"I will build a motor car for the great multitude."
—HENRY FORD, 1906
"We are in the business of selling cars. Racing [them] creates a youthful image for us."
—HENRY FORD II, LE MANS, JUNE 1967
"Now, I don't want to imply that we were building old ladies' cars. But something had to be done. I had only one thing in mind. We had to beat hell out of everybody."
—LEE A. IACOCCA, NOVEMBER 1967
Lord knows, it does not rain champagne every day in the life of Henry Ford II. You may find this incredible—brace yourself—but he, too, has troubles, even if payday is not one of them. There are all those new cars he must sell, and his competitor down the street—an old rival named General Motors—always sells more. There is corporate image to maintain and there are 391,470 hungry employees to feed. Ford cannot seem to find just the right clock for the dashboard of next year's Lincoln. As if that were not enough, there is Walter Reuther on one side and Ralph Nader on the other, and they look like they never have any laughs.
But along about 4:30 p.m. last June 11, there was Henry standing in a foamy shower of fine old 1967 Mumms. Certainly not the best year for drinking, but a superb year for spilling. Those two dandies, A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney, had just won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Henry's Mark IV, fighting off Ferrari and 24,000 Porsches. So Chairman Ford did the statesmanlike thing under the circumstances. He dried off, shook hands all around, went home to Dearborn, Mich. and traded up to a candy-apple-red Cougar with wire wheels.
That gave it all away. People had been suspecting for some years that a few men in that stiff old company were real honkers. It figured that life could not be all tote that barge and lift that bucket seat. And then, suddenly, aha! One could see the pieces fall into place. Hidden away in secret areas, like Engine and Foundry, and even Sales, there was this special band of movers.
There are only a few of them, and one must look fast to find them, as at a backfield in motion. They are always running off to races all over the world. Their big mission is to blast the company name into your subconscious. They turn up at all the jet-set, faraway, glittering places. Romantic Monaco. N�rburgring. Mexico City. Spa. Uh, Rockingham, N.C. They cuddle up to newsmen in press boxes, smelling of good cologne. They spill a great deal of wine when they win, and they tool around in those four-speed expense accounts.
Understand now, they also lose a few. Racing is a tricky business. In that regard, Ford is just like the little old company next door: lose a few too many and you end up back in the tractor division.
But when you win as much as Ford has this year, they have to get along without you over at tractors. Ford's 1967 season has been a big American success story. Money alone cannot buy happiness; there comes that moment, no matter how big a company is, when it gets into racing, when you must wheel out and face the competition. Ford's experience has shown that the much-maligned system called capitalism still has some adventure in it, that you can have superior sport and make a buck at the same time.
And, needless to say, someone stirred up all this new life. At Ford one does not say pointedly that it was the chairman. However, he has gone over to those nappy suits with the side vents, and he wears a stock-modified, rear-engine haircut with a little spoiler in the back. And if Henry Ford II can do it, you can resign yourself to a wave of Ford vice-presidents with their hair down to here. Collectively, they keep their faces carefully worked into an early Grant Wood look and insist they are really going about the deadly serious business of selling cars. Let me tell you, it's not fun out there, fellow manufacturers. But individually—and actually—they are the Company Racers.