Did you know that Ford were more than cars?

What about tractors?

It was Henry Fords farming background, having grown up in the rural sector of America, which caused him to have a real interest in creating an affordable tractor that suited the small farm holder. He put together his first experimental tractor in 1907 and it was said that he made more than 50 different tractor prototypes. The final development was the Fordson F tractor in 1917/1918 that went to be sold to farmers. It was lighter and more affordable than other tractors on the market and so it was a hit!
The Fordson name was used for two main reasons. There was already a Ford Tractor Company in Minneapolis at the time, and the Ford Motor Company shareholders as a whole did not approve of any tractor production. That led Henry Ford to establish an entirely new business separate from the motor company called Ford & Son Inc. This was later shortened to Fordson. Ford stopped tractor production in America in 1928, and focused on the Ford Model A car that was then about to replace the Model T. Fordson however continued tractor production in Britain.
Then around 1938/1939, Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson cooperated together to build tractors with the Ferguson three-point hydraulic hitch system, and the Ford 9N was released to the British market and remained until 1947. The Fordson name continued to be used in Britain until 1961, when the two divisions of the tractor company were brought together. Ford purchased New-Holland in 1985, but was soon looking for a way to get out of the tractor business. In 1991, Ford-New Holland was sold to FIAT the Italian motor company. The agreement required that FIAT stop using the Ford name on all tractors by the year 2000.

1948 Ford Tractor 1968 Ford Tractor
1948 Ford Tractor 1968 Ford Tractor

What about airplanes’?

The companies of Henry Ford first produced the Ford Trimotor aircraft in 1925. It continued to be made until June of 1933. Throughout its time in production, a total of 199 Ford Trimotors were manufactured. Although it was designed mainly for the civil aviation market, this aircraft was used by the military and it was sold throughout the world.
The aircraft has its beginnings with William Bushnell Stout, an aeronautical engineer who had designed several aircraft using principles similar to the German Professor Hugo Junkers, a noted airplane designer.
Stout, a cleaver salesman, sent a letter to a number of leading manufacturers, asking for $1,000 and saying that for your thousand-dollar investment you will get one definite promise. You will never get your money back!
Stout went on to raise $20,000, including $1,000 each from Edsel Ford and Henry Ford.
In the early 1920s Edsel and Henry Ford, along with a group of 18 others invested in the Stout Metal Airplane Company. In 1925 Ford bought Stout and its aircraft designs. The single-engine Stout design was turned into a multi-engine design and the Stout 3-AT with its three Curtiss-Wright air-cooled radial engines was born. After a prototype was built and test flown with poor results, a suspicious fire causing the complete destruction of all previous designs, the 4-AT and 5-AT emerged.
That the Ford Trimotor used an all-metal construction was not a revolutionary concept, but certainly more advanced than the standard construction techniques of the 1920s. The aircraft resembled the Fokker F.VII, but unlike the Fokker, the Ford was all-metal, allowing them to claim it was the safest airliner flying the sky.
Its fuselage and wings were constructed of corrugated aluminum alloy adding to its strength, although the drag reduced its overall performance. This became something of a trademark for the Trimotor. Although designed primarily for passenger use, the Trimotor could be easily adapted for hauling cargo, since its seats could be removed. To increase cargo capacity, one unusual feature was the provision of drop-down cargo hold below the lower inner wing sections on the 5-AT version.

Ford Tri-Motor aircraft
The Ford Trimotor aircraft, also known as the Tri-Motor and was nicknamed The Tin Goose and was an American three-engine transport plane that was first produced in 1925 by the companies of Henry Ford.

