Today In Ford History--nov. 26
In November, 1963, a German Ford Taunus 12M set a world automotive endurance record of 221,475 miles—equal to a one-way trip to the moon.
The record—sanctioned by the FIA and still unbroken—was set at the Miramas Autodrome in France, where the 1200 cc, 40 hp V-4 Taunus was driven continuously for 141 days at an average speed of 65 mph, including pit stops.
The record run began July 10 to dispel auto media criticism that the German-built, American design was too big and slow for the European market. The 12M, also known as the Cardinal, posted European sales over the next six years of 1.5 million.
When flagged into the pits for the last time Nov. 28, the all-time endurance leader Ford was unbowed but bloodied. The car was rolled on Oct. 29, when the driver dozed at the wheel. Fortunately unhurt, he righted the car and pushed it back to the pit area without assistance. After suspension and body repairs by Ford mechanics, FIA officials verified that the drivetrain was undamaged and sent the car back onto the track.11 hours later.
With its roof battered and bonnet lashed down, the rugged Taunus motored on to smash the existing world automobile distance record when it passed the 300,000-kilometer mark (186,471 miles) Nov. 4.
The 12M was still running well on Nov. 28, when it had rolled up 221,475 miles (356,430 kms.), the distance from Earth to the moon. En route to that primary target, the Ford Taunus had also shattered 140 world and international class records.
Those and that new distance record for a single automobile were enough to satisfy the Taunus team, made up of Ford engineers and mechanics, plus staff from cosponsors Kleber tires (now part of Michelin) and British Petroleum, promoting its new “Longlife” oil.
They were ready to leave after four and a half months trackside at Miramas, battling mosquitoes, high winds, scorching sun, drenching rains and boredom. And six days earlier, the U.S. president who had rallied the nation with his own moon-shot challenge was killed in Dallas.
Six years later, astronauts achieved the first of many lunar landings. But no one has yet come close to the moon-shot automotive distance record set 39 years ago by that big, slow German-American Ford Taunus M12.