Official Montana 500 Website

Ford Legends

As told by Gary Gordon

It was a spring day in 1959 in Wichita, Kansas when I spotted a white 1949 two-door Ford on Lynn Lowry's used car lot on south Broadway. I stopped to look at it and fell in love with the little Ford. Someone had kept good care of it and there were signs of customizing on the car. The salesman fired it up and the dual exhaust manifolds and the dual pipes sounded like only Ford flatheads do. I noted a hot ignition system and a clean, well-kept engine. The salesman said the last owner said it has a race cam and other parts to make it go faster. I soon paid the $200.00 asking price and was on my way. The car ran good the next couple of days so I decided to take it on a trip I planned up the Kansas turnpike to Kansas City, Missouri, a little over 200 miles away.

The Kansas Turnpike is a four-lane divided, modern highway. I left Wichita about 9 a.m. on a weekday. Since you pay to drive on this highway and since it was a weekday, there were very few cars coming or going. This is hard to imagine in this day of crowded interstates!

I had not gone very far when to my surprise a brand new Buick shot by with a brand new Chevy on its tail! I was wondering how fast the old Ford would go anyway so I put it in overdrive and stepped on the gas. I hoped to be able to see if the Buick or if the Chevy would win. I knew these cars would do around 120 MPH as I had lucky friends who could afford them. Well. The old Ford went up to 90 pretty easy, then slowly continued to accelerate to 92 - 93 - 94. I figured she would do 100, maybe 105 if I was lucky. The other two cars were a good ways away by now and fading. Slowly the needle on the speedometer came to 100 MPH. The speedometer was round shaped and it stopped at 100, but there was no peg there. Zero was at about the 7 o'clock position and 100 at about the 4 o'clock position. I was amazed when the needle went past what I guessed was 110 MPH, and was still moving. Soon the needle was pointing straight down and the two cars were no longer pulling away.

I can tell you a lot was going on in that car, the least to say, my knuckles had turned white! Both front windows were open, and being a single guy, I had a lot of junk and trash in the car. The wind would pick up an empty beer can and slam it around the car almost breaking the windshield and then out the window like a cannon shell. Trash would shoot around and do a crazy dance in the air. The car was handling strangely. I was trying to get into the fast lane very slowly. I could tell that one quick move on the steering wheel and the car would roll across the prairie and destroy itself. The speedometer was pointing straight down and slowly heading for zero. The overpasses were a mile or more apart but they just kept popping up, they looked like giant cement fly swatters, and I had to aim for the small hole! How fast were the telephone poles going by and did the white dash lines blend together?

I was going faster than that and I did not even dare to look. It was getting to the point where I was scared to even look at the speedometer! I was coming up on the two cars - both in the slow lane and I was in the fast lane. There were two people in the leading Buick and the passenger was looking back at the Chevy and me. The Chevy driver was a young lady and a guy was on the passenger side. I think he was letting his girl friend drive his new Chevy. As I was getting ready to pass I took one last quick glance at the needle and it was still advancing, coming up on zero. An old Ford was going to kick the you-know-what out of two new GMC products! It turned out to not be that simple. I was looking as far ahead as could, dreading to see a car or truck ahead of us. To my surprise as I got close to the tail of the Chevy, it started to pull in front of me. She did not look in the rear view mirror. Why should she when they were doing 120 mph and had not passed anyone in the last thirty minutes or so?

I took my foot off of the gas pedal, but being in overdrive the Ford did not slow down. I hit the brakes, and they were good brakes, but at that speed, the pedal faded away. I hit the horn but the roar of the wind over-powered the sound. The Ford now seemed to take over, continuing to pass! That Ford was not going to give up an opportunity like this just because I'd turned chicken!

The two people in the Buick were desperately waving for the Chevy driver to look behind her. The passenger in the Buick had gotten into the back seat and was motioning violently for the Chevy driver to look behind her. I could tell the people in the Chevy thought the Buick people were waving because they were being passed by the Chevy. As the Chevy pulled in front of me there was no stopping the old Ford, she had too much of a head of steam built up.

We were seconds away from a three-car ball of fire that would have had the Highway Patrol to this day speculating on what happened when the Chevy driver finally looked and saw me. Thanks to their power steering I was able to slip by. As I did I looked into the face of the woman driver. I have never seen a face with such terror in it before or since. I could see both cars pulling over to the side of the road. I had to let the old Ford slow down on its own. Finally the needle said 75 mph. It seemed like 25 mph. I sure was glad to see 75 mph again. Just as my nerves came back I saw a red light flashing. I pulled over - my mind racing as to how much a ticket for 140 mph or even 100 mph might be. I would be doing time in Leavenworth for sure. What a relief when the officer said that he had just stopped me to let me know that my tires were smoking! I got out with shaky knees and sure enough, the tires were almost burning! "I guess the tire pressure must be low." I lied.

(end of story)

The Montana 500 is Sanctioned by The Montana Cross Country T Association.