Category: Ford Motor Company

Ford and the Model T Speedster: Did One Cause the Other? – @ClassicSpeedsters.com

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Ford and the Model T

By the time that 1908 had rolled around, Henry Ford had already formed three automobile companies after completing his famous Quadricycle of 1896. The first two of those companies failed his vision of a low-cost car for the masses, and he either left them or was thrown out for non-performance.

Ford was a tinkerer who, at one point, had dallied with the speed demon. His most famous example is the 1902 999 speedster, a beast of a car that could only be mastered by the soon-famous Barney Oldfield. Ford eventually had to step away from the temptations of speed cars and focus on making a vehicle for the Everyman. He could not do both.

1902 999 speed car, Barney Oldfield driving, Henry Ford standing. This was Barney Oldfield’s first professional ride in a race car, a move from bicycles that would make him famous. photo courtesy The Henry Ford

Ford Motor Company of 1903 was the third attempt at forming a company that would finally fulfill Henry Ford’s calling. When the photo below was taken in 1924, Ford Motor had produced almost all of its record 15,000,000 Model Ts, a vehicle that is considered by many to be the most important American car made during the 20th century.

Henry Ford standing with his 1896 Quadricycle and a 1924 Model T Touring, the ten millionth example. Almost 15 million Ts would be produced before end of production in 1927. photo courtesy Automotive History Collection, Detroit Public Library

Did Ford Ever Make a Speedster?

The easy answer is: “No.” Ford Motor Company never officially produced a sporty vehicle that they named a “speedster.”

Nevertheless, in at least two instances they came close. Very close…

First Try

1907 Ford Model K 6-40. Referred to in the photo as a “Speedster.” Note the lack of a windshield and other accoutrements that would lend it to be called such. photo courtesy Philadelphia Free Library Automotive Collection

The first occasion was the Ford Model K 6-40 Gentleman’s Roadster, a luxury sporting car that Henry Ford was more or less coerced into producing to appease his partner of the time, Alexander Malcomson. Malcomson wanted a luxury car to appeal to the upper class buyer, while Henry Ford’s real allegiance was with rural and working class folks; the low-cost Model N was Henry’s solution.

1908 Ford Model N Runabout. company brochure

Consider the sales material for the Ford Model N:

“To a man who buys a $600 car the amount invested is as great as $6,000 is to the wealthier man who pays the higher figure for his equipage.

“And no matter what the price, the man who buys an automobile from a responsible house … has a right to expect a practical motor car and one which with ordinary usage will withstand the hardest work over rough American roads.

“All these things Henry Ford had in mind during the two years he was working out the designs and the plans for his cherished scheme – a car that would combine all that was best in an automobile and built in such numbers and at a price that would place it within the reach of … men to whom a motor car is a necessity rather than a luxury—and who can pay accordingly.”

The two cars couldn’t have been more different: The Model N was a four cylinder that produced 15 hp, had an 84-inch wheelbase, had a terminal speed of 45 mph, and cost $600. The Model N was a car designed for Henry Ford’s low-budget target market.

1908 Ford Model N Engine company brochure
1908 Ford Model N Chassis company brochure

The Model N and its variants, the Model R and Model S, preceded and anticipated the Model T which would be introduced in late 1908. These models formed the pathway that led to the Model T, which was Henry’s true vision.

The Model K, in complete contrast, was a large six cylinder that produced 40 hp, rolled on a 120-inch wheelbase had a top speed of 70 mph, and cost $2800. This vehicle appealed to the luxury crowd that Malcomson hobnobbed with and that Henry Ford secretly despised.

1907 Ford Model K 6-40 Runabout brochure copy. Note the promotion of this as a speed car, as well as its similarity to other luxury speedsters of the time like the American Underslung, the Pathfinder, and the Peerless
1907-08 Ford Model K 6-40 brochure image. Only a handful of these were made. What a pity!

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William S. Knudsen (Big Bill) – Jim Donnelly @Hemmings

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The history of the car business is replete with tales of achievers who clawed their way up from nearly nothing, penniless, to transform themselves through sheer willpower into human dynamos, industrial titans, architects of wealth and (literally) the stuff of dime novels. Imagine, however, undertaking that variety of personal transformation when you not only had to scramble over the everyday obstacles of poverty and ignorance, but on top of everything else, you couldn’t even speak the language.

