From time to time I see posts that talk about Gapp & Roush and how they were factory supported. Most people think that Gapp & Roush efforts were part of the epic support (engineering and direct dollar support) of racing that Ford supplied to teams in wide variety of sanctioning bodies during the 1960’s. I see comments about how Ford ‘commissioned’ Gapp & Roush cars.
This is emphatically not the case. Ford _never_ supplied dollar one of direct support. Were there parts that went out the back door? Yes…but that was in 1971. No later.
The 1972 Red Ford Maverick that Gapp & Roush campaigned had a ‘Ford’ symbol on the side. That was an effort to GET support from the factory but that support did not materialize. It did not materialize for ANY Ford drag racing operations whether that was Gapp & Roush, Bob Glidden or Don Nicholson.
When Ford shutdown most racing operations in November of 1970 and then exited NASCAR in 1971 my father was part of the shutdown.
It was this shutdown that led to his his decision to ‘walk the walk’ (he was telling racers what to do with the Boss 429 in Drag Racing and NASCAR) that led to Gapp & Roush moving into the open and campaigning the first Maverick.
Below is an article that was published in Motor Trend in February of 1971. It clearly tells the story of Ford Racing.
Ford Black Flags Racing
By Jim Brokaw
Appeared in Motor Trend – February 1971
The greatest peacetime non-governmental competitive effort to occur in this century has quietly drawn to a close — the victim of progress.
On November 20, 1970, Matthew S. McLaughlin, vice president, Sales Group, Ford Motor Company, announced that Ford was withdrawing from all forms of motorsports competition with the exception of limited drag racing and off-road support on a divisional and dealer level, effective immediately. This bland, antiseptic announcement by a subsidiary official marked the termination of a multi-million dollar effort by legions of determined and dedicated men to provide a tangible example of the might of American free enterprise.
Ford’s initial racing effort was undertaken back in 1901, by Henry Ford, to raise funds to build passenger cars; ironically, it is now withdrawing from racing in order to continue building cars on a profitable basis. The currently dissolved competitive effort was born of pride and the fight for a share of the marketplace in 1955. Ford had been the sole owner of a low priced V8 engine and the dominant marque in racing until rival Chevrolet took its new 8-cylinder engine to Fayetteville, N.C. on March 15, 1955, strapped it under Herb Thomas and won the race. Fonty Flock did it again two weeks later at Greenwood, S.C. in another V8 Chevy, and Ford’s exclusive fiefdom had been invaded. Campbell-Ewald, Chevy’s ad people, jumped on their two piddling NASCAR victories, the only two that year, and blew them up into the Second Coming. Chevrolet sales boomed and the freshly wounded Ford dealers bellowed.
Ford had not really been any more successful in NASCAR than Chevrolet; Oldsmobile, Hudson and Chrysler ruled the roost up to and through the 1955 season. Ford’s success was in other fields under other sanctioning bodies, and, outside of NASCAR, Ford had been the cheapest, fastest, most durable engine-body combination on the market. However, once Chevy started their publicity campaign, all the explanations in print couldn’t reverse the tide at the dealerships. It was obvious, even to the staid, precise Robert McNamara, Ford Divi- sion general manager, that a few victories were needed to reverse the trend.
McNamara called a “council of war” with his engineers. The decision was made to support the effort technically and financially from within, but to operate it through an outside concern. Peter DePaolo was selected to organize the operation from the outside. Buddy Shuman, A NASCAR cognoscente and sometime rum runner, was brought in from Charlotte to provide “field technical advice,” and Bill Benton, Ford’s field service manager for the Charlotte area, was named the initial company liaison man. DePaolo hired Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly, two of the best in the business, to do the driving.
After a near spin, crash and burn on take-off (the first racing Fords couldn’t win a raffle in NASCAR), some corrective action was applied. Joe MacKay, special events man for the division, was put in charge of the program and John Holman, former truck driver for Bill Stroppe, Lincoln-Mercury’s man on the go, was put in charge of the Charlotte division of DePaolo Engineering; Ralph Moody and Fireball Roberts hired on as additional drivers. It worked.
