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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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Brake Drum Investigation

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The Model A has an early Ford juice brake setup rather than Henry’s original mechanical system. The car is exhibiting a bit of a brake pull under heavy braking and left front brake drum is a little scored.

I was given a drum a while back that is marked “cracked” so decided to investigate condition.

The drum has been stored in the shed for quite a while, so being cast it’s a bit rusty

Had a go at cleaning up and removing the majority of the rust

What seems to be the original wheel bearings seem to be still in place and in good shape.

Part numbers appear to be visible on the drum

Next step will be to run the drum up on a lathe to further clean the braking surface and check for cracks. But so far so good

Naming the Lincoln Highway – Brian Butko @Lincoln Highway News

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Naming the Lincoln Highway

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Credit for naming the Lincoln Highway often goes to LHA president Henry Joy, a fan of the sixteenth president, but a Colorado woman had the idea first. Frances McEwen Belford met Abraham Lincoln in 1860, when she was 21, and never forgot the man whom she called the “greatest American.” In September 1911, Belford proposed a coast-to-coast highway named for Lincoln, one year before Carl Fisher suggested his idea.

In August 1912—still a month before Fisher gathered his automotive industry friends to propose “coast-to-coast rock highway”—she had a bill introduced in Congress “establishing the Lincoln memorial highway from Boston, Mass., to San Francisco, Cal.” The bill died, but Belford did not give up, nor did she forget; years later, she wrote to Henry Joy, reminding him of who had thought of the name first. He admitted that she was first, but that “it takes more than sentiment to build a highway.” ~ from my book Greetings from the Lincoln Highway, now in its revised 3rd edition.

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Who invented front-wheel drive and why is it so widely used today? – Bill Rothermel @Hemmings

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Inventors and engineers had long been intrigued by the idea of front wheels driving a vehicle, imagined in the same manner as horse-drawn carts —in which horses pulled, rather than pushed —the advantages seemed obvious. Placing the weight of an engine over the drive wheels improved traction, while combining the engine, transmission, and final drive in one unit afforded a more compact chassis layout with improved space efficiency.

Though simple in concept, the mechanism necessary to transmit power to the front wheels must also steer the vehicle, which perplexed early developers. Solutions were both complex and expensive. Meanwhile, having the engine power the rear wheels was uncomplicated, so pushing a vehicle, rather than pulling, became the norm for production motor vehicles.

Credit for transferring front-wheel drive from theory to execution goes to Frenchman Nicholas Cugnot, who, in 1769, built a three-wheeled steam-powered carriage. His design pulled goods over the rough and tumble streets of Paris. More than 100 years later, the first gasoline-powered car to use front-wheel drive appears to have been the Lepape. A story unto itself, the Lepape was described in Voitures a Petrole in 1897, and in Petroleum Motor Cars, the English version, one year later. Others were to follow in Europe, a few of which met tremendous success. Those engineers were not alone in experimenting—several Americans were working on it at the same time.

The 1877 Selden, designed by George B. Selden (though in concept only, as one was not constructed until 1902), is considered one of the earliest front-wheel-drive cars in the U.S. It featured a gasoline engine mounted on the front axle that drove those wheels through spur gears. This was followed by the Barrows three-wheeler, built in Willimantic, Connecticut, in 1895; the electric-powered vehicle had a single drive wheel in front. That same year, the electric Morris-Salom competed in Chicago’s legendary Times Herald race. Then, in 1898, Adams-Farwell of Dubuque, Iowa, built an experimental three-cylinder rotary engine (not the same as the much-later Wankel-type) car with front-wheel drive, while a gasoline front-driver called the Pennington Raft was displayed at London’s Crystal Palace by its American promoter E. J. Pennington. (See HCC #193, October 2020.)

Racing may have vilified the front-wheel-drive concept, but Errett L. Cord put it into regular production with his Cord L-29 line, such as this 1931 cabriolet.

Other early marques included the (circa) 1900 Auto Fore-Carriage of New York City; a 1901 Phelps Steam Carriage built in New Brunswick, New Jersey; the 1901 Tractobile Steam Carriage from Carlisle, Pennsylvania; electric broughams built by Healey & Co. of New York circa 1904; and the 1905-’07 Cantono Electric, made in New York City.

The most significant developer of front-wheel drive in America was Walter Christie, who first filed patents in 1904. An engineer known for designing military gun turrets, Christie created a design that featured a four-cylinder engine placed transversely up front with the transmission behind the engine and very short universal (U)-jointed shafts driving the front wheels.

In 1905 he founded the Christie Direct Action Motor Car Company, initially to build taxis. Instead, Christie built seven front-drive race cars powered by two- and four-cylinder engines, as well as V-4s and V-8s, all of his own design. Although the cars had more than 70 percent of their weight over the drive wheels and were known to be beasts to drive, Christie had some racing success.