Such was the challenge faced by the man who became officially known as William S. Knudsen, or more colloquially, whether affectionately or not, as simply Big Bill. At his core, he was no different from the millions of immigrants who flooded into the United States, grasping at a little bit of its dream and promise, as the 19th century melted into the 20th. Knudsen, however, had a more expansive vision. He became a giant in the industry, to excavate a much-used phrase, by serving as the ayatollah of mass production at both General Motors and at the Ford Motor Company. He would also wear stars on his shoulders as a leader of the United States’ armed forces, presiding over his industry’s hugely critical contribution to defeating totalitarianism during World War II. How many other halting steps down a gangplank have ended with so much accomplishment?

Like so many newcomers to this country, Knudsen adopted a name other than the one his parents had originally given him. He was born in Denmark in early 1879 and baptized as Signius Wilhelm Poul Knudsen. He emigrated in 1900, at age 21, from his native Copenhagen and landed like untold millions of others at Ellis Island. When he reached the U.S. mainland, Knudsen managed to find employment at a New Jersey shipyard. When that job ended, Knudsen–who had paid pennies to neighborhood youngsters in New Jersey to give him some instruction in rudimentary English–found work with the great Erie Railroad, repairing steam boilers at its locomotive shops in Salamanca, in southwestern New York. By then, Knudsen’s younger brother was also stateside, and had whittled out a sideline of importing Copenhagen-made bicycles for his own employer, John R. Keim Mills of Buffalo, New York. It wasn’t very far from Salamanca, so Knudsen decided to visit. When he did, Keim offered him a job, too.

A big part of the reason why was that Keim made steam engines, and Knudsen’s experience with the Erie made him an attractive prospect. The firm was one of hundreds across the American industrial belt that were also turning into subcontractors for the young auto industry. Just as one example, Keim hammered out one order of brake drums for the Olds Motor Works. That soon led to an order from Henry Ford for sheetmetal subassemblies such as fenders and fuel tanks.

Clearly, Ford liked the product, because he one day showed up and bought the entire Keim operation outright. By this time, the Model T was in production, and Ford moved rapidly to erect a regional assembly plant in Buffalo. Knudsen, who had exhibited clear and proven capabilities in production planning, was tapped by Ford himself to set up the Buffalo plant and get it into the business of turning out new cars. It was 1911, and Knudsen was only in his 30s, but he immediately proved to Ford that he could rapidly make sense of what even then were highly complicated issues of production and time management. To this day, Knudsen is believed to be the first person to propose spray-painting cars to save both money and time, as well as to ensure consistent quality.

Ford responded to his prodigious ability by bringing Knudsen west to his Dearborn stronghold in 1913. The Model T had already exploded in popularity like nothing else in the history of the still-young American auto industry, and Ford tasked Knudsen with ensuring that demand could be sated by setting up 27 regional assembly plants, something that had been beyond conception in the business up until that juncture. Part of that assignment included building 112 Eagle boats for the Navy in 1917, during World War I. Washington would remember Knudsen’s efficiency at getting it done.

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John Bugas, the man who cleaned Ford of its gangster element – David Conwill @Hemmings

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The History of Ford Motor Company is filled with larger-than-life figures, starting with the founder himself and continuing right up through Lee Iacocca. So many characters, as it happens, have cropped up in Dearborn history that some have been unfortunately overlooked to a great extent. John Bugas, better known as Jack, was one of them.

Bugas was one of 10 children born to Austro-Hungarian immigrant Andrej Bugos, who adopted the name Andrew Bugas and served six terms in the Wyoming State Legislature. In addition to politics, Andrew was a serial entrepreneur and a rancher. The family ranch, called Eagle’s Nest, would be John Bugas’ home from shortly after his birth in 1908 until he enrolled in the University of Wyoming.

In college, Bugas was an outstanding athlete. He studied law and supported himself by working jobs as diverse as forest ranger and trucker. Upon graduation, in 1934, he went to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It was the height of the Public Enemies era, and the brave and capable Bugas was a valued asset to the Bureau. In 1938, he was appointed to head the Detroit office. There he would liaison with the auto industry, something the federal government was already viewing as a strategic asset as totalitarian regimes in Europe and the Far East made no secret of their territorial ambitions.

Even as he proved adept at fighting more mundane crimes like kidnapping and bank robbery, Bugas was particularly renowned for the work he did protecting Detroit’s defense plants from espionage. He broke up a Nazi spy ring centered on Canadian socialite “Countess” Grace Dineen, and could boast that no sabotage occurred in the Arsenal of Democracy while he was in charge.

