Friday, February 24, 2006

What does Ford get, what do I get from Racing?

Ford like many companies, has a strong pressence in motor sports. Spending huge amounts of money in sponsorship and development. But does Ford get it's bang for the buck? More importantly do I as a customer, benefit from the money Ford spends in various forms of motor sports each year?
It's historical fact that without racing there would be no Ford Motor Company. After all it was Henry Ford's sucess in 1902 that allowed him to raise the financing to start his third and sucessful attempt at an automobile manufacturing company.
Ford has been involved in racing either directly or indirectly ever since. In the ealry days, Stock Cars were "stock" cars, modified for racing, but based on production models. That's where the old saying "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday!" comes from. And Ford's endurance and quality was shown under the most abusive conditions.
It wasn't just in the United States that Ford raced, even in Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia and South America Ford powered cars ran in various "Stock Car" classes and rallies.
Not just the big V8 Fords either, in Europe and elsewhere, even the littlest Fords were burning up the tracks. This late 70's Ford Fiesta racing in Spain illustrates that fact.
And in many cases Ford was able to highlight developments in production models and bring that racing back to the people. Ford's relationship with companies like Cosworth and Lotus over the years led to improvements we see under our hoods today.
Even in open wheel classes, where you would think the least would translate to production models. This early 60's Ford Cosworth powered Lotus race car, helped develop overhead cam technology that is under Ford hoods today.
There are still racing series all over the world that are closer to "stock" than you would think, like the Australian Supercar Series. V8 Ford and Holden (GM) run head to head, and you can buy similar cars on dealer lots.
Even in the US there are still areas where you can see "door slammers" running around the tracks, and not just go fast turn left, these Trans Am Mustangs have to turn right and left and weave through a tough field of world class competitors that cost much more. These Mustangs can be considered rolling development labs also, as they run modified Modular V8s not so removed from what you can buy in dealerships.
Rally racing brings development in braking systems, fuel management systems, suspensions and proves them under extreme situations. The way racing is supposed to.

But what do these two have in common, what benefit as a customer do I get from a plastic body that hardly resembles the production car and rides on a complete tube chassis. The NASCAR Fusion is a "2 door" although they don't actually have doors, while the production model is only a 4 door. The racer is rear wheel drive, while production is front wheel drive. The racer has a 5.8L overhead valve V8, that hasn't been seen in a production model car or truck in a decade. That huge fosil of a V8 has a carburetor, which nobody has used on a production car in almost 20 years. So where is the development that usually accompanies racing? Can you buy a car like the one that races?

I'm not so ignorant to think that Ford doesn't get some benefit from NASCAR, but other than advertising and "brand recognition" where's the beef? I say NASCAR lost it's relevance in the early 80's, even as I recognize it's the hottest ticket in town. But I remember when I would watch Donnie Allison or David Pearson race their Ford Stock Cars, and they looked like cars I knew. The last NASCAR Stock Car I could recognize as a Ford, was the mid 80's T-Bird. I would prefer to see more Trans Am and SCCA racing or even an American racing series like they have in the UK, Germany and Australia, Grand Touring type racing. No carbs with restrictor plates, but real racing with real development.

There's nothing STOCK in stock car racing today, and that sucks.


Dotty Gale said...

The NASCAR body is all metal ( very thinly rolled custom sheet metal ).

The reason the cars have carbureted V8 engines is because with Fuel injection, a dishonest race team can cheat. They are all dishonest except Kenny Schader.

Yes, NASCAR is the hottest ticket in town and no real engineering comes out of it so after 2003, GM took out Pontiac and placed all their marbles with the Chevy brand. At least the Monte Carlo is a coupe.

Toyota is going to join in the fray with their stock V8 Camry Coupe next year. Where can I get a rear wheel drive V8 Camry coupe?

I guess Toyota is having some success in the Truck series.

Ben K said...

The pic of the Silver and Black #48 is an Australian "V8 SuperCar"---the premier category of left-and-right turning motorsport here in Australia (we don't really do oval racing).

Its engine, transmission and suspension bear no relationship to the current Falcon XR8 and you certainly can't run on the street with that bodykit. The bodywork is mostly standard, though.

Big Ford Fan said...

Dotty, thanks for pointing out my mistake, it's comforting to know that they're made of paper think steel and not plastic. As for the Carb Vs Fuel Injection, I think that's not valid enough a reason, teams in stock car racing have been trying to cheat for years, with nitrous kits and a vast array of items. Yes the restrictor plates and carbs help keep them honnest, but they are throw backs as far as automotive development.
Toyota's Camry is just as valid as the Ford Fusion or the Dodge Intrepid and GM cars, because with the exception of the Monte Carlo, none are available with a V8 and all are front wheel drive.

I would like to see more racing like the Trans Am, Supercar series, Touring Car series from around the world.

Ben, thanks for the info, I actually knew that the Australian supercar series was more like our Trans Am, that's exactly what I like about it. And I'm not surprised that powertrain and driveline are not "stock", but at least the cars are built form "stock" bodies and representative of real street cars. Unlike the sham of NASCAR.

the garage guy said...

the "transam car you've pictured is actually a grand am series car. the trans am series is dead from what i can see (they don't appear to have a schedule for 2006).

as i mentioned over in The Garage, i think they should take trans am back to it's roots with production based mustang, camaro & challenger. throw in the 350z & m3 for a bit of historical reference & then we've got a real "win on sunday, sell on monday" series!

Ben K said...

Actually, what I meant was that the "supercars" run pushrod, iron, 5.0L V8s when a Ford XR8 is currently 4.6L and the Commodore SS is an alloy 5.7. The supercars run live rear axles and not IRS of any description. You can't get a live rear axle Falcon or Commodore sedan any more.

I even think that they've recently allowed the Commodores to use the Falcon's double-wishbone style font suspension rather than the Commodore's Macpherson strut.

It's very mucn a formula/parity series.

Anonymous said...

Dodge runs the charger that comes with a V-8 and is rear wheel drive.
Rob C

Big Ford Fan said...

Gary, thanks for correcting me there. I obviously don't watch enough SPEED TV. I guess I'll have to cut back on South Park.

Ben, say it isn't so! Supercar is becoming like our NASCAR. I hate formula/parity racing series, they do nothing to encourage innovation.

Rob, thanks for the tip, but who could tell? From the looks of the cars, the only differences are the stickers for grill, headlight and tail lights. Hell if it didn't say Ford or Chevy or Dodge on the car, you wouldn't know what to call it. NASCAR is a sham, it's the Pro Wrestling of motosports

Gringus said...

I've just become interested (through SPEEDTV) in the Aussie Supercars. They look smaller, quicker, and more agile than NASCAR. How are the Falcon and Fusion different in terms of body size, weight, layout, etc.?