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Forties technology would make for a perfect 1928 Ford Model A shop truck. Here’s how I’d build it – David Conwill @Hemmings

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A Ford Model A roadster pickup like this 1928 Ford Model A roadster pickup (“Open Cab Pickup”) in the Hemmings Classifieds would make a great shop truck or long-distance hauler with just a few period upgrades.

This one caught my attention because it’s nearly identical to the one we have in the Sibley which was once dragged to TROG. I saw it there for the first time, and I’ve harbored ambitions about turning that little pickup into something with a bit of 1940s flavor ever since. Talking to Jeff Koch about his plans for his family’s 1931 coupe re-energized my appreciation for Ford’s 1928-’31 masterpiece and the myriad ways people have found to improve them since. Jeff wants to walk the line between hot rodding and touring using some newer equipment, but left to my own devices, I’d always hew closer to how Ford developed its cars from 1928 to 1948. It’s a good lesson for making any ’20s car a better driver without sacrificing the vintage experience.

Although the Hemmings pickup is the one I see most often, any ’28 or ’29 would fit the bill. It’s mere coincidence that this one is also a Commercial Green (Rock Moss Green? Something like that) 1928 model. The Hemmings truck is somewhat rarer as it is an early 1928 with the slightly nicer looking splash aprons and the hand brake near the door, Model T-style. Supposedly, Pennsylvania didn’t permit the early design, hexing a big potential market for Ford. I seem to recall the objection was that the hand brake was used to set the rear-wheel service brakes, but PA required separate systems for emergency/parking brakes and service brakes.

No matter, all those interesting old parts, new design or old, could be removed and preserved someplace after a proper pickling/mothballing. In their place would go the best of early 1940s technology, starting with 12 x 2-inch hydraulic drum brakes, front and rear. Up front, I’d go with new Lincoln-style units from Bass Kustom and in back, Ford-type brakes, as they’re somewhat easier to retrofit to an early axle. The Lincoln units have the advantage that Ford chose to license Bendix’s self-energizing technology for its up-market brand, whereas regular Ford and Mercury cars stuck with the Chrysler-Lockheed type through 1948.

The original axles and Houdaille shocks, if in good condition (and the listing says the little pickup has only “88 miles since completion” of a “complete frame-off restoration,” so they ought to be) can stay. If not, there’s always longtime Hemmings advertiser Apple Hydraulics. If my planned tires (which I address below) look a little lost under the fenders, a reverse-eye front spring is a good way to get the nose down slightly without resorting to dropping the front axle

Four-million Ford owners can’t be wrong. The 200.5-cu.in. Model A four-cylinder was a solid, dependable unit that saw millions through the Depression and World War II. The basic design stayed in production for years and fitting one with pieces developed in the Thirties and Forties improves them further still.

I’d ideally give this shop truck a touring-grade Model A engine with a balanced crank and pressurized oiling, but retain the poured bearings. Some of those upgrades may already be present on what is supposed to be a fresh, low-mileage engine, but if not, it would be a good canvas to add them. With a solid foundation to rely on, I’d add performance with a Model A police-service 5.5:1 compression cylinder head (marked with a cast-in B; actual Model B engines got heads marked with “C.” Very confusing) or a cast-iron Winfield head for as close as I could get to 6:1 compression (poured bearings get cranky when you go higher than that); single downdraft carburetor on an aftermarket intakeModel B camshaft and either a Ford Model B distributor or the upgrade unit produced by Mallory for many years in place of the manual-advance Model A unit; and the Duke Hallock-designed exhaust header I had wanted for my late, lamented Model T.

You could probably run this fairly mild engine against the original un-synchronized three-speed, but it would really up the ease of driving if you followed Ford’s route and adapted a V-8 gearbox with synchronizers on second and third gears. The 1932-‘34 Ford Model B used a trans behind its 50hp four-cylinder that was internally the same as the V-8 models but used a different case. Now, you can put any 1932-’48 Ford passenger-car transmission or 1932-’52 light-truck three-speed behind a Model A engine using an adaptor from Cling’s. The pinnacle of early Ford V-8 transmission technology is widely agreed to be the nice-shifting ’39-’52 Ford floor-shift three-speed (exclusive to trucks from 1940-on) containing ’46-’48 Ford passenger-car or close-ratio Lincoln-Zephyr gears in order to mate with the enclosed driveline.

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The Cusey Roadster little pages – Jive Bomber @TheJalopyJournal

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One of the best parts of judging at Pebble Beach is talking to the owners about why their particular vehicle is special and deserves recognition. After a handshake and introduction from each team member, our first question is usually, “So tell us about your car…” At this point it’s not unusual for an entrant to show us a photo album of the restoration, or perhaps hand out a sheet on the particular car’s history.

