1936 Ford Midget Racer

It seems that in motorsport, just like in life, having robust financial backing can be beneficial to success. Of course, money may not make you an automatic shoe in for success but it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances. In the mid-1930s, a certain 11 year old kid from Michigan named William Clay Ford didn’t have too much to worry about. After all, his grandfather Henry was one of the greatest industrialists in all of history and his father Edsel was a brilliant designer and talented marketer. When it came time for William’s11th birthday (though some reports suggest his 14th) a suitable gift was needed… and what better gift is there for the grandson of the world’s biggest motoring mogul than a miniature racing car of his own. Of course, no off-the-shelf item would do, so the might of America’s most famous industrial powerhouse was utilized to build a young boy a very small racing car.

Ford employees set to work, starting with a custom fabricated chassis. To this chassis is affixed an I-beam front end, with running gear from what is believed to be a British Ford Model C. Of course, the engine was thoroughly warmed over by engineers to include a lightened flywheel and custom outside exhaust. Power went to the rear end via a three speed gearbox and the suspension featured friction dampers, with mechanical brakes on the rear axle only. The chassis was then clothed in a tiny, yet beautiful and expertly proportioned body that, particularly from the front, bore more than a passing resemblance to a Miller Indy car. The result was a gorgeous, jewel-like machine that surely must have thrilled the young William Clay Ford to no end. While little is known about actual competition history, we like to imagine the looks on other kid’s faces if young William Clay showed up at a race in a car that was custom built by the best and brightest at the Ford Motor Company!

The little Ford racer thankfully survived the abuses of childhood and eventually found its way to the Henry Ford Museum where it was displayed for many years before being auctioned out of the collection to noted collector Bud Melby in the early1980s. It then made its way to his private museum where it remained for many years.

We at Hyman Ltd. are positively thrilled to offer this tremendous piece of automotive history. It presents in excellent condition, and our in-house mechanical team has thoroughly and carefully inspected it to ensure it is sound and usable. The little Model C engine makes glorious noises thanks to the lightened flywheel and straight open exhaust. As we have pored over this remarkable little machine, we have found it to be beautifully engineered, with clever touches such as a fuel pump cooler, a completely serviceable front end, chrome spring-steel bumpers and of course that gorgeous Miller-esque radiator grille. The miniaturized banjo steering wheel is a work of art in its own right. More than just a showpiece, it has the speed to match the looks, believed to be capable of at least 85 miles per hour, while William Clay Ford himself claimed he once touched the magic 100mph barrier with the car! We can only imagine the thrills it must have provided.

This remarkable car may be tiny in size but it is positively massive with history. A scant few Fords that are in private hands were built with direct involvement from both Edsel Ford and Henry Ford – and built solely for a member of the Ford family. From a mechanical and engineering standpoint, it is beautiful and fascinating: perfectly proportioned and beautiful in a miniature scale. The sale will include correspondence from William Clay Ford. Small in stature, huge in significance; this is quite simply an extraordinary opportunity.

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