The Collections

The Shelby Mustang GT350R – The Pony Car Goes Racing

The Shelby Mustang GT350R, distinguished by its fiberglass front apron, races in the Bahamas in December 1965.

The Shelby Mustang GT350R, distinguished by its fiberglass front apron, races in the Bahamas in December 1965. (Dave Friedman Collection)

We’ve said much on this blog about the Mustang, Ford vice-president Lee Iacocca’s sporty, affordable little pony car that targeted baby boomers and scored a direct hit. In the words of Ford’s memorable advertising campaign, the Mustang was “designed to be designed by you.” Depending on how you optioned it, your Mustang could be a cool-looking economy car, a Thunderbird-like personal luxury coupe, or a V-8 powered factory-built hot rod. It was a recipe for success, and customers bought more than 680,000 Mustangs in the initial 1965 model year.

With the Mustang racing up the sales chart, it was only natural that Lee Iacocca would want the Mustang literally racing. The car’s launch came in the midst of Ford’s “Total Performance” racing initiative, through which the company scored impressive victories in NASCAR, in endurance races, at drag strips, on rally courses, and even in the exalted Indianapolis 500. A few Mustang wins would add nicely to the publicity bonanza.

Iacocca turned to one of the foremost figures in American motorsport, Carroll Shelby, to make the Mustang into a credible race car. The good news was that Ford had a productive working relationship with Shelby already. His Shelby American shop was busy reworking Ford’s budding GT40 race car into a winning machine. The bad news was… that Shelby American was busy with the GT40. His hands already full with a prestige project, Carroll Shelby was reluctant to take on the Mustang. But Iacocca – ever the salesman – talked Shelby into the assignment.

At the time, in mid-1964, the most powerful engine available for the Mustang was Ford’s 289-cubic inch, 271-horsepower “Hi-Po” V-8 – known to fans as the “K-code” engine for its designation in the Mustang serial numbering scheme. These surely were impressive figures when compared to Mustang’s standard 170-cubic inch, 101-horsepower 6-cylinder engine – or even the basic 210-horsepower V-8 – but Shelby American did even better, modifying the “Hi-Po” engine to produce more than 300 horsepower. Having added power, Shelby’s team next subtracted weight by removing the Mustang’s rear seat and replacing the steel hood with a fiberglass unit. With the suspension suitably beefed up, the Shelby Mustang GT350 was born.

Even in its "street" configuration, the 306-horsepower Shelby GT350 was a formidable machine.

Even in its “street” configuration, the 306-horsepower Shelby GT350 was a formidable machine. (Dave Friedman Collection)

That name, incidentally, is a big part of the car’s lore. The “GT” came from “Grand Tourer” — strictly speaking, a luxury performance car suitable for long-distance races, but simply associated with racing by the general public. The “350” was much more random. Apparently, Carroll Shelby grew tired of Ford’s long deliberations over his modified car’s name. He asked an associate to pace off the distance to a nearby building. It was about 350 steps, so a GT350 the car became!

Carroll Shelby had one more trick up his sleeve. If the Mustang was going to compete in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) races, it was going to have to hold its own against more powerful Corvettes and more agile Jaguars. Thirty-six GT350s were further modified exclusively for competition. The GT350R (“R” for racing) had window glass replaced with lighter plexiglass, carpet removed, steel door panels traded for aluminum, and the front bumper replaced with a distinctive fiberglass apron to improve airflow to the radiator and reduce weight. The already potent engine was further refined to churn out better than 360 horsepower.

The GT350R dominated its class in SCCA’s 1965 racing season, taking five of six divisional championships, as well as the national championship. With the mission accomplished, and Iacocca satisfied, Shelby pulled his team out of competition for 1966, but other teams continued to win with the GT350R.

Fifty years later, the Shelby GT350 remains, to many fans, the ultimate Mustang. Given their low production numbers (only 561 GT350s were built for 1965, and just 36 of those were R competition vehicles), the cars command premium prices on the auction block — on the rare occasions when they even cross the block. But they make for a fascinating sidebar in the history of Ford’s premier pony car.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Packard’s Hot Rod — The 1929 Model 626 Speedster

Packard's Model 626 Speedster. Small body + big engine = sports car.

Packard’s Model 626 Speedster. Small body + big engine = sports car.

