"I grabbed Iacocca by the arm and said in his ear, 'Son of a gun, Lee, you hear that? They're all saying our name. That's what it's all about, man!' "
Iacocca saw it. "He just stood there and listened," says Passino, "and then he told us to forget all the other details—he'd take care of details—and to go out there and race. One more thing: he told us we had damn well better win."
History will note that Ford almost did win that first Indy venture. However, Parnelli Jones took the flag in an Offy, Jimmy Clark finished second and Gurney seventh in the Lotus-Fords. The next 500 was the year of a tragic fire; Fords threatened but A.J. Foyt's Offy won. But Clark was first for Ford in 1965, and Fords have won at Indy ever since.
The fact that everything seemed to jell at once—the stock cars, dragsters, Indy and the Le Mans program—is not so much a Ford story as it is an American one. Chrysler is on a parallel course in stock and drag cars, and General Motors, if you will stand by, is considered likely to rev up at any moment.
Ford has more up its sleeve. Hidden away inside Kar Kraft is the company's answer to the Chevrolet Corvette. Ford calls it the Mach II, and it is a sprightly little two-seat sports car that comes up to one's waist. It boasts a five-speed transaxle, independent rear suspension and a 289-cubic-inch mid-ship engine.
"We put the plans for the Mach II together one night in Frey's office," says Lunn. "If this one goes into production it will be known in the company as 'Frey's car,' just as the Mustang is known as ' Iacocca's car.' "
And will it go into production? "Well," says Lunn, "we're being a little introverted about it right now. But that should tell you something."
It does. It tells you that the Mach II will be out there among the Corvettes one of these months. And that the Company Racers have a future in their Fords.
"You worry a lot when you attend races." said Henry Ford II a couple of weeks ago. "I have gone to Daytona and watched Richard Petty kill us in his Plymouth. But we keep coming back. We went back to Le Mans this year because we didn't want anyone to think it was a fluke victory in 1966. The second time we beat them, they realized we had the cars; the drivers and the ability in America. And we're certainly going to continue. We want our success to rub off on the kids."
"Why do we do it?" asks Iacocca, "Improving the breed is only a part of it. We race because we're competitive and driving can be fun. Why else would anyone want a four-speed gearbox? Or wire wheels? Or disc brakes? No matter what anyone tells you, motor sports aren't going to go away, any more than betting horses is going to go away."