Naturally, Bugas met many of the Motor City’s leading lights at this time. Henry Ford, apparently still fearing that his grandchildren might be kidnapped like the unfortunate Charles Lindbergh Jr., hired away Bugas to work under the notorious Harry Bennett, head of Ford’s euphemistically named Service Department— essentially, a private army answerable only to Henry.

The tough westerner was not overawed by the ex-boxer to whom Henry was so inexplicably devoted, but had been impressed with the cultured, sensitive Edsel, whom he had met before Edsel’s untimely death in 1943. A self-described “Edsel loyalist,” Bugas determined to carry out the younger Ford’s wishes rather than those of the thuggish Bennett.

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Terrible Swift Sword – Jim Donnelly @Hemmings

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The Ford Motor Company’s transformation under fire

Family affair: Arrayed outside Willow Run bomber plant are Ford products ranging from B-24 Liberators and gliders to Jeeps, trucks and modified Fordson tractors

The two titans hated each other.

It wasn’t a matter of upbringing or pedigree, either, because at first, Henry Ford had actually admired Franklin Delano Roosevelt, considering his sonorous reassurances to be good for a country mired in self-doubt over the fallout from a decade of reckless extravagance. What he proposed, however, government intervention in the economy and the social contract on an unprecedented scale, turned Ford into a fountainhead of venom for Roosevelt and his policies. The New Deal, in the form of its public works projects and business regulation, infuriated the Michigan farm boy turned mogul. At the same time, Ford’s intransigence and detestation of organized labor would rankle the New York patrician who occupied the White House.

The forces that whipsawed at the two American giants would eventually form the history of the Ford Motor Company in the early and middle 1940s, as it groaned to align itself with the massive World War II production torrent, and with its own future. Those years were a three-act play that would mold Ford into vibrancy, reversing its long skid toward oblivion and forging the business that would outlive its founder.

Team of “Whiz Kids” executives joined sclerotic Ford en masse, reversed its slide

In 1938, Henry Ford turned 75, and he had accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, bestowed on the orders of Adolf Hitler himself. Perhaps he was the only person to express surprise at the uproar that followed, particularly given his own status as a former pacifist dating back to his ill-starred Peace Ship foray that failed to prevent or halt the First World War. Ford the elder had already given his public blessing to the “America First” movement founded by another American icon who would accept a bauble from the Third Reich, Charles A. Lindbergh. Meanwhile, Germany was “annexing” territory across Europe, and would invade Poland outright in late 1939. Ford and Lindbergh then openly opposed U.S. aid to either Britain or France, both of which were clearly in Germany’s sights.

Nevertheless, Ford declared in 1940, when the Reich had goose-stepped through France and Benelux, and its bombs were shattering residential blocks in Britain, that his workers were prepared to “swing into production of a thousand airplanes of standard design a day,” as Robert Lacey recounted in Ford: The Men and the Machine. Lacey believed that Ford became miffed at his onetime executive William S. “Big Bill” Knudsen, who had departed for the presidency of General Motors and was now commissioned as an Army general, in charge of Washington’s war-production effort, whom he apparently believed had steered an unfair percentage of governmental booty toward GM. For the record, Ford would ultimately rank third in wartime production, behind GM and Curtiss-Wright, the aircraft giant. Following Ford’s boast, Knudsen sent a relatively simple pursuit plane for Dearborn to evaluate, and the old man agreed to send his only son, Edsel, the company’s president, increasingly sickened by the intrigues of Ford’s tough guy, Harry Bennett, to meet with Knudsen and discuss a possible production plan.

At that point, Winston Churchill had approached Roosevelt with an urgent request for 6,000 license-built Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engines, which he believed could tip the Battle of Britain irrevocably against Germany. Knudsen agreed, and believed Ford, the birthplace of the modern American industrial-production miracle, was right for the job. Edsel Ford and the old man’s production maven, Charles E. Sorensen, were eager to jump on the Merlin job. Then Lord Beaverbrook, Knudsen’s British counterpart, publicly proclaimed that Ford’s help would be invaluable to the United Kingdom’s war effort. That was all Ford needed to hear. He undercut his son by refusing to allow the Merlin engines to be built, enraging Knudsen over rejection of his goodwill gesture toward Ford and holding Edsel up to public humiliation. Within three years, Edsel would be dead and Sorensen out the door, nudged not too gently by Bennett.

