Ford Motorsports ‘Godfather’ Edsel B. Ford II Receives Heritage Award

Mar 12, 2024

Widely known as both the “Godfather” of Ford Motor Company’s racing efforts and a prominent ambassador for the sport of auto racing globally, Edsel B. Ford II was honored Tuesday as a Bob Russo Heritage Award winner at the induction celebration for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Ford attended his first race at age 17 with his father Henry Ford II. The race in question was the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans – one of the most iconic races in motorsport history, featuring the famous 1-2-3 finish by the Ford GT40s. It sparked in Ford a passion for the sport that remains decades later, when he is still a familiar sight on starting grids at major races.

Ford said he was honored to be considered for the award, which is named after the longtime motorsports journalist and historian and recognizes the recipient’s contributions to motorsports. 

“Outside of my family, the sport of motor racing has been one of the great passions of my life and to be honored by the MSHFA in this way is humbling,” said Ford, who is often seen at the racetrack with his own sons. 

I have said many times that the sport produces such amazing people and personalities, and it’s been my honor to have been around so many of the people who have been inducted into this Hall of Fame, and, better yet, to consider so many of them my friends.
Edsel B. Ford II,
former longtime Ford Motor Company board member and the “Godfather” of Ford Racing

Ford President and CEO Jim Farley, himself an avid auto racing enthusiast, said Edsel Ford II has truly earned the “Godfather” title. 

“For decades, Edsel has been the architect and chief supporter of Ford Performance Motorsports,” Farley said. “Through the tough times and the good times, Edsel has been steadfast in his support for Ford teams around the world. I know how much all our teams value it when Edsel is at the track and when he can’t be, he’s the first to reach out to offer his congratulations or support.”

This honor could not go to a better recipient and all of us at Ford want to say thank you to Edsel for all he has done for the sport, and for us.
Ford President and CEO Jim Farley

Following his visit to Le Mans in 1966, Ford’s love for the sport and its personalities grew. He spent one summer traveling the Sports Car Club of America Trans Am circuit with the Bud Moore Engineering race team, and another summer cleaning transmission parts for the race team of Carroll Shelby, something that led to a lifelong friendship with the 1992 MSHFA inductee.

Racing efforts at Ford

Once he started his career at Ford Motor Company in 1974, Ford served throughout the company’s product planning, marketing, and sales divisions, including a stint as president of Ford Australia, where he became involved in the Supercars racing world. As head of Lincoln-Mercury Division marketing, he kicked off the dominant Roush Racing sports car efforts with Capri, Merkur XR4Ti, and Cougar.

Ford was named president and chief operating officer for Ford Credit in 1991, and was widely attributed with helping to bring the Ford Quality Care and Ford Credit brands to NASCAR, where Dale Jarrett took the colors to a NASCAR Cup Series Championship for Robert Yates Racing in 1999. Ford was also influential in helping to bring Robert Yates and Jack Roush (MSHFA Class of 2022) together to form Roush Yates Engines just a few years later.

More auto racing accolades

Ford, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford and son of longtime company leader Henry Ford II, retired from the company’s board of directors in 2021. He also belongs to the Walk of Fame at the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and was previously honored with the NASCAR Hall of Fame Landmark Award in 2020. In 2013, Ford was presented with the Keith Crain/Automotive News Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments in the automotive industry with Ford Motor Company. 

Edsel Ford II has also been very active in philanthropic efforts, including the Detroit 300 Conservancy, the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army, the Detroit Children’s Fund, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and The Henry Ford. Also, he is the owner and chairman of Pentastar Aviation located in Waterford, Michigan.

Ford is also the namesake of the Ford Experience Center in Dearborn, which was dedicated last year.