Monday, January 19, 2009

1903-1919 Ford Trucks

What would quickly become one of the world's largest automobile manufacturers got its start on June 16, 1903, when Henry Ford and his associates founded the Ford Motor Company.

Production of the firm's first car, the two-cylinder Model A, began shortly thereafter, and was joined the following year by three new cars: the two-cylinder Model B and Model C, and the four-cylinder Model F. By the end of 1904, more than 2000 Fords had been built.

The first commercial car developed by Ford cost $950.

With sales of cars booming, Henry Ford had little reason to enter the commercial market, but he did make a few attempts to produce specialized vehicles during the early part of the century.

The first example, based on a Model C Ford, was introduced in 1905. Called the Ford Delivery Car, its $950 price attracted few buyers, and less than a dozen were built before production ceased.


Ford's second attempt at a commercial vehicle was called the Ford Delivery Van. Arriving in 1907, it was based on the four-cylinder Model N car introduced the previous year. Unfortunately, it only lasted about as long as its predecessor -- and sold about as many copies.


Yet neither of these failures deterred Henry Ford from trying to establish a niche in the automotive world for his company and its products. And he would carve out more than just a niche with what would become one of the most famous and successful cars of all time: the Model T.

Introduced in October 1908 as a 1909 model, the venerable Model T was hardly revolutionary, being based heavily on the three-year-old Model N. But it struck a chord with buyers, its simple, reliable design being offered in a range of body styles with seating for two or five passengers.

Furthermore, Ford dropped its previous four car lines to concentrate on the T, which allowed for increased production. And with that, Henry Ford was on his way to becoming an automotive icon.

Learn how Ford paved the road for more than 100 years of truck-making

1903-1913 Ford Trucks

What would quickly become one of the world's largest automobile manufacturers got its start on June 16, 1903, when Henry Ford and his associates founded the Ford Motor Company.

Production of the firm's first car, the two-cylinder Model A, began shortly thereafter, and was joined the following year by three new cars: the two-cylinder Model B and Model C, and the four-cylinder Model F. By the end of 1904, more than 2000 Fords had been built.

With sales of cars booming, Henry Ford had little reason to enter the commercial market, but he did make a few attempts to produce specialized vehicles during the early part of the century. The first example, based on a Model C Ford, was introduced in 1905. Called the Ford Delivery Car, its $950 price attracted few buyers, and less than a dozen were built before production ceased.

Ford's 1905 Delivery Car

Ford's first vehicle intended for cargo use was the Delivery Car, introduced in 1905. Based on a Model C chassis, only a handful were built before the body style was discontinued. The Delivery Car reappeared in similar form for 1912 on a Model T chassis, as shown here.

Ford's second attempt at a commercial vehicle was called the Ford Delivery Van. Arriving in 1907, it was based on the four-cylinder Model N car introduced the previous year. Unfortunately, it only lasted about as long as its predecessor -- and sold about as many copies.

Yet neither of these failures deterred Henry Ford from trying to establish a niche in the automotive world for his company and its products. And he would carve out more than just a niche with what would become one of the most famous and successful cars of all time: the Model T.

Introduced in October 1908 as a 1909 model, the venerable Model T was hardly revolutionary, being based heavily on the three-year-old Model N. But it struck a chord with buyers, its simple, reliable design being offered in a range of body styles with seating for two or five passengers. Furthermore, Ford dropped its previous four car lines to concentrate on the T, which allowed for increased production. And with that, Henry Ford was on his way to becoming an automotive icon.

But there was another event that took place in 1908 that would also make an indelible mark on the automotive landscape. That was when William C. Durant established General Motors, which would later become Ford's chief rival.


In 1910, Henry Ford transferred the production of his Model T from the Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit to a much larger facility in nearby Highland Park. Plants in Kansas City, Missouri; Long Island City, New York; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, would join it a few years hence.


Ford once again tackled the commercial end of the market in 1912 with two light-duty vehicles. One was the Commercial Roadster, which was basically a Model T Runabout with a removable rumble seat that could be replaced by an aftermarket-sourced commercial body.

The other was the Model T Delivery Car. While more popular than Ford's previous two commercial vehicles, sales still weren't sufficient to convince Henry Ford to make a serious commitment to this market segment.

In 1913, the Model T became the first car to be built on a moving assembly line. This was a major advancement that greatly reduced the cost of manufacturing and helped Ford keep up with increasing demand. That year also saw the opening of plants in Chicago, Illinois, and Memphis, Tennessee.

Ford Depot Hack

Station wagons would not be offered by Ford for some time, but forerunners such as this Depot Hack, so named because they ferried passengers to and from a train depot, were built by a number of outside suppliers. This one rides a 1914 Model T chassis.

