Tag: Ford Motor Company

Terrible Swift Sword – Jim Donnelly @Hemmings

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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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!

Matchless Model AAs – Ford built Model AA trucks in a variety of configurations – Richard Lentinello @Hemmings

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1931 Ford Model AA tanker. Photography by author.

Ford’s handsome little Model A was one of the most successful and popular automobiles of all time. It had the right look, was the perfect size, and priced so the majority of American could afford one.

Although the Model A was only in production for a little more than four short years starting in late 1927 and ending in 1932, nearly five million had been built. What’s more amazing is the amount of different body styles it was available in, including two- and four-door sedans, coupes, phaetons, roadsters and cabriolets, most of which could be had in either standard or deluxe trim. Then there were the trucks.

1931 Ford Model AA fire truck.

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5 Things to Know about the Ford F-150 Lightning – Jay Ramey @Autoweek

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Ford’s electric F-150 brings lightning-quick launches and plenty of juice for your tools.

The Ford F-150 Lightning, revealed on Thursday night (May 20), is easily one of the most-important launches for Ford in this entire decade, and also one of the most important EV launches for any automaker. Making its global debut just months after the start of sales of the Mustang Mach-E, the 2022 F-150 Lightning wants to turn the Blue Oval’s best seller into the best-selling EV truck in America, and as we saw last night all the ingredients are there.

1 The Goals

The F-150 Lightning is not meant to be an electric truck that happens to be useful in daily life, but to be a daily working truck that just happens to be electric. The F-150 Lightning is also meant to win over longtime Ford truck buyers with its versatility and impressive bag of tricks, even if they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about buying an EV, as well as those who’ve been waiting for a large and affordable electric SUV with the added versatility of a truck.

“We’re not here to make an electric truck for the few—Ford is committed to building one that solves real problems for real people,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, Americas and International Markets Group. “F-150 Lightning delivers everything we’ve said electric vehicles can offer, plus the capability expected from a Built Ford Tough truck—not just near instant torque but powerful towing and hauling customers can depend on.”

2 The Performance

Equipped with the standard-range battery, the F-150 Lightning produces 426 hp and 725 lb-ft of torque. Upgrade to the long-range battery, and you’ll get the bonus of having 563 hp and 725 lb-ft of torque to play with.

When it comes to towing and payload, the F-150 Lightning will tow 10,000 lbs, and will carry 2,000 lbs of cargo.

Staying true to the last Ford truck to use the name Lightning, the electric F-150 will also be able to launch itself from 0 to 60 mph in the mid-four second range, which President Joe Biden briefly quoted as being 4.3 or 4.4 seconds. Those aren’t quite the final figures, but judging from Ford’s statements, they’re close.

“Whether they’re hauling a bed full of firewood through snow or towing a trailer on a road trip, customers need to be able to rely on their truck’s performance,” said Linda Zhang, chief engineer, F-150 Lightning. “This all-electric truck has been engineered with dual in-board motors, which means it can take on rough terrain. Our team of engineers has run the same arduous test regimen our F-150 customers have learned to expect from Ford

3 The Power

The Ford F-150 will make the most of its electric nature, offering four power outlets in the frunk alone, and seven others elsewhere including in the bed in the cabin, for a total of 11. Needless to say, this will make it a popular truck for work tools with the Pro Power Onboard system. This system will also keep track of juice when power tools are being used and will notify the owner when the range falls below a certain point.

Perhaps more impressive than the ability to power tools on a worksite is the ability of the truck to power an entire home in the case of a power outage. The Ford Intelligent Backup Power option can provide 9.6 kilowatts of power to a home through its 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro, which Ford can help install in a home garage. The system can automatically kick in when a loss of power occurs in a home, and then cut off the flow when power is restored.

“Whether sheltering during a storm or trying to stay safe in a heat wave, customers can now use their truck to give themselves power when they need it most,” said Ryan O’Gorman, electric vehicle manager, Strategic Partnerships. “F-150 Lightning is built for seamless transitions between charging your vehicle and powering your house when needed—and Ford is the first in the U.S. to offer this capability on an electric truck.”

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Edsel Ford, president of Ford Motor Company delivers initial order of 1,500 Jeeps GPWs to the Army – Pacific War Stories @YouTube

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Pacific War Stories

President Dwight Eisenhower called the Jeep “one of three decisive weapons the U.S. had during WWII,” and General George Marshall called it “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.” The Ford GPW had predecessors in its 1923 4×2 Reconnaissance Car, the Bantam Reconnaissance Car of the American Austin Company, and the Willys MB. Ford’s prototype, the “Pygmy” was approved in 1940. It used a modified Model N tractor motor. The “G” in GPW stood for “Government” contract, the “P” indicated an 80in wheelbase, and the “W” referred to the design and engine licensed from Toledo, Ohio-based Willys-Overland Motors. The original origin of the “Jeep” nickname is debated to this day.”

Opening titles (0:07). Dedication: “This film is respectfully dedicated to the officers and men of the United States Army in the name of American Industry…” (0:27).

