In 1932, Ford introduced their V8 motor. However, it was not accepted well by the consumer. To help boost sales and improve the V8's image, Henry Ford decided to promote a speed event. He chose the 1933 Elgin (Illinois) Road Race to be his proving ground. The Elgin Road Race was first held in 1910 and ran through 1915, then again from 1919-1920 before going dormant for more than a decade. The summer of 1933 would be the reintroduction of the Elgin Road Race along with the reintroduction of the Ford V8.
Henry Ford entered 10 Fords to race along entrants from Chevy, Dodge and Plymouth. To ensure success at the race, Ford hired Harry Miller, of race car building fame, to tweak and tune the cars to victory. Also, Ford wanted the best drivers and hired 1932 Indy 500 winner Fred Frame to race for them.
The 1933 Elgin race was the first official sanctioned stock car race, meaning the factory supplied cars straight off the assembly line to be raced at the track. Ford knew if their cars did well, the public would flood the showrooms to buy cars just like the ones they saw racing successfully.
Ford's plan worked better than they could have hoped. When the checkered flag fell on the 203-mile AAA sanctioned Elgin National Road Race, Ford's new V8s had captured eight of the first 10 positions, a Plymouth finished eighth and a Chevrolet rounded out the top ten. And this, the Cote Motor Company sponsored car, piloted by Fred Frame, took the checkered flag. You can't beat that story, and I am so astonished that something as cool as the Fred Frame car survived that I had to make it this week's cool car of the week. Not only is it the Elgin Road Race winner, but it is also the first official stock car- and we all know how big stock car racing is today!
Now, not that I'm bragging, but current owner, Dana Mecum was nice (or crazy) enough to let me drive this incredible car around the Milwaukee Mile during the Harry Miller Club's Vintage Indy Car Meet last week. It is an experience I won't forget, what a car- quick, capable, and quite good at handling Milwaukee's historic oval track. And at 77 years old!
You can see this historic car in action August 8th at the 100 Year Celebration of the Elgin Road Race where the #10 1933 Ford will be the Grand Marshall. This is the root of modern stock car racing, and it will be well worth the trip to Elgin to take in the sights and sounds of vintage stock cars in action.