Enterprising automotive enthusiasts may want to hit the antique circuit for the next few months.

That's because Ford Motor Co. is on the lookout for a lost heirloom that signifies the company's storied racing heritage.

In 1901, desperate to advance his fortunes as a car builder, 38-year-old Henry Ford challenged the day's preeminent racer. In the first and only race of his life, Mr. Ford drove his 2-cyl., 26-hp car — christened “Sweepstakes” — to victory over Alexander Winton's 70-hp “Bullet.”

“It was the race that changed the world, for it allowed Henry Ford to establish Ford Motor Co. in June of 1903,” says Mr. Ford's great-grandson and company director, Edsel B. Ford II.

For winning, Mr. Ford received a cut-glass punch bowl that race organizers designed as a trophy because, coincidentally, it would suit Mr. Winton's home decor. Instead, Mr. Ford displayed it in his home, where it remained until his death in 1947.

By that time, its significance had been forgotten.

“It went into an art gallery in New York and then was sold to a private collector,” says Edsel Ford II. “Nobody has seen it since.”

At least the original Sweepstakes has been located and the Henry Ford Museum is overseeing its restoration. To mark the 100th anniversary of its fabled victory, Ford is staging its own antiques road show at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI, where Sweepstakes and other vintage racing vehicles will go on display Oct. 13-14.

The event will culminate a yearlong advertising campaign honoring Ford's contributions to racing and the auto industry. Ford believes it should more strongly tie its racing exploits — past and present — with its everyday business.