Packard. To anyone familiar with American automobiles, that name conjures up thoughts of refinement and style. Whether it’s one of the well-built early models like the 1903 Model F “Old Pacific” (the second car driven coast-to-coast across the United States), or a fashionable Caribbean from the company’s waning days, Packard turned out quality luxury automobiles for all of its 59 years. One thing that probably wouldn’t come to mind, though, is “sports car.” Packard built big touring cars and stately convertibles, not speedy sports cars. Except for that time when it did…

The Stutz Bearcat might be the earliest American sports car, and Chevrolet’s Corvette the most famous, but in between came Packard’s Model 626 Speedster for 1929. This special automobile pushed Packard beyond prestige and into the realm of high performance. The company took its smallest body, shortened it by several inches, and installed an eight-cylinder high-compression, high-lift camshaft engine that yielded 130 horsepower. The result was a short-deck, long-hood sporting automobile capable of 100 miles per hour. These were impressive numbers at a time when a Ford Model A produced 40 horsepower and a comfortable cruising speed around 45.

For all of its attributes, the 626 was not a success. Sports cars are for fun, and few customers wanted to spend $5,000 (more than $68,000 in 2015) on a pleasure car after the stock market crash. Only about 70 Speedsters were built, and just three are thought to exist today (which makes it rather difficult to “ask the man who owns one”). One of those three survivors is in the collections of The Henry Ford.

Packard added a high-lift camshaft and a high-compression head to its inline 8. The 384-cubic inch engine produced 130 horsepower.

Packard added a high-lift camshaft and a high-compression head to the Speedster’s inline-8. The 384-cubic inch engine produced 130 horsepower.

Our Speedster’s original owner, Emil Fikar, Jr., of Berwin, Illinois, bought the car from Buresch Motor Sales in Chicago for $5,260 in October 1928. He ordered just two options: chrome-plated wire wheels and Packard’s famed “Goddess of Speed” hood ornament. According to lore, Fikar brewed low-alcohol beer and asked the salesman for an exceptionally fast car — presumably for “professional” reasons during those Prohibition days. Whatever his motives, Fikar got his fast car.

By the time Montgomery L. Young purchased the Speedster in 1959, it had been modified considerably. The owner(s) between Fikar and Young is unknown, but he or she clearly had an interest in modernizing the car’s appearance. The doors were cut and lowered, the top was replaced and the windshield was cut down and pushed back to a more rakish angle. Young devoted some 5,000 hours, between 1959 and 1966, to returning the Speedster to its original appearance. Most of the missing parts he found through diligent searching with collectors and dealers around the country. The parts he couldn’t locate were made from scratch. It was a tremendous effort that restored the Speedster to its proper form. We were all the more grateful when Mr. Young donated the car to The Henry Ford in 1976.

Our Speedster will head to California this summer. It’s been invited to participate in the incomparable Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on August 16, where it will sit alongside some of the world’s most beautiful automobiles. It’s a special honor for the car, and one that I’d like to think would have made Mr. Young very proud indeed.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Atari Burial Collection

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As we gradually work our way through digitizing the vast collections of The Henry Ford, we tackle many projects our staff enjoy: evening gowns, mourning jewelry, and Dave Friedman auto racing photographs, for example, all pose logistical challenges, but we generally look forward to the undertaking. The less glamorous side of digitization, though, is working with objects that are potentially hazardous or unpleasant to handle, like the metal corrosion found on many of the objects we’re remediating as part of our IMLS grant, or a collection of food packaging that had to be emptied and cleaned of decades-old contents. One such project we’ve just completed is material related to the Atari Video Game Burial, in which a struggling Atari, Inc. buried hundreds of thousands of video game cartridges and gaming equipment in a New Mexico landfill in 1983.  The Henry Ford’s collection contains photos and other material documenting the excavation of the landfill in 2014, as well as recovered cartridges (like E.T., shown here) and equipment—and even some of the dirt from the landfill.  We can now vouch that material recovered from a landfill continues to smell like a landfill for quite some time. View our digitized Atari Burial collection (sans the unpleasant odor) on our collections website now, and watch for an upcoming blog post by Curator of Communication & Information Technology Kristen Gallerneaux to learn more about this material.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

Celebrating a Patriotic Fourth of July

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Happy Fourth of July! If you stopped by Greenfield Village this week you might have received one of these patriotic postcards we created for this year’s series of Salute to America concerts. The illustration we created was inspired by the how-to books produced by the Dennison Manufacturing Company. We have a 1925 copy of their Bogie Book, a manual that helps shape many of our own Hallowe’en ideas every October in Greenfield Village. If this image gets you excited for this weekend’s holiday, you can print your own postcard by downloading our file here.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