Pearl Harbor, however, galvanized Ford as a defense contractor. The company’s everlasting fame would manifest itself in the form of the Willow Run plant, a production leviathan that, when opened in early 1942, dwarfed even Ford’s fabled River Rouge works. It was, by far, the world’s biggest industrial building under one roof, sprawling across some 2.5 million square feet, its frontal face 3,200 feet across. The legendary industrial architect Albert Kahn, father of the Rouge and Highland Park, had outdone himself with an edifice for the ages (after the war, Kaiser-Frazer would begin automobile production at Willow Run). Its signature product would be one of the war’s most famous bombers, the four-engine B-24 Liberator, which was designed by Consolidated Aircraft Corp. in San Diego, but built by Ford, since the Liberator’s creators could never hope to build it in the numbers that Washington demanded. The Liberator would eventually be mentioned just after the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress; its fame would be forged during lethal operations such as the massed bombing raids on the Nazi oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

Willow Run managed to get into full production well past 1942, after overcoming some daunting logistical barriers, not the least of which was that the bulk of its workforce lived in Detroit–a good hour away. The plant was actually located in Washtenaw County, Michigan, then a collection of farming communities with no local workforce of their own. Edsel Ford and Sorenson were still at their posts, however defanged their roles may have been, and Henry Ford suffered a major, debilitating stroke in 1941. At the time Willow Run was moving toward reality, with the Liberator force hanging in the balance, the person with the most power at the Ford Motor Company was arguably the conspiratorial Harry Bennett.

No less a Ford sycophant than Lindbergh would memorably call Willow Run “a sort of Grand Canyon of a mechanized world.” Henry Ford had loudly proclaimed that Willow Run would turn bins of parts into a flying aircraft at the rate of one an hour, though by late 1942 had built a total of 56 Liberators, less than half Consolidated’s production of 169 the previous year. Editorial writers, however, blazed with praise for Ford’s plant. It didn’t help that a War Department spokesman fed unrealistic expectations by declaring in May 1942 that Willow Run had begun full bomber production when, in fact, the opposite was true. Neither did Sorenson’s subsequent claim that Willow Run constituted an open invitation for Hitler to commit suicide. Once news of Willow Run’s slower-than-bragged-about startup broke in earnest, most of the blame was shifted to Edsel Ford, who was by then dying of complications from ulcers. While Edsel went on to create a reliable Willow Run P.R. apparatus, the damage was done, and he died in May 1943 at age 49, by which time Sorensen was being actively hounded out of Dearborn. Thus ended Act One.

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Leo Beebe Got The Short End Of The Stick, Say Real-Life Pals – Dirk Libbey  @Cinemablend.com

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Sometimes fictional drama simply can’t compete with reality. There are reasons why movies based on actual events are so popular. Having said that, actual events also don’t always cooperate in taking place in the best possible way to make a great movie. This means that the story we get on the big screen is rarely perfectly accurate, some details or characters always go through changes, and that’s what some people are saying happened to a major character in Ford v Ferrari.

The new movie, which is currently being showered with awards attention, deals with the attempt by the Ford Motor Company’s attempt to build a car that can win the 24 hours at Le Mans road race, and while the underdog story is quite real, some have come out and said that the depiction of one character, Leo Beebe, played by Josh Lucas, is not.

While the ultimate goal of Ford v Ferrari might be the battle between the two auto companies, most of the actual film is about the battle between Caroll Shelby with his friend Ken Miles, and the auto company that hired them, but may not completely trust them to do the job. The major antagonist of the film is the character of Leo Beebe, an executive within the Ford Motor Company who was a real person, but not the type of person the movie portrays, according to those who knew him.

In the film, Leo Beebe is never a fan of Shelby or Miles and takes whatever opportunities he has to actively sabotage their chances of winning. That’s not the man that Ed Cloues knew. Cloues served on a board with Beebe and told the Philadelphia Inguirer that Beebe was actually quite the opposite person, somebody who pushed people to be the best.

I’ve dealt with a lot of people in the business world, and there’s nobody I hold in higher regard than Leo Beebe. He was tough, but a gem of a person. I call him a human engineer. He understood how to get the best out of people, and how to motivate people.

