The Ford Motor Company has been in the auto game longer than most car companies. Ford was originally founded on June 16, 1903 and sold its first Model A on July 23, 1903. But, Henry Ford was working with cars for a while before that. He built his first vehicle in 1896. It was a quadricycle that ran on four bicycle wheels and was powered by a four-horsepower engine.
The Ford Motor Company proved to be a quick success. After less than three months in business, the company had turned a profit of $37,000. Today that would be equivalent to nearly $1 million: $977,451.
The Model T & Model TT
The infamous Model T hit the American market in 1908. Ford Motor Company made 15 million Model Ts before it stopped production in 1927.
In 1913, Ford introduced the Assembly line into his automobile production. That helped reduce the price of vehicles and made them easier for the general population to own. The assembly line also reduced the amount of time it took to make the chassis of the Model T from 12.5 hours to only 1.5 hours.
The Ford Motor Company added its first truck to the lineup – The Model TT – in 1919. Since then, the Ford Truck has come a long way.
The Ford Motor Company and WWI
Toward the end of the 1910s, Ford began branching out its production lineup to help World War I efforts. According to Ford’s history page, “In its efforts to aid the Allies in WWI, Ford also produced more than 38,000 Model T cars, ambulances and trucks, 7,000 Fordson tractors, two types of armored tanks and 4,000 Liberty airplane engines for the Allies. Afterward, Ford hired disabled veterans returning from the war, making the automaker one of the first companies to hire people with disabilities and to adapt work environments to their specific needs.”
Henry Ford even produced planes, starting in 1925. The Ford Tri-Motor airplane was one of the first airplanes used in America’s commercial airlines. The plan was nicknamed the “Tin Goose” a play on the Model T’s nickname, the “Tin Lizzie.”
Reworking the Ford
The mid-twenties is when the Ford Motor Company started to lose some of its steam. After the 15 millionth Model T drove off the assembly line on May 26, 1927, Ford closed plants all over the world “to spend six months retooling factories and perfecting the design of a new car.” That new car was the Model A. It was the first vehicle to have the iconic blue Ford oval and included all-new safety features like a Safety Glass windshield. By 1931, Ford had sold more than five million Model As, despite the Great Depression.
Ford also shut down operations in 1932 to work on the flathead V8 engine. It ended up being a huge hit – the American consumer was becoming more and more fascinated with powerful engines. The flathead V8 remained in production for more than 22 years.
Lincoln, Lincoln-Zephyr and Mercury
In the late 30s, Ford began introducing vehicles under its other brands; Lincoln-Zephyr and Mercury. Both lines were mid-priced between the Ford and Lincoln brands.
The Ford Motor Company in WWII
In 1941, Ford began producing “GPs” or Jeeps, named for their general-purpose designation for the U.S. military. And in 1942, Ford stopped all civilian auto production to focus on military equipment efforts during WWII. “Ford facilities built a staggering number of automobiles, planes, tanks, aircraft engines and other material for the war effort. By the end of World War II, Ford had produced more than 8,000 B-24 Liberator bombers.”
The first postwar vehicle Ford designed was the F-Series truck. It was the first time Ford stopped producing the truck on a car platform and instead built a specific platform for the truck. The original truck was available in eight sizes and weight ratings. The F-1 had a ½ ton capacity while the F-8 had a 3-ton capacity.
The following year, Ford introduced the All-American car design; the 1949 Ford. “With its wind tunnel-tested aerodynamic shape, integrated pontoon fenders, airplane-inspired spinner grill and an updated V8, the new car was as radical a change as the 1928 Model A.”
From there, Ford’s model lineup continued to take off. In 1954 the Thunderbird was announced, in 1957 the Edsel was introduced and in 1964 the Ford Mustang goes on sale.
By 1985, Ford was ready to make a splash again. The new Ford Taurus revolutionized automotive design with a “jelly bean” body style that broke the traditional boxy sedan shape. These innovative design features helped the car become one of Ford’s most popular vehicles ever, and played an important roll in the worldwide shift in automotive design.
The 1990s saw the Ford Explorer, Ford Mondeo, Ford Ranger Electric Vehicle and the Lincoln Navigator. The Explorer and Navigator were both introduced to help launch the domestic and luxury SUV markets, respectively. The Explorer also helped replace the Ford Bronco, which was discontinued in 1996.
100 Years of Ford
In 2003 the Ford Motor Company celebrated its 100th anniversary. Ford offered limited production centennial editions of five vehicles in its lineup. “Like the early Model T, the vehicles were offered in ‘any color so long as it is black.’”
The following year, Ford introduced the GT as its premium sports car. The 550 horsepower Ford GT was inspired by the GT40 race cars that dominated Le Mans in the late 60s.
Technology and Ford
Over the next few years, Ford was focusing more on technology inside its vehicles. The SYNC infotainment system was included in 2008 model year vehicles and EcoBoost engines were offered in 2009. The Mercury line was discontinued in 2009, giving the Ford Motor Company more of a chance to focus on the Ford and Lincoln brands. That focus on technology and the future has not changed. In 2016 Ford Smart Mobility, LLC was created to focus on taking the company to the next level in “connectivity, mobility, autonomic vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.”