Above: Jimmy Clark brought home the bacon at Indy in 1965. Ford’s first victory at the huge oval came after the stock car racing Wood Brothers had been called in to solve pit problems.
Taking the checkered flag 14 times in 1956 and 27 times in 1957, to Chevrolet’s 3 and 18, respectively, Ford’s race team gave the advertisers plenty of ammunition and the now affluent dealers in NASCAR territory were silenced.
But just as all the kinks were worked out and Ford’s well-oiled racing machine was thrashing along to a bright and lucrative future, the spectre of politics and the public welfare reared its ominous head. At the Automobile Manufacturers Association meeting in 1957, GM president Harlow Curtice proposed that the advertising of engine horsepower and performance figures be discontinued and that all factory support of racing be discontinued “in the public interest.” Since Ford was the only one then receiving any real sales benefit from racing and because the Ford engineers had been embarrassed by some of the weaknesses uncovered in the machines while under the stress of competition, the resolution passed and was accepted by all members of the AMA. In full compliance, McNamara ordered an immediate shutdown on Ford’s racing activities. Only the foresight and fortitude of two young men preserved the nucleus of what was later to be Ford’s best advertising and engineering stimulus.
Jacque Passino, who had transferred from sales promotion to take over special events when McKay resigned, and Lee lacocca, car marketing manager of the Ford division, each contributed a steel rivet of courage and wisdom to hold the basic racing machinery together. Passino assured preservation of the hardware by maneuvering the sale of the equipment in the direction of John Holman. He argued for the retention of the best brains in the operation by recommending the addition of Jim Travers, Frank Coons, Danny Eames, Fran Hernandez and Holman to the company payroll. Eames and Hernandez made the list. Eames is currently the director of the Autolite performance program and Hernandez managed this year’s successful assault on the Trans-Am championship. Travers and Coon formed Traco engineering. John Holman formed a partnership with his driver-mechanic, Ralph Moody.
Above: Ford’s finest hour, and most expensive one, came at Le Mans in 1966 with a three car parade across the finish line. Bruce McLaren (2), Ken Miles (1), and Dick Hutcherson (5) driving
Iacocca argued vigorously but unsuccessfully in the face of corporate resolve for the retention of the racing parts in the Ford catalog. In spite of his failure, Iacocca knew what sold cars to young people in those days and he knew, as did anyone who bothered to note the birth statistics from 1946 on, who was very shortly going to engulf the car buying market, a veritable army of young, aggressive potential customers.
Ford outsold Chevrolet in 1957, but fell back to second place in 1958. There is no empirical data to tie the sales figures to Ford’s racing participation and success, but the coincidence is there. General Motors, meanwhile, went at it hot and heavy. Using spinoff parts from their high performance Corvette on other models, Chevy built a formidable racing machine. In 1958 Chevy won 23 races to Ford’s 16. 1959 was worse, with Ford winning 8 races to Chevrolet’s 14.
In spite of the no-racing edict, pride and an incurable itch motivated Don Frey, executive engineer for Division product planning, to do something, how ever small, to get Ford back in front on the track. In 1959 he called Dave Evans, Don Sullivan and John Cowley together in his office. He suggested that they pool their talents to come up with a “better idea” for the ailing Fords. With clandestine assistance promised from Bill Innes in Engine and Foundry, the intrepid trio set out with great zeal and little else.
Next, several events took place which were to profoundly influence Ford’s vow of abstinence. In February 1959, Daytona’s new superspeedway hosted its inaugural race. During 1960, Charlotte and Atlanta also spawned new superspeedways. There were now four supertracks, including Darlington, running eight events per year at speeds that defied credulity. The public, with a built-in psychological barrier of 100 mph, was now aware of NASCAR, and very much interested in it — particularly the young people.
In late 1960 McNamara was elevated to the presidency of the corporation. Lee lacocca filled the vacancy as division General Manager. Three months later, McNamara was called to Washington to serve as Secretary of Defense and lacocca was able to take some corrective action to recapture the youth market from Chevrolet and Pontiac, both of which were doing their thing at the track and were much in demand with the young bucks.
