For Americans who do not know the Monte Carlo and think of rallies in terms of the tame domestic variety, a few words of background information: it is one of the most taxing, car-breaking automotive tests on earth. Europeans attend its progress alertly. Starting from various European cities, more than 300 cars, which have undergone extensive and thorough beefing-up and pre-testing, dash virtually nonstop for three days and nights. They go some 2,600 miles over roads often made treacherous by ice or snow. The last leg for all is 570 miles up and dizzily down icy Alpine switchbacks. There is a tricky final run through Princess Grace's streets over the Grand Prix course.
Ford's purpose in the rally is to dramatize and bolster the Falcon's position as America's bestselling compact car. An outright Ford victory would, however, be miraculous. Ford has a jaunty way of shaking the bugs out of its competition stuff in actual frontline strife. Such is the case here. Ford will be gratified merely to finish.
Any kind of success, though, would make an indelible impression in Europe, conferring added status upon Ford's foreign-built cars. These are among the company's most liquid, profitable assets. And now Ford of Germany has the new Taunus 12M for the booming Common Market—the V-4-engined, front-drive car that might have been produced in the U.S. as the Cardinal. Ford of England boasts a sedan called the Cortina that is even newer, though orthodox.
For the races next month at Nassau, Holman & Moody have whipped out a shortened, lowered, hot V-8-engined, fastback model that began life as a Falcon. Christened Challenger III, it should be an attractive novelty in the Grand Touring division.
Students of racing already know that this year Holman & Moody-prepared Fords, entered in the biggest stock-car races, have caught up with the awesome Pontiacs. As Ford reads the 1962 score. Fords won four major NASCAR events to three for Pontiac (although Pontiac continued its overall dominance with 22 NASCAR wins to six for Ford). In races sanctioned by the other large rules-making body, USAC, the Ford-Pontiac scrap was dead even in 1962, each make winning 10 races.
Nationally, this was low-voltage news. Only in the South is stock-car racing a major league sport—but there it is tremendous. And when spectators attend in large numbers and, moreover, root like Billy-be-damned for their favorite makes, the automakers are enchanted.
"We are not naive," says Iacocca. "After Ford wins a race, Ford sales in the area go up. The customer who's seen the race doesn't necessarily pick a high-performance package. He might buy a six. What counts is that he buys a Ford."
It was Holman & Moody who also put Ford into powerboat racing, converting Ford's husky high-performance 406 V-8 to marine use. Three Ford-engined hulls were entered in last May's Miami-to-Nassau blue-water scamper, and all were defeated, but because of their high promise in this and a subsequent around Long Island marathon, Sam Griffith, the best deep-water powerboat racer in the world, removed a competitor's engines from his famous 31-foot Bertram hull, the Blue Moppie, and installed twin 406s.
Then, in August, he streaked in Blue Moppie to New York from Miami in dirty weather and over steep seas to erase a record so old as to be near legendary. It had been set 41 years before by Gar Wood, the No. 1 sea-racer of another generation. Blue Moppie's running time was 38 hours 28 minutes, Wood's had been 47 hours 15 minutes.
There are some things, of course, in which Holman & Moody do not have their busy hands. Texas-born Carroll Shelby, once the salty, drawling king of American sports-car racing, has turned from driving to the building of the Cobra. When, in its first outing, the Cobra with a Ford-supplied engine got in front of all four of the opposing Corvette Sting Rays (SI, Oct. 29), Dearborn was downright ecstatic. So an axle broke. Shelby could build a stronger one. Ford's Corvette trauma was beginning to ease.