A trio of Ford 4×4 Reconnaissance Cars or GPW “Jeeps” exit a Ford River Rouge Plant garage in single file. Edsel Ford, president of the Ford Motor Company delivers the initial order of 1,500 U.S. Army cars to then-Brigadier General Charles H. Bonesteel III, speaking into a WXYZ radio microphone (0:45).

Under a Jeep’s hood, “the final nuts are turned,” putting the finishing touches on a new “scout car” (W-2017422) in a staged photo-op. The front fenders, wheels, grill, and headlights are seen in closeup (1:12).

Edsel Ford and General Bonesteel climb aboard. Ford smiles behind the wheel and reads a prepared statement (1:24).

Ford shifts the GPW into gear and drives ahead (2:09).

A Ford GPW drives wildly across a snowy Michigan winter landscape, bouncing over hills at high speed. Industrial buildings in the background (2:22).

The three vehicles race past an assembled crowd of onlookers, jumping over a bump in the off-road terrain to demonstrate liftoff. The trio drives straight at the camera head-on from two angles (2:37). In a closer view, the 45 horsepower Jeeps skid into a sharp curve and climb muddy hills with ease (3:01).

Ford and General Bonesteel watch approvingly in closeup (4:02). The GPWs drive over weeds and branches up steep hills (4:08). The Jeeps continue proving themselves, circling around warmly dressed officials in the foreground (4:37). A closeup reveals chained tires. The Jeep, driven by a man in aviator’s goggles, brakes, then drives down a steep hill, seemingly unharmed (4:54). A Jeep carrying two passengers bounces up and down a hill in a loop, dodging barren trees (5:15).

A driver and General Bonesteel behind the windshield. Edsel Ford holds onto his hat in the rear seat. The Jeep proceeds more cautiously, and General Bonesteel grips a canvas side panel (5:55). A GPW splashes through a narrow canal filled with water, spraying streams from either front wheel well (6:35).

Another car with two passengers and its hood flipped open, blocking the windshield. Water splashes over the exposed engine. Steam rises, yet the Jeep continues driving on (6:51). More Jeeps “rolling off the assembly line” of the River Rouge Plant. A wider shot reveals the outline of the Rouge plant, and other early 1940s Ford vehicles parked outside. Jeeps drive over railroad tracks (7:10). A seemingly endless stream of Ford GPWs drive forth from a gated service road (7:21). “The End” (7:33).

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.” 

The history of Ford in Cologne – Ford during the 1930s & WWII – The post war era – 1950s, 60s, 70s – FILMSCHÄTZE AUS KÖLN – VOM RHEIN – WELTFILMERBE

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The thrilling history of Ford on the Rhine, beginning with Henry Fords visit in Octotober 1931 and the human stories of the first generation of his german workers during the founding years, the Nazi era, WWII until the 1970s. Featured eye witnesses: Agathe Herr, Ford´s first female lorry driver during the war and the mechanic Fritz Theilen, half a century on Fords payroll, he had to work hand in hand with foreign slave labours and was a well known saboteur of Ford´s military production. A documentary by the Cologne based journalist Hermann Rheindorf. Soon also in spanish and arab here on YT. 100 min. long version available in german only. https://youtu.be/_DZAw8F26OU: requests: archiv@koelnprogramm.de

Ford reveals artifacts found during Michigan Central Station renovations – Click On Detroit | Local 4 | WDIV

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It was two years ago that Ford Motor Company began the painstaking process of converting Michigan Central Station into office workspace. It was two years ago that Ford Motor Company began the painstaking process of converting Michigan Central Station into office workspace. READ: Ford unveils plan for Michigan Central Station Thursday, Ford showed off some surprising artifacts that have been uncovered in the 107-year-old building

A look back at Brazilian Ford as the company closes the book on a century of carmaking there – David Conwill @Hemmings

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One of the more interesting products to come out of Ford Brazil were the Aero and Itamaraty, both of which started life as Willys products in the United States, back in 1952. Image via CarBrochureAddict on Twitter (@addict_car)

The Blue Oval brand has been present in Brazil since 1904, Ford Motor Company’s second year in business. The Brazilian market became increasingly important to Ford over the years and in 1919 Dearborn founded a separate branch for the Portuguese-speaking country in South America: Ford do Brasil. An Albert Khan-designed assembly plant in São Paulo started producing Model Ts from knock-down kits in 1921.

Now, according to the Detroit Free PressFord will cease manufacturing in Brazil this year and instead rely on importing Fords from neighboring markets.

Perhaps Ford’s most notorious venture in Brazil was the Fordlandia project, begun in 1926. Henry Ford created Fordlandia as a part of his ongoing attempt to vertically integrate his operations. In the mind of the company’s founder, he could best control his costs by owning all of his suppliers (a philosophy shared by GM founder Billy Durant) and perhaps their suppliers, too. At its height, Ford Motor Company owned not only the mighty Rouge plant, but to feed it, hardwood forests, iron mines, a fleet of Great Lakes freighters, and a rubber plantation in Brazil.

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