Under Lee’s guidance and direction, Ford started building some competitive hardware. With the new 390 c.i. engine as the great blue hope, Ford started slipping some aid out the back door. The motley was scrounged out of other projects for some very limited support.
The limited help paid off. In 1961, Ford started modestly back, winning seven NASCAR races, including Atlanta, Charlotte and two at Darlington — all major tracks hosting expansive crowds who went away drawling words of Ford’s new high speed efforts.
Ford officially abrogated the A M A non-aggression pact in June 1962 and launched an ad campaign hawking the Fairlane and Falcon as “the lively ones from Ford.” As Passino said, it was advertising only, but there were better days ahead. Ford made the initial penetration in the drag racing world, then tied up with Carroll Shelby and his Cobras. In 1963 they set their sights on Indy to tout their new small block engine, selecting Colin Chapman and Dan Gurney as the men to do that job. They very nearly won it on the first try with Jim Clark at the wheel of one of Chapman’s Lotus’, setting a pattern that would be repeated time and again in competitive arenas: because of faulty detail planning, Ford would almost win a major race. In succeeding attempts, they would eventually triumph but the dollar overkill required would alienate the very people they were trying to win over.
By 1964, the entire race program needed tighter control and coordination. Leo Beebe was given the job as manager of the new Special Vehicles Department. His task was simple: win at Indianapolis, Daytona and LeMans. He proceeded by kicking out all the non-racing activities and passing them over to Sales Promotion. He then installed Passino as his number two man and divided the assignments. Dave Evans had the Indy projects, John Cowley got stock cars and Ray Geddes was assigned the joyous task of winning at LeMans.
Above: Jacque Passino, stern, silent, unsmiling, was vital driving force for Ford’s racing efforts in the sizzling sixties.
In spite of the remarkable progress, success was not achieved without penalties or problems. Millions were wasted at Indy when races which should have been won were frittered away by poor pit work, improper selection of tires and the bad luck of driving in spilled oil. Lives lost in 1964 included Dave MacDonald at Indy, Fireball Roberts at Charlotte and Bobby Marshman at Phoenix.
The ultimate success of the Ford effort is well recorded legend. Indy was captured by Jimmy Clark in 1965 and LeMans fell victim in 1966, but not without some disappointments and a bit of personnel reshuffling. After what had started out as so promising in 1965 ended in abject failure, Ray Geddes was replaced by John Cowley, with Homer Perry as his assistant. Renewed efforts and perseverance paid off in the triumphant parade of three Fords across the finish line at LeMans in 1966.
Once the red Ferraris had been put in their place, Beebe left the Special Vehicles Division to become general manager of Lincoln-Mercury and Passino took over as manager of SVD at the end of the 1966 season. Success followed on success, with a second victory at LeMans in 1967 and an incredible follow-up win in 1968, by a John Wyer GT-40.
Ford dominated NASCAR from 1963 on. With the exception of the partial pullout in 1966 and Richard Petty’s great string of victories in 1967 (for MoPar), it has been very much a Ford show. Indy has been Ford country since 1965, with occasional spurts by Offy to keep it all interesting. The racing world had a Ford fence around it until the 1970 season.
Racing had been an expensive proposition for Ford. Speculation bracketed the 1967 budget at $17 to $30 million. The exact figures aren’t available but a little deductive reasoning can put a lot of numbers into their respective slots. LeMans in 1967 had to run close to $7 million. The stock car program devoured another huge share, with engines at close to $5,000 each and a race ready stocker weighing in at $22,000, just to start off; add in a backup car for each team, special cars for outside drivers, at least one to two new engines per car per race, travel accommodations, entertainment for guests, plus miscellaneous incidentals, and it’s not that difficult to consume two to three million dollars in a full season. Even the abortive 1968 Can-Am effort was capable of eating up seven figures. The early Indy project consumed the green at the rate of $32,000 per engine, and even when Ford sold the dohc’s to outsiders, they took a $15,000 bath in order to make the price competitive with Offy. Since many engineering refinements came out of the race program and the publicity value of most of the pro- grams was beyond calculation, all or most of the cost could be justified.