1903-1913 Ford Truck Timeline

1903: Ford Motor Co. founded; two-cylinder Model A starts at $850

1905: Delivery Car introduced -- and then canceled

1906: Four-cylinder Model N starts at $600

1909: Model T introduced for $825

1910: Model T chassis goes on sale for $700; many chassis are used to make trucks

1912: Model T-based Delivery Car introduced

1913: Mass production begins; cars start at $525

The Teens brought further additions to the Model T. Learn how Ford changed this truck in the next section.

1914 and 1915 Ford Trucks

Ford continued to make trucks in 1914 and 1915 even as the company grew in other areas. In 1914, Ford initiated its $5 per day wage program, which was double the industry's normal rate of pay. This allowed Ford assembly-line workers to buy the cars they were building. It also helped to increase sales -- which were growing by leaps and bounds anyway -- prompting Ford to open another seven assembly plants.

1914 Ford Model T

Ford Model T chassis were adapted for all kinds of uses; this 1914 version was outfitted as a hook-and-ladder fire truck. During this era, Model Ts were powered by a 177-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine rated at a rousing 20 horsepower. The least-expensive "civilian" Model T, a two-passenger runabout, listed for $440, while a chassis (which included everything but the passenger compartment, trunk, and rear fenders) went for $410.

Ford offered new-car buyers a $50 rebate during 1914. It was also the first year that Model Ts were offered only in black.

Ford reached a major milestone in late 1915 with the production of its one-millionth vehicle. That year also saw the opening of nine new assembly plants, with another three added the following year. This rapid expansionin capacity would allow the company to build its two-millionth vehicle a scant 18 months later.

Henry Ford experiments with a prototype Model T-based tractor.

A farmer at heart, Henry Ford began experimenting with Model T-based tractors in the mid Teens. Because pulling a plow placed the engine under a constant heavy load, extra cooling capacity was needed; it was supplied by one of the large cylindrical tanks beside the hood. The other held fuel. Frame rails that were normally straight were bent to allow for more ground clearance.

Ford experimental tractor and Model T.

This 1915 photo shows one of Ford's experimental tractors next to a contemporary Model T.

The later part of the decade brought significant changes to the Ford Model T. Find out what happened to this classic Ford truck in the next section.

1917-1919 Ford Trucks

After watching his Model T cars being turned into trucks for several years, Henry Ford finally decided he wanted a piece of the action. So on July 27, 1917, he officially entered the truck business with the introduction of the one-ton-rated Ford Model TT chassis. Now a customer could buy a stripped Model T chassis for light-duty commercial work or a heavier-duty Model TT version for bigger jobs.

1917 was also noteworthy for two other events: the introduction of the Fordson tractor, and the birth of Henry's first grandson, Henry Ford II. HFII, as he would later be known, was the son of Edsel, who had been born to Henry and his wife Clara in 1893.

A significant change to Model Ts occurred in 1917 when brass radiators gave way to painted steel ones. Like the rest of the vehicle, they came in any color the customer wanted -- as long as the customer wanted black.

A 1917 Ford Model T-based Paddy Wagon

A Model T-based paddy wagon shows off an interesting type of tire used in the Teens. Though pneumatic tires were fitted to most cars by this time, many trucks had solid rubber tires on the rear to allow for higher load capacity. But these produced a brutally jolting ride, so some were "ventilated" with holes that went all the way through -- from sidewall to sidewall -- allowing the tread to flex a bit. Notice the rear tires are compressed somewhat at the bottom.

During Ford's 1918 model year, Edsel Ford took over as president of the Ford Motor Company when his father relinquished that position, though there's little question Henry still exerted a lot of influence.

Also during this time, some Ford plants were converted over to produce war materiel. Ford built a number of Model T ambulances for shipment to France, and opened a new plant to build submarine-chasing Eagle Boats.

During World War I, thousands of Ford trucks served as military ambulances.

The first Ford chassis built expressly for truck duty arrived in 1917. Still based on Model T mechanicals but rated at one-ton capacity, it included a stronger frame and worm-gear differential along with solid rubber rear tires.

This 1918 Ford truck hosts a canopy-covered passenger compartment with weather protection, along with a stake-bed body.

A one-ton truck chassis listed for $600 in 1918, significantly more than a standard Model T chassis, which sold for just $325.

A late-teens Model T

Ford fitted this late-Teens Model T with a cargo box for the company's own use. A number of outside suppliers offered similar conversions.

A 1919 one-ton Ford chassis supports a fire-truck body --and seven firemen.

The end of World War I on November 11, 1918, helped make 1919 a very good year for the Ford Motor Company. It brought the three-millionth Model T, along with the birth of Edsel's second son, Benson.

1919 also saw construction start on the expansive Rouge River complex, which would eventually grow to become a nearly self-contained megafactory. Ford closed out the Teens as the country's undisputed sales leader, having produced nearly half of all vehicles sold in 1919.

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