Editors Note: Each Thursday, @Ford Online takes a look back at Ford heritage moments from the company's past.
DETROIT - On the bone-chilling day of Jan. 12, 1904, the famed "999" racer, with Henry Ford at the tiller, set a world speed record over the ice of Lake St. Clair near Detroit.
As it roared into automotive history that day, it also provided impetus for catapulting an infant auto company into one of the great industrial corporations of the world.
The "999" left a vivid impression, roaring forward with the nine-plus-foot car that looked like it was all engine.
The racer picked up speed rapidly, hit a bulge in the ice at 60 miles an hour and sailed through the air. Then it landed, skidded and continued at an even greater speed to enter the timed mile at 39.4 seconds (slightly more than 91 miles an hour) and wrote a new page in the history of motoring.
Ford said he'd break the world's speed record with a four-cylinder engine – the same number of cylinders as those in his new Model B Ford car that had just been introduced. And the "999" did just that.
By winning the race, Henry Ford brought recognition that would make his passenger car stand out among the many makes competing for attention.
The sturdiness and performance of the "999" came to represent the reliability of Ford-built vehicles for many years. Today, the racer is displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.