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The Ford Fleet – @TheHenryFordBlog

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Beginning in 1915, Henry Ford, began developing the Rouge property in Dearborn, for a new Ford Motor Company plant on the east side of the Rouge River. The plan was to utilize the river to transport raw materials from coal mines and lumber mills to the factories. By 1923, the “river navigation project” was complete. The Rouge had become such a large facility, however, that one ship could not handle transporting the huge quantities of raw materials needed for production. Mr. Ford began acquiring his own fleet of ships for the company by ordering two ore carriers to be built. These ships, the Henry Ford II and Benson Ford– named after Mr. Ford’s grandsons – and would remain in service for over 50 years.

Ford Freighter Benson Ford docked at the Rouge River Factory, 1924

The freighters Benson Ford and Henry Ford II were the two most modernized ships on the water at the time. Ships of the day were mainly powered by coal fired steam propulsion engines, however, the Ford ships were each equipped with a British designed 3,000 horsepower diesel engine.

Operations for the fleet were growing so rapidly that by 1925 it was necessary to establish a Marine Department within Ford Motor Company. Under the direction from Mr. Ford, the department began building out the fleet, adding the East Indian later that year. By the 1930s, Ford Motor Company expanded overseas into Europe, Asia, and South America with export plants established on the east coast. During this time, Mr. Ford purchased 200 surplus World War I merchant vessels from the United States government. Of these ships, twenty-two were converted to barges, ocean-going ships and canal carriers; the rest were scrapped for the Rouge’s steel furnaces

Ford Freighter East Indian docked at Jacksonville, Florida, 1935.

After the East Indian was purchased in 1925, it was reoutfitted from a steam powered engine to a diesel, like the Henry II and Benson before her. At 461 feet long, and with her new engines totaling 3,000 horsepower, the East Indian quickly became the most powerful merchant motorship under the American flag.

At the start of World War II, the fleet carried less ore and fewer finished parts to Ford factories forcing the company to cut back on operations during the lake shipping seasons, placing more emphasis on non-Ford cargoes. By June 1942, 500 American ships were sunk by submarines in the Atlantic ocean with casualties of over 5,000 crewmen. During this time, almost the entire Ford Fleet was recruited by the United States government for war service.

In November 1941, the Green Island, the third of the Ford ships to go to war, was put on a maritime commission in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, only six months later, the Green Island was hauling sugar from Cuba to the United States when a German submarine came upon her and ordered her crew into lifeboats. After all the crew members were safely away from the ship, the ship was torpedoed and sent her to the bottom of the ocean. After being held prisoner by the Germans, the entire crew was rescued, the only Ford crew to be so lucky.

Ford Freighter Green Island arriving at New York City dock, August 4, 1937

A month before the sinking of the Green Island, two of Ford’s ocean-going lakers, Oneida and Onondaga, were turned over to the government in June 1942. Only one month later, on July 13, 1942, the Oneida was on a bareboat charter when it was sunk by a German submarine off the east coast of Cuba; six of the crew were lost. The Onondaga was sunk just ten days after that, about 200 miles west of where her sister vessel was lost; fourteen of the crew, including the captain were lost along with one passenger.

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Ford President & CEO Jim Farley brings some iconic cars to my pub! | Kidd in a Sweet Shop

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Really good interview with a lot of insight into the future of Ford Motor Company

In this very special episode of Kidd in a Sweet Shop, I’m at my pub meeting with Jim Farley, the President and CEO of Ford! Together we chat about Jim’s role as CEO, before taking a tour of a selection of past & present Ford models, as well as taking a drive in one of the company’s finest new EVs. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this one!

Ford’s Way…What are they now with photos, Ford assembly plants, then and now – Steve Plucker

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Steve is very well known in the Model A hobby and operates an excellent website full of detailed research information on the Model A

San Francisco, California (1914-June 1931)

This particular section covers the original Ford plants and how they look know, really interesting stuff!

You can find the document here

Take a look at the rest of the site, speaking as an A owner it’s a fascinating resource

The Deal That Could Have Changed History, GM tries to acquire Ford. Here’s why it didn’t happen – Larry Printz @TheDetroitBureau

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This week in automotive history, GM tries to acquire Ford. Here’s why it didn’t happen

Imagine General Motors owning Ford. It nearly happened, until it didn’t. TheDetroitBureau.com looks at what nearly happened, and why it didn’t.

William (Billy) Crapo Durant Founder of GM

William Crapo Durant — Billy to his friends — became President of the Buick Motor Co., after its founder, David Buick, left the company, along with $100,000. All was going well at Buick, and Durant soon left the office to have dinner with his daughter, Margery, when he was called to the phone. It was Benjamin Briscoe Jr., president of the Maxwell-Briscoe Co.

