formidable racer on American road courses.
Ford men believed that Pontiac was indulging in undercover factory-aided racing. Ford also believed the Pontiac blitz must be countered, pact or no pact. Last June, Henry Ford II, chairman and chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company, pulled Ford out of the no-racing agreement. The Chrysler Corporation immediately followed, but General Motors stood pat.
In announcing Ford's decision, Henry II candidly admitted that "some passenger car divisions, including our own, interpreted the resolution [the pact] somewhat freely.... Today we feel the resolution has come to have neither purpose nor effect."
In the Ford Division's contemporary glass-and-steel headquarters building in Dearborn there was a new sense of challenge and opportunity. General Manager Lee A. Iacocca, 38, one of Ford's notably young executives, snapped more and yet more orders for passenger-car sports accessories into his "brown book"—a looseleaf collection of mat�riel requests for a period six months ahead. Several times a day Herbert Misch, corporate chief for engineering and research, glanced quizzically at a small stuffed alligator, jaws toothily agape, that he keeps in his office. It had come to remind him of Iacocca, a prodder who wanted action—day before yesterday. But as the sporting pace accelerated, Misch and his engineers exuded esprit de corps. They had, as Misch said, already gleaned a fistful of "tremendous trifles" from the lessons of racing. Iacocca wanted more.
And so Ford began to move up impressive new ordnance in the always diverting battle of Detroit. The most intriguing of all its projects is that for Indianapolis. The company has not as yet confirmed the "500" push, but it amounts to an open secret. It may be said with reasonable confidence that there will be at least two Ford single-seaters for the "500" next Memorial Day and that these will be driven by America's Dan Gurney and Britain's Jimmy Clark. They are master drivers. Admittedly, they have grown up in road racing, not Indianapolis-style track driving. However, Gurney proved in his first "500" this year that he is a Speedway natural. Clark recently impressed Indianapolis hands by sizzling an underpowered little Grand Prix racer around the track at 140 mph. The absolute record is but 10 mph faster. Clark, by the way, will be the world champion driver for 1962 if he captures the season's last race, the South African Grand Prix, on December 29. What a feather in Ford's bonnet that would be.
It is reliably reported that the Ford "500" cars are being designed by Colin Chapman, the moustached young Englishman who builds Clark's Lotus racers (and other racing and sports cars), and that Ford will subcontract to Chapman the job of managing its Indianapolis team. As Chapman himself said when Clark passed his Indy driver's test, he has "close ties" with Ford of England. Modified English Ford engines have powered many of Chapman's dazzlingly swift, road-hugging creations. The latest is a twin-overhead-camshaft version of the 1.5-liter Ford Classic production engine for his just-announced sports car, the Lotus Elan.
By fascinating coincidence, next year marks the 100th anniversary of Henry Ford's birth. It will be surprising if the Ford Motor Company does not bust a few gussets at Indianapolis over that milestone.
In its competition activities Ford uses stock components whenever possible. For some time the task of making the most of them has been given to the small (28 employees) speed specialist firm of John Holman and Ralph Moody in Charlotte, N.C. Their toughest assignment is to put into battle trim three Falcons for the Monte Carlo Rally. Ford has hired English Rallyman Jeffrey Uren to manage the exploit.