Don’t try to wipe your screen to clear up that blurry image above: It’s a screen-capture from a 50-plus-year-old promotional video uploaded to YouTube at a low resolution setting, so that’s about as sharp as it gets. It’s also about the only photographic evidence we’ve been able to find of a gas-turbine engine that Ford designed and experimented with in the mid-Twenties, long before other American carmakers started their own gas turbine programs.
As noted in Ford’s own 1966 promotional video on Big Red, the turbine-powered concept truck that was the predecessor to Ford’s gas-turbine engine program of the late Sixties and early Seventies, this little gas turbine engine predated Big Red by 40 years. “Since that time, Ford’s engineers have been interested in the potential of gas turbine power,” the narrator boasted, implying an unbroken thread of research and development into the engines. However, it appears Ford’s scriptwriters included the mention of the engine only to boost the company’s credentials; after a quick mention that Henry Ford and two associates built the gas turbine engine in 1925, the video switched back to the development of the 700-series gas turbines without elaborating on the earlier engine.
The gas turbine engine in the image appears to be a patent demonstration model, but we’ve yet to come across any such patent in our searches. A clearer image of the patent model would help, but we’ve yet to make any headway with Ford itself or The Henry Ford. Without much else to support the existence of the Henry Ford-developed gas turbine, we could’ve easily dismissed it as another wild Henry Ford idea or part of the accretion myth around the industrialist.