SI Vault
Bob Ottum
December 25, 1967
"I will build a motor car for the great multitude." —HENRY FORD, 1906
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December 25, 1967

Someone Up There Said 'let's Race,' And Lo Ford Came Flying

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Frey (playing straight man for the last time in his professional life): No, Mister Graham. What were they doing?

Graham: They were all looking at those Pontiacs! We have got to do something about it, and fast.

"We did exactly that," says Frey today, speaking from the 12th floor in "glass house," Ford's stark new corporate headquarters in Dearborn. "We got off a memo to McNamara [the Defense Secretary was then Ford's president]—something to the effect, 'Are you interested in going racing?' And he said, to put it simply, 'Yeah!' So we went racing."

With Frey in charge, Ford built a pair of 406-cubic-inch engines and wedged them into a 1961 Ford Fairlane. Ford rented the Daytona track on a day when nobody was around, hired a chap named Cotton Owens to drive, and everybody stood around and watched.

"We got that old sled to go 145 miles an hour," says Frey, "and we entered the Daytona 500 that same year. We didn't win. In fact, Pontiac won it that year and the next. But the year after that we got the first five places."

SCENE: Frey's old 1962 office. In walks Dan Gurney, who had driven Mickey Thompson's car in the Indianapolis 500. Gurney, in addition to being lean, handsome and a hell of a driver, is an authentic American visionary.

Gurney : I think Ford ought to build an engine for Indy.

Frey: Let's.

SCENE: On another day—same year—Frey looks up from his desk and there is someone new. This time it is Carroll Shelby, devil-may-care, knockabout world racer and onetime winner of Le Mans. Mr. Shelby is wearing his taut, purposeful look, which no man can resist.

Frey: Oh, God. Now what?

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