The Ford Motor Company Medical Department

First-Aid Hospital at Ford Motor Company Highland Park Plant, 1913. THF97148

First-Aid Hospital at Ford Motor Company Highland Park Plant, 1913. THF97148

From “a bottle of liquid soap, a few bandages, and a pair of scissors” in a small wooden box by the timecards, the Ford Motor Company Medical Department grew to include over 100 physicians, assistants, and other employees. In 1914, Ford Motor Company instituted the five dollar day and with it a number of improvements to their programs for workers. One such program, was to expand and build up the Medical Department, first at Highland Park, where a 23-room state-of-the-art medical facility was built, and then expanding to the Rouge and other factories across the Ford empire. Let’s take a look at what the Medical Department looked like around 1916.

By 1916, the Medical Department included six divisions: Tuberculosis, Roentgenology, Dermatology, Dentistry, Corps. of the First Aid, and Ophthalmology, as well as various surgeons and support staff, counting over 100 people in all. It was headed up by Dr. J.E. Mead, who was assisted by Dr. N.L. Woodry, and Dr. W.R. McClure, and included ten other physicians, mainly from Detroit College of Medicine. In the twelve months before July 1917, these doctors were kept busy handling 558,869 cases including: 278,692 surgical cases, 120,309 medical cases, 5,044 minor operations, 2,473 x-rays, and 1,111 dental exams.

The Emergency Medical Hospital, situated between the Paymaster’s Office and Employment Office at Highland Park, was prepared for all manner of medical needs with x-ray machines, dressing tables and chairs for injuries to the head and “uppers;” and benches, foot rests, and tubs for “foot cases;” a well-supplied stock of pharmaceuticals; and a full operating room (as well as an additional operating room in the Blast Furnace area). There were also six first aid stations around the factory that functioned 24 hours a day manned by assistants who provided basic first aid and referred any cases such as infections, foreign bodies in the eye, or those requiring minor surgery, to the main hospital.

Any injury, no matter if it was just a scratch, was expected to be reported and had to be attended to at a first aid station, and if it warranted further attention, at the Emergency Hospital. Bulletins, posters, articles in the factory papers and Ford Times, as well as lectures, and on the job coaching alerted men to the danger of leaving an injury untreated. Images portraying infected eyes and hands alerted employees to the importance of proper medical attention. A booklet of “Helpful hints” issued to employees included medical tips such as: “All foreign bodies lodged in the eye should be removed by the doctor or first-aid man, and not by a fellow employe, because serious complications may result and probably cause blindness,” and “Do not try to lift anything beyond your strength, as you are liable to rupture yourself,” as well as “Do not wear loose-fitting or ragged clothing, as you are liable to be caught and pulled into a machine and seriously injured” (to say the least).

The Medical Department also played a large role in the hiring process and job placement of employees. Each new hire at Ford had to undergo a medical examination, and doctors determined what jobs they were physically and mentally best suited for, in 1916-17 they examined 13,055 applicants. The doctors would then turn their reports over to the employment office to process. The employment office kept detailed records of the exact physical requirements needed for jobs in the factory, and matched a new hire to a suitable job. Ford boasted that this method allowed them to hire many workers with disabilities in their factories, “there are probably 5,000 jobs at the Ford factories that do not require full physical capacity, and a surprisingly large number of these may be performed by men for whom steady work was at one time considered physically impossible.” Even workers with tuberculosis were hired and put to work, active cases in a separate “Lungers camp” on Oakland Avenue where they sorted and reclaimed scrap outside in fresh air (in line with the prevailing treatment method of the time). In fact, even when workers were convalescing in hospital they were given whatever light work was possible in the form of occupational therapy. There was also a Medical Transfer Division within the department that examined men and recommended transfers or certain adaptions to their workflow after an injury or illness.

Hangar Hospital, Willow Run Bomber Plant, 1942. THF93728

Hangar Hospital, Willow Run Bomber Plant, 1942. THF93728

As you can see from the above photo from Willow Run in 1942, the Medical Department continued to expand to include hospitals at the Rouge, Northern Michigan operations, and beyond. The department worked, in its own words, “solely for the aid and benefit of the employees; to see that they are in proper physical condition for their work and, if not, to do all that can be done in order that they may be in the best condition possible for the fulfillment of their duties.”