Our own Flat Top Bob went one step further and presents a really cool 20 page glossy magazine with images of the Cusey Roadster restoration and original articles. I’ve done a truly lousy job photographing the pages below, but just had to share this neat thing that Bob put together for the Concours. Did I mention that he took Third in Class?

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Girl Power: Send your carburetor to Riley’s Rebuilds, the teenage tuners – Steven Cole Smith @Hagerty

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A gated neighborhood in an upscale Tampa suburb is a strange place to send your carburetors for rebuilding. The shop sits in the three-car garage of a lovely home, alongside a similarly lovely turquoise 1957 Chevrolet Nomad wagon. There is a long table with some chairs, and a workbench is parked next to a couple of soda blasters. All is lit by florescent bulbs overhead.

This the modest domain of Riley’s Rebuilds, a carburetor rebuilding service headed by Riley Schlick.

Riley is a 17-year-old girl: A surfing, skating, soccer-playing, Jeep-driving high school senior. Four of her high school friends, all girls, have learned to rebuild carburetors too, rounding out the staff of Riley’s Rebuilds. Ship them your worn-out carburetor, and they’ll ship it back soda-blasted, ultrasonic-cleaned and rebuilt to original specifications.

On what planet is this happening?

Here on Earth, actually, where a girl with a screwdriver, a drill, and some wrenches can earn “really good money,” Riley says. Her father, Dane, is an amateur mechanic. That’s his Nomad, which he’s had for about 15 years, and he also has a much-modified Dodge Little Red Wagon pickup that he drag races. He’s the one who taught Riley how to rebuild carbs, and she taught her friends, and now they all have part-time jobs “that pay us well,” Riley says. “For teenagers, anyway. So much better than minimum wage.”

Riley has always been interested in cars, starting out “holding the flashlight for my dad.” When she was 14, she told her parents, who are both in the medical field, that she wanted to buy a car that she could rebuild, getting it ready for when she was old enough to drive. Her parents said it needed to have a manual transmission, not go above 80 mph, and have a real roll bar. The logical answer was a manual-transmission, four-cylinder Jeep.

To buy it, she needed a job, and the only place that would hire a 14-year-old is a local grocery chain. No, her father said, we’re going to go out in the garage and figure out a way to make money. Hence the carburetor rebuilding operation, which has been in business for three years.

“I made the money to buy the Jeep in three or four months,” Riley says. They bought seats, wheels, tires, a new transmission, and had it painted in a “Jurassic Park” livery. She kept rebuilding carbs to pay for all that, and when it was done, she kind of eased off on Riley’s Rebuilds. But then she totaled out her friend’s Honda Civic, “and I had to pay for that—$10,000.” So it was carburetor game on again, and it hasn’t slowed. She’s saving money for college, even though she already has a scholarship offer to play soccer, which she does three or four nights a week.

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The night of 1,000 Mustangs takes over Detroit for unveiling of seventh-generation pony car – William Hall @Hemmings

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Wednesday night’s reveal of the 2024 seventh-generation Ford Mustang kicked off the Detroit Auto Show in dramatic fashion. Not only did it introduce a new, sleek evolution of the iconic pony car in a festival setting at Hart Plaza, but it reset the standard for future vehicle introductions, particularly at the North American International Auto Show.

The lead up to the reveal was more than two weeks long, with the popular The Drive Home to The Mustang Stampede bringing at least one example of each of the six generations of Mustangs “home” to Detroit, along with a camouflaged seventh-generation prototype driven by the S650 Product Development Launch Leader Marty Mosakowski. Crossing more than 3,400 miles from its start in Tacoma, the tour invited Mustang enthusiasts from all across America to drive with the group for an hour, a day, or a week. Some diehard Mustang fanatics logged 1,000 miles or more to be a part of this historic event.

Mustangs from all eras filled the parking lot at Ford’s World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, for a sprawling Mustang lovefest prior to a police-led procession downtown for the reveal. Per Ford’s suggestion, many owners showed up in period costume, with the Sixties and Seventies styles most popular.

Joining the fun was the Allen family from Kansas City, Missouri. Sean Allen had owned a 1996 Mustang in college, and had been following the coverage of The Drive Home here on Hemmings. At 11 a.m. the previous day, he and his wife Caroline decided to have an adventure, and loaded up their seven kids – Israel, Carrianna, Olivia, Emily, Deborah, Sophia, and young Jackson – into their “Bustang GT” Ford Transit van, determined to catch up to our group. They arrived at 1 a.m. in Auburn, Indiana, only to find one hotel room available, prompting Sean to sleep in the van overnight. Arriving more than 750 miles later in Dearborn with their Transit playfully painted-up, the photogenic family quickly became one of the media darlings of the event.

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