The act which inadvertently sealed the doom of Ford’s racing activities transpired when Don Frey moved from marketing to engineering in 1967. Since Don was an avid supporter of racing, he moved the Special Vehicle Department to engineering with him. At the time it was a wise move; it later proved fatal.
The same youth market which was the target of the performance program turned away from performance machinery. Imports ate a huge hole in the market in the late sixties, so Ford had to counter with a small car of their own. The task of developing the Maverick and Pinto consumed huge amounts of engineering funds. Smog regulations required more research and development support out of engineering funds. Racing had heavy competition for the dollars.
Marketing expenditures are fairly flexible. The target can be measured in numbers of people exposed to the product per dollar spent. With 53 million people watching racing in person and as many as 53 million more watching a single event on TV, the cause can be argued. However, when there is a fixed amount for engineering R & D, the mandatory items come first.
Above: End of an era. David Pearson (17), Gale Yarborough (21), Lee Roy Yarbrough (98) and Donnie Allison (27), Ford’s last racing team, in rare group shot, followed by now outlawed Superbird
Imports cut out the first piece and smog took the next one. Then the very thing that was created by research ate further into the available funds. The profit margin on a subcompact Maverick is considerably less than that on a loaded Torino or Mach I Mustang. Sales increased, but profit margins decreased. Less income, less allocation to R&D. The gun was already pointed at the head of racing.
In 1969 the government launched its safety crusade in earnest. Law after law poured out of Congress demanding improvements, with minimal lead times permitted. Every proposal that even came up before Congress and every standard that the Department of Transportation even considered demanded research and testing evaluation, even before it could be determined whether or not the proposal was feasible.
In 1969, Henry Ford II pledged the assets of the company to help whip the environmental pollution problem. He wasn’t fooling. Very shortly after his speech, Ford announced the allocation of $18 million for the installation of antismoke equipment on the factories’ smoke stacks. Two months later, the racing budget for 1970 was drastically reduced, by about 75 percent.
The response of the Ford NASCAR teams had no small influence on the final decision to pull out completely in 1971. Instead of tightening their belts and making all major races in order to keep Ford in the thick of the fight fight, many racers backed off and bypassed some of the mid-season events. This, of course, is good business: don’t run on your own money; wait till you can promote some outside sponsorship.
As a necessary corollary to the termination of the race program, Ford initiated a complete audit of their former subcontractors’ books. The mere act of investigation generates suspicion and attendant rumors. While none of the myriad stories currently traversing the whisper circuit have been confirmed, one incident of note can be verified. After having perused the books at Kar Kraft, the auditors planned an inventory check. Before this could be accomplished, the Ford employees who normally labor at one of the Kar Kraft facilities arrived at work to discover themselves locked out. Unwilling to breach the padlocks, they returned to Ford territory and were reassigned to more stable environs. The auditors are still pacing the floor.
With about $362 worth of Washington-inspired improvements riding on each car, and the promise of more oozing out of the Department of Transportation weekly, racing was headed for the chopping block. Since only a portion of the increase can be passed on to the customer, the rest has to come out of the corporate hide.
It must have been a painful ordeal for the men who gave the whole program its impetus to have to administer the bullet in the brain. Lee lacocca, newly appointed president of the com- pany, hung his career on the line 10 years ago for it; Bill Innes, North American operations boss, snuck engine parts out the back door; Don Frey, manufacturing group leader, started the first secret racing group. They have responded to a greater responsibility.
The men who made it work are largely in a state of shock, presiding over the carving up of their competition pie. Jacque Passino, a racing director without a racing program, declared himself surplus and resigned the day before Thanksgiving. Hank “Horsepower” Gregorich is the new manager of the Special Vehicles program, consisting of the three clinics and very little else; Homer Perry has the public relations test cars; Charley Gray is phasing out the NASCAR operation. John Cowley will be busy counting the racing beans during the 60-day phase out; Fran Hernandez is probably trying to get Parnelli’s winning Mustang cast in bronze.
It is ironic that the source of virtually all of the significant safety development in the last 15 years has been aced out by a government stimulated safety program. Perhaps there is still somebody in Dearborn who could point this out instructively to the Muskie-Nader complex.