When we admire advancements in American automobile manufacturing, there is considerable hat-tipping owed to Henry Ford. From the first introduced Model A in 1903, to the quintessential icon of American muscle, the Mustang, in 1964, Ford’s innovations in the automotive market relied on simplified designs, reduced costs and positive labor conditions and relations. In a way, Henry Ford reinvented the wheel.
Henry Ford was born July 30, 1863, in Greenfield Township, Mich., now known as Dearborn. Early in life Ford exhibited qualities that would ensure his automotive success. He was a precocious youngster, teaching himself to fix watches, a knowledge base he then used to learn the rudiments of mechanical design. His father was a farmer, but young Henry left the farm for an apprenticeship at the Michigan Car Company. He moved through several similar jobs to cultivate the massive knowledge he would later apply in 1899, when he helped create and organize the Detroit Automobile Company, which he later left to begin the Ford Motor Company.
Before Ford would launch the Ford Motor Company with the Model A in 1903, the globally growing interest in automotive racing begot rivalries between companies—speed became the name of the game. 1901 marked Ford’s first race car, a 26 hp car with a 43.5 mph average speed, that out beat a Winton in October of that year. In 1904, Ford unleashed the famous 999 racer, setting a record of 92.3 mph over a one mile stretch.
Ford’s V-8 engine gained a lot of attention. Although he wasn’t the first to introduce a V-8 to the market, he was the first to simplify the design to run with as few parts as possible. His intricate foundry work produced a single block with the exhaust manifold cast-in. Ford’s strict designs and tolerances ensured the production of perfect parts. His methods increased manufacturing productivity, reduced engine problems and reduced sales cost to $460, a third of the price of the $1,595 Oldsmobile V-8 engine.
The automotive age was skyrocketing, but dramatic expansion of the industry, combined with increased consumer demand, created a labor crisis. A proliferation of unions occurred within automotive factories as an effect of long hours and over worked employees. Ford remedied this issue by strengthening the employer employee bond. He opened company stores, drug stores, laundries, a hospital, a dental office and a legal department. Each of these establishments offered goods and services to employees at a greatly reduced cost.
Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947, at the age of 84, but his achievements remain an outstanding legacy. Henry Ford first began tinkering with combustion engines in 1889, and by 1909, Ford released the Model T, the most important and influential car to date. 1932 marked the creation of the first Ford V-8 engine, and only two years later he sold his one millionth V-8. Today, Ford Motor Co. continues to uphold the admirable company standards laid down over a century ago as we ceaselessly enjoy the performance, reliability and power of Ford products.
(By: Aaron Styza)