The conversation was recalled by Durant in notes for a never published autobiography and later recounted by Buick historian Lawrence Gustin in his book, “Billy Durant.”

“Hello, Billy, I have a most important matter to discuss with you and want you to take the first train to Chicago.”

Durant answered, “What’s the big idea, Ben?”

“Don’t ask me to explain; it’s the biggest thing in the country. There’s millions in it. Can you come?”

“Impossible, too busy, sorry,” Durant said. “But I can see you here. Why don’t you take the 10 o’clock Grand Trunk arriving at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning? I will meet you at the station and we will have breakfast together.”

Briscoe agreed, and boarded the train later that night.

A meeting begets a big idea

The next day, the two meet, with Briscoe telling Durant that a J.P. Morgan partner and Maxwell-Briscoe financier was toying with the idea of a large merger of automakers, nearly two dozen. Durant had his doubts.

The plan involved too many companies and would take too much to resolve any differences. Durant countered with another proposal, one involving fewer automakers that would sell medium-priced cars in large numbers, such as Ford, Reo, Buick and Maxwell-Briscoe.

Upon further discussion, they contacted Ransom E. Olds, who ran Reo, and Henry Ford, who agreed to meet with Briscoe and Durant at Durant’s suite in the Pontchartrain Hotel in Detroit. 

Briscoe opened the meeting, stating he wanted the group to formulate a consolidation plan the could be presented to J.P. Morgan. But Ford and Olds wanted cash for their companies, at least $3 million each.

This proved to be a big hurdle. With the chances of success fading, the final straw proved to be a short item in the New York Times, stating that the first large consolidation of automakers was coming, and would be named International Motor Co. and capitalized at $25 million. 

Morgan withdrew its support. The big idea was dead.

Durant carries on

Morgan may not have liked the idea, but Durant did. 

Before long, he contacted the Olds Motor Works in Lansing, Michigan about consolidating Buick and Olds, with both companies owned by a holding company to be named General Motors.

Henry Ford was mired in the Selden Patent case at the time when Durant proposed the purchase of his company

Olds had fallen on hard times after the departure of their founder, Ransom Olds, several years before, and were anxious to consolidate. On Sept. 16 1908, General Motors was incorporated, starting an acquisition spree that led Durant to acquire the Albert Champion Co., the Oakland Motor Car Co., and Cadillac Automobile Co. among dozens of others.But one prize still eluded him: Ford Motor Co

At the time of Durant’s offer Ford had just introduced the moving assembly line

Durant tries again

In 1909, Durant approached Ford’s business manager James Couzens about General Motors’ interest in acquiring Ford Motor Co. Couzens said he would talk it over with Mr. Ford. At the time, Ford was fighting George Selden, a patent lawyer who was granted a patent for the automobile.

Selden formed the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers and began collecting a 0.75% royalty on all cars sold. But automakers had to get a license from the ALAM. Having been refused one by the ALAM, Ford built cars anyway. Selden sued, and the case dragged on for years. Ford was still battling Selden when Durant’s offer arrived. With victory uncertain, and huge costs being incurred with the installation of the automobile industry’s first assembly line, Ford couldn’t help but be swayed by the offer.  

“I had reason to believe that if we were successful, General Motors would not require any more motor car companies,” Durant writes.

Ford agreed to sell his company to General Motors for $8 million. His terms: $2 million in cash, $2 million in stock, and the remaining $4 million paid during the next three years at 5% interest. But Durant’s acquisition fee left GM short on cash. Durant turned to the National City Bank of New York to ask for a $2 million loan, even as GM’s board of directors gives Durant the authority to buy Ford on Oct. 26, 1909. But the bank was unwilling to take a risk on the fledgling industry, let alone Durant’s new company. 

The answer was no.

The fallout

Ultimately, Ford would prove victorious over Selden upon appeal, and the assembly line proved a wise innovation. By the 1920s, Ford would control half the U.S. automobile market with a single vehicle, the Model T. Ultimately, through a combination of factors, GM would surpass Ford, become the top seller of automobiles in the U.S. for decades. 

However, one wonders what might have been had things turned out differently in 1909.

While those same bankers later admitted they made a mistake, Durant harbored no regrets. “I never would have built up that business the way Ford did,” he recalled. “The Ford business would never have been what it is without Henry Ford, who has done more for America than any other man — more for the world.”