FORD A Brief Review

FORD A Brief Review The Early Years
Henry Ford built his first automobile in 1896 while working for the Detroit Electric Company.
Published by: All Car Central Publishing
Date published: 04/18/2014

FORD A Brief Review The Early Years
Without doubt the name FORD is known all over the world. There is hardly a country where some example of a Ford Vehicle is not either made, sold or being driven. In the history of achievement there can be no better example of commercial success, but such success did not come easily. Henry Ford built his first automobile in 1896 while working for the Detroit Electric Company.

Ford Model A Rear Entrance 1903


The car was at best a crude example of a horseless carriage but it worked and that was the start of the Ford Motor Company. Ford went on to build several more cars between 1896 and 1905 with a very limited sales performance in fact he almost went broke until the Ford Model N car was developed that sold for $500. At one point funds were so low that he decided to convert one of his cars into a speed machine that he entered in a race and won, the prize money helped his relationship with his business bank who were about to close his over due account. Through sheer hard work and determination he started to sell his products and by 1907 Ford had built a network of what we today would call Dealers who as part of their business would sell Ford cars on a commission basis.

Ford 999


One such individual was John Wanamaker who ran a general merchandize store and also featured Henry's Model N, who as early as 1906 placed an advertisement in the local paper claiming that Ford had broken the worlds speed record with his Ford 999 Racer. It seems that no one challenged this statement but it did attract attention and certainly did little harm to the Ford Image.

Turning from what we today would call Mass market cars Ford decided to try his hand at producing expensive models. The first being the six cylinder Model K which sold for $2,759 1908 dollars, quite a price for the time.

There seems to be no record of how this car was received by the people who could spend such money on what at that time a rich man's toy but perhaps the answer was that Ford continued to produce more economical vehicles in increasing numbers. There was the Model R followed by the famous Model T that was the backbone of the Ford Company for many years.

As sales increased the problem of production increased. More space was needed not to mention more workers. How to meet the growing demand for the Ford product concerned Ford and of course his Board of Directors. A larger factory would add to the costs also finding and training a additional work force. It is reported, (and that's as far as any scribe can say), that Mrs. Ford suggested that the company run a working shift system of eight hours and to encourage support from the work force Ford should pay these people five dollars a working shift, a figure unheard of in the industrial world of 1914. His critics including most of the Ford Board members expressed doubt and even forecast that the company would go bankrupt.

In reality the opposite took place, production doubled, profits rose and the work force was more than happy with the arrangement. Ford had no trouble attracting skilled workers who were loyal and willing to agree to any change that Ford suggested. Managers were also included in the pay increase which again contributed to a productive team as Ford once described his workers.

Ford Model T TouringCar 1914
Jack Carpenter Image


The Great War started in 1914 and although America was not involved for another three years Ford felt obliged to try and persuade the European powers that the war would be a disaster for all concerned. He commissioned a ship aptly named the PEACE SHIP that was sailed to Europe in an attempt to get the warring powers to meet and discuss their problems on what would be neutral ground. The American Peace Ship. Regretfully the attempt failed but Ford told the American press that he had no regrets and would send another ship if he thought it would shorten the war by only one day.

Of course when America became involved in 1917 Ford was the first to offer the services of his production facilities to the American war effort. In 1918 when hostilities ceased Ford in company with others found himself with vehicles that the American government no longer required or wished to purchase. He sold most at cost but sent 100 to Russia to help the White Russians who were fighting the Bolshvics. The gesture was genuine but the vehicles were of little use as they froze before they ever reached their intended destination. No one had considered the climate in Russia in the winter of 1919.

By the early 1920's Ford had opened production factories outside of the USA . One of the first was in Britain in 1923. There had been a strong relationship between Ford and William Morris the head of Morris Motors, one of the most successful vehicle production companies in Europe. Through this relationship it can be assumed that Ford had an understanding of European values for motor vehicles and what they may want and buy. The aim of British manufacturers led by Morris was to produce a car for one hundred pounds, Four hundred US Dollars at the then going rate of exchange. To achieve this, items like a spare wheel was an extra also window wipes or a set of tools.

Ford Model T Coupe 1924


Ford placed an advertisement in the London Mail in 1924 offering a fully equipped car which included a spare wheel, tools and a single windshield wiper for one hundred and ten pounds. However should you wish to drive after dark, a lighting set and starter was another fifteen pounds. This put the British manufacturers in a spin as the best they could offer was one hundred and thirty five pounds for the same deal. Morris never the man to be beaten especially on his own turf, countered with a fully equipped car featuring lights, starter wiper and spare wheel for eighteen pounds and to add a touch or real competition a selection of colors, where as Ford was this following his policy of "Any color you want as long as it's black".

Two years later Ford world production had topped two million vehicles. His only serious competitor was Morris who had the advantage of selling to an exclusive market, the British Empire. However, at no time did these two men ever become real competitors... Morris admired Ford and copied many of his production techniques such as assembly lines and paying more than the average wage to his workers for much the same reason as Ford. The measure of this association can be seen when Morris presented Edsel Ford on his birthday, an MG Sports car, one of the first to come to America.

Ford Model T Special 1915


If anyone thinks that the Hot Rod was/is a product of the post WWII motor world they are wrong. As early as the 1920's Ford's were being modified with sleek new bodies, higher power engines, better breaks etc. by their owners. Certain private body makers offered special custom built bodies that could be fitted to a Ford vehicle and of course several were simply turned into competition machines that won races and field trials. Ford did not seem to object to this remembering that in the early stages of his career to make a few extra bucks he did much the same thing. Obviously to cover all the aspects of Henry Ford's life would take three large books and twenty years to complete. So at the end if this brief review let me close by saying that Ford was quite a man, a great engineer, and a great marketing man who could sell cars to anyone, anywhere. Certainly a wonder in his own time who no one ever got close to copying, not even his friend William Morris who certainly tried. In the late 1930'some smart interviewer ask Ford why he liked making cars? His reply, "I don't make cars I make money!" That's just about sum up the success of the man.

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