The original production of the 4-AT had three air-cooled Wright radial engines and carried a crew of three, a pilot, a co-pilot, and a stewardess to look after the eight or nine passengers. The later 5-AT had a more powerful Pratt & Whitney engine. However, unlike many aircraft of this time, its flight control surfaces like the ailerons, elevators, and rudders were not fabric covered but were made of corrugated metal. Common for the time, the wires were strung along the external surface of the aircraft controlling its rudder and elevators. Even the engine gauges were mounted externally on the engines, to be read by the pilot while looking through the plane's windshield.
Like the Ford cars and tractors, these aircraft were well designed, relatively inexpensive to make, and very reliable. The combination of the metal structure and simple systems led to their reputation for ruggedness. Basic service requirements could be carried out in the field with ground crew able to work on the engine using scaffolding and platforms. In order to fly into otherwise-inaccessible sites, the Ford Trimotor could be fitted with skis for snow or floats for water.
With the rapid development of aircraft around these times and the vastly superior Douglas DC-2 in 1932, coupled with the death of his personal pilot, Harry J. Brooks on a test flight all led to Henry Ford losing interest in aviation. While Ford did not make a profit on its aircraft business, Henry Ford's reputation lent credibility to the infant aviation and airline industries, and Ford helped introduce many innovative ideas and modern aviation infrastructure that we still see today. This includes paved runways, passenger terminals, hangars, airmail, and radio navigation.
In the late 1920s, the Ford Aircraft Division was reputedly the largest manufacturer of commercial airplanes in the world. Alongside the Ford Trimotor, a new single-seat commuter aircraft, the Ford Flivver or Sky Flivver had been designed and flown in prototype form but never really entered serious production. The Trimotor wasn’t to be Ford's last venture into aircraft production. During World War II, the largest aircraft manufacturing plant in the world was built at the Willow Run, Michigan plant, where Ford produced thousands of B-24 Liberator bombers under license from Consolidated Aircraft.
A grand total of 199 Ford Trimotors were built between 1926 and 1933, including 79 of the 4-AT variant, and 117 of the 5-AT variant, plus some other experimental craft. Well over 100 airlines around the world flew the Ford Trimotor at some time.
The impact of the Ford Trimotor on commercial aviation was immediate, as the design represented a quantum leap over other airliners. Within a few months of its introduction, Transcontinental Air Transport was created to provide a coast-to-coast service, capitalizing on the Trimotor's ability to provide reliable and for the time, a comfortable level of passenger service.
The heyday for Ford's transport was relatively brief, lasting until 1933 when more modern airliners began to appear. Rather than completely disappearing, the Trimotors gained an enviable reputation for durability with Ford ads in 1929 proclaiming; that no Ford plane has yet worn out in service.
First being relegated to second- and third-tier airlines, the Trimotors continued to fly on into the 1960s, with numerous examples being converted into cargo transporters to further lengthen their service life and when World War II began, the commercial versions were soon modified for military use.
Making headlines became a Trimotor trademark. On November 27 and 28, 1929, Commander Richard E. Byrd, navigator and chief pilot Bernt Balchen, and two other crewmen, a co-pilot and a photographer, made the first flight above the Geographic South Pole in a Ford Trimotor that Byrd named the Floyd Bennett. This was one of three aircraft taken on this polar expedition.
Franklin Roosevelt also flew aboard a Ford Trimotor in 1932 during his presidential campaign. He was one of the first to use an aircraft in an election campaign, replacing the traditional whistle stop train trips.
One of the major uses of the Ford Trimotor, after its days of carrying passengers became numbered due to the more modern aircraft like the Douglas DC-3, was the carrying of heavy freight to mining operations in jungle and mountain areas. In this role the Trimotor was employed for decades.
In 1942, during the Battle of Bataan, a Trimotor was used in the evacuations of tropes from the island. The aircraft would haul 24 people nearly 500 miles in one trip, twice daily.
In postwar years, the Ford Trimotors continued in limited service with small, regional air carriers. One of the most famous was the Scenic Airways Ford Trimotor N414H that was used for 65 years as a sightseeing aircraft flying over the Grand Canyon. The aircraft was still being flown in 2010, mainly for promotional and film work.

Is there any thing else Ford did?

Well the American government asked Henry Ford to help build boats.
In June 1917, the President of the United States Woodrow Wilson, summoned auto-builder Henry Ford to Washington in the hope of getting him to serve on the United States Shipping Board. Wilson felt that Ford, with his background of mass production, could speed up the quantity of ships made for the war effort. Aware of the need for an antisubmarine vessel to combat the German U-boat menace, Ford replied, "what we want is one type of ship in large numbers."
Eagle class Patrol Craft
Eagle class patrol craft
On 7 November, Ford accepted membership to the Shipping Board and took on an active advisory role. Examining the Navy's plans for the projected steel patrol ships, Ford urged that all hull plates be flat so that they could be produced quickly and in quantity. He also persuaded the Navy to accept steam turbines instead of reciprocating steam engines for the power plant.

The Secretary of the Navy was drawn into the project as there were no facilities available at the Navy yards for building new craft and he asked if Ford would undertake the task. Ford agreed and by January 1918 he was told to proceed with the building of 100 new ships.

Ford's plan for building these was revolutionary. Establishing a new plant on the River Rouge on the outskirts of Detroit, he proposed to turn them out like Model T Fords using mass production techniques, and employing factory workers. He would then sail the boats through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic coast. Ford had little to do with the design apart from his insistence in using simple plans and the steam turbines.
The assembly plant was completed in just five months, and the first keel was laid in May 1918. The machinery and fittings were mostly built at the Ford plant in Detroit. Ford believed that boats could be sent down a continuous assembly line like his Model T’s. However the size of the craft made this far too difficult and a step-by-step assembly movement was instituted on a 520-meter line. The first Eagle boat as it was called was launched in July 1918. The launching of these 61-meter boats was a formidable operation. The hull moved slowly from the assembly line on enormous, tractor-drawn flatcars. They were then placed on a 69-meter steel trestle alongside the water's edge that could be sunk into the sea by a hydraulic action.

The original contract was for delivery of 100 ships by 1 December 1918. Although the first seven boats were completed on time, the rest did not follow as quick as was hoped. The work force reached 4,380 by July and later peaked at nearly 8,000. The lateness was due to Ford's initial optimism, the inexperience of the labor force and the lack of shipbuilding oversight. Upon the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, the number under contract, previously raised from 100 to 112, was cut back to 60. Of these, seven were commissioned in 1918, and the remaining 53 were commissioned in 1919.

The entire Eagle Boat operation came briefly under challenge by Congress in December 1918. At the ensuing Congressional hearings, Navy officials successfully defended the boats as being a well made necessary piece of experiment while Ford profits were proved to be rather modest.

Sept 2011


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