The Engine of Our Family

Lotus-Ford 38/1 (1965 Indy 500 Winning Car)
Lotus-Ford 38/1 (1965 Indy 500 Winning Car)

Grandpa Chen was the engine of our family in more ways than one.

Born in Fuzhou, the capital of China's Fujian province, my grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1948 to pursue graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering. He eventually completed his Master's Degree at the University of Michigan, where he also married my grandmother.

After completing graduate school, Grandpa Chen was one of a very few Chinese engineers hired by Ford Motor Company at the turn of the 1950's. Working in the Research and Design Engine Technology department at Ford, his innovative work led to many advances in mechanical engine design. The pinnacle of my grandfather's career was being selected as the lead design engineer for Ford's entry into Formula One Racing in the mid-1960s, where he conducted most of the special design work for the lightweight Turbo-charged Fairlane engine. This very engine was used in the 1965 Indy 500-winning Lotus-Ford 38/1 race car, with the great Jim Clark ("The Flying Scotsman") behind the wheel. Today, the historic car is on permanent exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan.

As dedicated as he was to his profession, my grandfather was equally as devoted to loving and supporting his family. His unwavering commitment to being the best husband, father, and grandfather was an inspiration to anyone that knew him. Grandpa Chen was a trailblazer who truly lived the American Dream.

Place(s): Fuzhou, Fujian, China; Michigan, United States
Year: 1948

– Brian Chen

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant