MotorCities National Heritage Area
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by Bob Sadler, MotorCities Communications Manager
Photos Courtesy of Bob Sadler/MotorCities
Published 5.5.2021

Tom Sneva 1984 March Cosworth Indy Car RESIZEDTom Sneva's 1984 March Cosworth Indy Car

Auto racing is a big part of our country’s car culture, and the new Driven to Win: Racing in America presented by General Motors permanent exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation provides a comprehensive look at the sport and its many forms.

Henry Ford 1901 Sweepstakes racer RESIZEDHenry Ford's 1901 Sweepstakes racer

From the very beginning, the people who designed and engineered their own vehicles sought to push them to their limits – and compete against other like-minded developers of early cars. Among the first vehicles you see at the entrance of the 24,000 square-foot exhibit is Henry Ford’s 1901 Sweepstakes racer, which Ford drove to victory against Alexander Winton, providing a vital shot in the arm for his second automotive venture.

Louis Chevrolet race car 1910s RESIZEDLouis Chevrolet race car, 1910s

This exhibit is more than just cars – it also tells many compelling stories about the people who built and (to a greater extent) drove them. If you’re a fan of racing legends like Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt, Wendell Scott, Lyn St. James, Bobby Unser, Barney Oldfield and many more, then you’ll enjoy Driven to Win and want to spend an hour or two perusing all the displays.

A look at the scope of the racing addressed in the Driven To Win exhibit RESIZEDA look at the scope of the racing addressed in the Driven To Win exhibit

I didn’t realize all the different forms of auto racing out there, and this exhibit covers all of them from the familiar to the lesser known. For those who are fans of stock car, sports car, Indy car and drag racing, you might be less aware of hill climbing and land speed racing, but each of these are given the full treatment, with examples of the vehicles involved and their drivers.

1965 Goldenrod which held the land speed record for wheeled vehicle until 1991 RESIZEDThe 1965 Goldenrod, which held the land speed record for wheeled vehicles until 1991

In addition to the cars and the stories on display, Driven to Win also features a great variety of experiential and interactive elements. Near the exhibit entrance is “Fueled by Passion,” which is billed by the museum folks as a “15-minute cinematic experience that gives an all-access look into the hopes and dreams, successes and failures of those who live and breathe racing every day.” The film delivers a loud, panoramic visual and sensory feast with interviews with drivers and crew members from the forms of racing chronicled in the exhibit.

Wendell Scott NASCAR 1966 Ford Galaxy RESIZEDWendell Scott's 1966 Ford Galaxy. Scott was the first full-time African American driver on the NASCAR circuit.

Of course, any modern exhibit on auto racing would not be complete without the chance to get behind the wheel and compete yourself, right? Visitors have that opportunity with the In the Driver’s Seat Simulators, where for an additional fee, you can take a 15-minute virtual ride that immerses you in qualifying and wheel-to-wheel racing.

Trevor Bayne 2011 Ford Fusion youngest Daytona 500 winner RESIZEDTrevor Bayne's 2011 Ford Fusion. He was youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 that year.

The Sports Car Performance Center provides background on the exciting world of races like the 24 Hours of LeMans, recently immortalized in the film “Ford Vs. Ferrari.” You can see the design process of these high-performance machines from clay model to the actual 2016 Ford GT that won its class in the 24-hour race in France five years ago.

2016 Ford GT that won its class at the 24 Hours of LeMans RESIZEDThe 2016 Ford GT that won its class at the 24 Hours of LeMans.

Race fans will certainly not be disappointed in the Driven to Win exhibit, and I think general auto enthusiasts will also find many items of interest.

More information on the exhibit is available at www.thehenryford.org.