More resources on the Medical Department:

To learn even more about the Ford Medical Department, visit our Benson Ford Research Center. Its open Monday-Friday 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can set up an appointment in our reading room or ask us a question here.

Kathy Makas is Reference Archivist at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: Vagabonds Photos

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Over about a decade in the early part of the 20th century, a quartet including Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, businessman Harvey Firestone, and naturalist John Burroughs took a series of summer camping trips, sometimes inviting others along for part or all of the journey.  The group, calling themselves the Vagabonds, took trips that might not exactly qualify as “roughing it”—they travelled with a caravan of vehicles, a full contingent of service staff, and many comforts of home including furniture and china tableware. We’ve just digitized dozens of photos of the Vagabonds in action, including this photo of the group having breakfast at a large lazy susan–equipped wooden table. View more than 100 photos and artifacts related to the Vagabonds by visiting The Henry Ford’s digital collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

General Motors’ EV1

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Automobiles powered by electricity have been around almost as long as there have been automobiles. In fact, in 1900, battery-powered electric cars outsold cars with gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines. But there is far more energy in a pound of gasoline than in a pound of storage batteries, meaning that gasoline-powered cars could travel farther on a tank than electric cars could on a single charge. Largely because of this, electric cars had virtually disappeared from the market by the late 1920s. By the end of the 20th century concerns about air pollution and imported oil caused people to look once again at alternatives to the internal combustion engine.

In 1997 General Motors introduced the EV1, probably the best electric car ever produced. The car was in part a response to California laws requiring the sale of a certain percentage of vehicles that emitted no pollutants. General Motors went to great lengths to overcome the limited range offered by storage batteries. Continue reading

Motor Muster’s Record Hop USA! Invades Greenfield Village

 

Premier event photography by KMS Photography

While our annual Motor Muster weekend takes us back to an era of classic cruisers, this year’s Saturday night Record Hop USA! dance party is focusing on one particular year and a moment in music history: 1964 and the arrival of the Beatles in America.

As pictured in this February 21, 1964 "Life" magazine article, screaming fans followed the Beatles wherever they went. THF 231546

As pictured in this February 21, 1964 “Life” magazine article, screaming fans followed the Beatles wherever they went. THF 231546

While we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion in 2014, the recent induction of Ringo Starr into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Paul McCartney hitting the road for the summer festival circuit remind us that we don’t need an official anniversary to honor The Fab Four whenever we want.

Premier event photography by KMS Photography

This Saturday you can join us for a night of dancing and and favorite 1960s hits in Greenfield Village during Motor Muster. For those who can’t join us for dance lessons on Main Street, you can learn more about 1964 and the Beatles’ first trip to America thanks to our collections and this blog post from Curator of Public Life Donna Braden.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

Father’s Day Banner: Inspired by Our Collections

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Here on site at The Henry Ford this weekend we have a lot of ways you can spend time with your dad during Father’s Day. You could:

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If your plans are set and all you need to do is put the finishing touches on your gift or at-home celebration, we can help with that, too. Designer Caitlin Jewell created this pennant banner to honor you “Best Dad Ever” this weekend. Where did Caitlin find her inspiration? Within our collections here at The Henry Ford.

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This poster from World War I was one of the pieces Caitlin drew inspiration from.  It was created in 1918 by William McKee and printed by Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing Company for the United States Food Administration.

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Another poster, this time from World War II, is also featured in our banner. This poster was created in 1943.

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To make this collections-inspired banner for your dad, download the PDF here. There you’ll find assembly and printing directions.

Lish Dorset is Social media Manager at The Henry Ford.

Just Added to Our Digital Collections: John Burroughs Materials

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A little over a year ago, The Henry Ford embarked on a project to digitize material related to John Burroughs (1837–1921), an American naturalist who was good friends with Henry Ford and a member of the Vagabonds (along with Henry, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone). As often happens with our collections, we found more material than we were expecting. Last summer, we reported on the 250 or so items we had digitized at that point; we’re now happy to share that we’ve just wrapped up the project, with nearly 400 total items from our collections digitized. One of the last additions was this photograph of the statue of Burroughs that was installed at Henry Ford’s estate Fair Lane—a sure sign of the esteem in which the naturalist was held by the auto magnate.  Browse all of these items—mainly photographs and letters, but also essays, poetry, scrapbooks, periodicals, notebooks, and postcards—on our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

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