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Want to learn more about Ford Motor Company and its legendary past? Keep reading for Ford facts and history.

 

The Founding of Ford

Ford is the quintessential American automaker and has stood as a bellwether for the automotive industry as a whole.  Its founder, Henry Ford, was an iconic automaker.  The Ford Motor Company was Ford's 2nd attempt in the business.  He founded the Detroit Automobile Company, later reorganized as the Henry Ford Company

 

The Model T, Lincoln, and the Great Depression

Ford's broke through with the esteemed Model T, built in 1908. The all-purpose vehicle was designed to be rugged enough to travel over rocky or muddy terrain and could even (pardon the pun) ford a shallow stream.

You could modify the Model T into a tractor, or remove a wheel and use the hub to drive a belt to run a water pump, electrical generator, bucksaw, or other equipment.

While the Model T was originally built by hand, it is known as the vehicle manufactured on the world’s first moving assembly line at Highland Park, Michigan. This reduced the time to assemble the car's chassis from 12+ hours to fewer than 3, leading to a huge boost in annual output.

Prior to the assembly line, Model Ts were available in red, green, and gray. Only one type of paint dried fast enough for the assembly line process, leading to Henry Ford's famous quip that "any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black".

By 1920, half of all cars in the US were Model Ts and Ford moved into international markets. In 1925, a factory in Yokohama, Japan began manufacturing Model Ts from knock-down kits. In the 1930s, Ford established a factory in Russia to build a version of the new Model A for military use.

In 1922, Ford bought the Lincoln Motor Company.  Lincoln's founder, Henry Leland, was a founder of Cadillac, with remnants derived from the Detroit Automobile Company - Ford's original start-up.  The purchase propelled Ford into the line of luxury, and in the 1930s, lead to some of Ford's greatest automobiles under the direction of Edsel Ford.  These vehicles include the Continental, originally engineered to be Edsel's personal car.

Ford, like other automakers, suffered during the Great Depression and responded to decreased demand with layoffs. Ford offered loans or parcels of land to a small number of laid-off employees.

Even during hard times, Ford was producing iconic models: The Model B.  The Model B - ’32 coupes, became sought-after by hot-rodders. This trend was immortalized in the classic Beach Boys song "Deuce Coupe".  The 1932 coupe was so popular among hot-rodders that today it's hard to find unmodified examples.

 

WWII and a New Era

In 1942, Ford started producing B-24 bombers for the US military. With the assembly line techniques pioneered on the Model T, Ford turned out a new plane every hour.

In 1943, Edsel Ford, company president since 1919, Lincoln division director, and Mercury founder, died. Henry Ford resumed responsibilities and sadly died a couple of years after the war.

It is reported that at his funeral in Dearborn, Michigan, more than 5,000 mourners passed by his casket each hour, a rate, the pioneer of the assembly line would have appreciated.

Edsel's son, Henry Ford II, became president of Ford in 1945 at 28. It dawned a new era leading Ford to the top for innovation and dominant cars when the F-series pickup truck,  was introduced in 1948 becoming the popular F-150

In the 1950s, the era of hot-rodders Ford made the Deuce Coupe famous, and Chevrolet had just introduced the Corvette.  There was also a new demand for luxury cars.

 

The Birth of the Muscle Car: From the Thunderbird to the Mustang

Ford’s Thunderbird, similar to the Corvette, was a two-seater with a powerful V8 engine.   The Thunderbird reached speeds of up to 110 miles per hour. Neither strictly a sports car nor a luxury car, it was categorized in a class of its own: The personal luxury car.  Other cars eventually joined that class Cadillac Eldorado and the Buick Riviera.

Ford head Robert MacNamara (later President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense) made the Thunderbird a four-seater and in 1971, the Neiman Marcus catalog listed a pair of "his and hers" Thunderbirds with such amenities as tape recorders and telephones.   Later Thunderbird models had racing success in NASCAR, from 1977 to 1997. The Thunderbird, like the Deuce Coupe, was immortalized with the Beach Boys song, "Fun, Fun, Fun."

In 1964, Ford introduced the Mustang.  A smash hit and the first of a set of affordable sporty cars with long hoods and short cabins, such as the Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Plymouth Barracuda.  This style of small, sporty two-doors is now known as the pony car.

The Mustang was introduced at a Grand Prix race in upstate New York, where a Formula One driver took it around the track in a time only slightly off the pace of the F1 cars that had raced earlier. It was the first car to be awarded the Tiffany Gold Medal for excellence in American design in 1965.

With its performance pedigree and stylish appearance, the Mustang became an iconic car, appearing in the James Bond film “Goldfinger”,  “Gone in 60 Seconds.”  and the 2000 remake of the latter film.

In the 1980s, the Mustang shrank to a smaller, more economical car, which became a successful trend for other Fords like the Taurus and Focus. The Mustang was on the Car and Driver 10 Best list in 1983, 1987, and 1988.

 

A New Class: The Taurus, The SUV, and Near Bankruptcy

Ford is known for spearheading automobile advancements, including the Taurus’ aerodynamic "jelly bean" shape that changed that of the conventional car.  First introduced for the 1986 model year, the front-wheel drive Taurus grabbed everyone's eye.   Its oval shape and grille-less front end were so radical that it stuck out like a sore thumb in a world full of boxy cars.    It came standard with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine and the option of a 3.0-liter V6. The Taurus become the best-selling car in the US from 1992 to 1996.

On the larger end of the vehicle spectrum, the Ford Explorer popularized Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), and the F-series truck continued to win awards left and right — including Motor Trend's Truck of the Year Award in 2009 and an Automotive Excellence Award in the Workhorse Category from Popular Mechanics.

Ford moved ahead with a restructuring plan, known as “The Way Forward.” The company sold off foreign brands including Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin, as well as a 20% share in Mazda. Ford originally intended to maintain the Mercury brand, it closed Mercury in 2010.

Ford Today

The Ford Motor Company is arguably the most recognizable automotive brand in the US. Tt stands as the 10th-largest US-owned company in any industry and the 3rd-largest automaker in the world in terms of profit, according to Forbes. Ford has expanded its reach across the world, globalizing the company. Many of its models can be found driving the streets of China, and in many European countries

Ford’s F-Series models, Mustang and Taurus models are still strong. and it broken into the electric motor market with the Ford Focus hybrid, which can reach up to 110 MPGe.

Henry Ford's family still owns a minority interest of special stock and is one of the largest family-run corporations in the world.

Ford is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Ford or Ford Motor Company. See all trademarks.

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