Henry Ford builds his first car

It was 110 years ago this week that Henry Ford shifted toward the fast lane of revolutionizing the making and selling of cars -- not to mention helping upend the way America travels -- with the founding of the Ford Motor Company. But like many revolutions, this one didn't get off to an easy start.

Throughout his life, Henry Ford had been tinkering with machines. Years before founding, on July 16, 1903, the company that bears his name, he developed other engine-powered vehicles like the "Quadricycle" seen above. The photo shows Ford riding in the first car he built in 1896. The "Quadricycle" was a precursor to Ford's first production vehicle, the Model A.

In the slideshow that follows, see Ford's bumpy road to founding a car company that would change American manufacturing forever.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Detroit Automobile Company is founded

On August 5, 1899, Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Company with the help of lumber merchant William Murphy. After taking a 60-mile drive in Henry's second attempt at a car, Murphy agreed to start Detroit Automobile along with nine other investors and Ford as the lead engineer.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Detroit Automobile Company is dissolved

By January 1901, the Detroit Automobile Company had failed and the venture was dissolved. This company had survived just two years; Ford cited the low quality and high cost of production as reasons for its failure. The company produced only 10 delivery trucks before closing.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Rebuilding his reputation by racing

Just months after the collapse of the Detroit Automobile Company, Henry Ford drove his first race car, a 26-horsepower model named "Sweepstakes," to victory over the established race car superstar Alexander Winton on October 10, 1901. Ford began to revitalize his career -- along with is reputation -- through racing.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford Company is founded

Following his race car success, on November 30, 1901, the Henry Ford Company was founded. Some of Ford's original backers and investors from the Detroit Motor Company came together to start the Henry Ford Company, with Ford acting as the chief engineer. But with Ford preoccupied with racing, he was forced out of the company after just three months. (That company would soon start doing business as the Cadillac Motor Car Co.)
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

The 999

The focus on racing continued: on October 25, 1902, a car Ford built with friends wins a race. Known as the "999," the race car had an 18.8-liter inline-four engine and 230-pound flywheel. A bicycle racer named Barney Oldfield was hired to be the driver, and in winning the 5-mile Manufacturers' Challenge Cup race in the "999," he set a course speed record.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford driving 999 race car

Henry Ford is seen here driving one version of the 999 race car.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

June 16, 1903, Ford Motor Company is founded

On June 16, 1903, following Henry Ford's success with race cars, Ford Motor Company was founded, and production began in a rented building on Detroit's Mack Avenue. John Gray was named president, and 39-year-old Henry Ford -- who never invested money in any of his companies -- served as vice president and chief engineer.

Success was far from certain, and just one month later, the company was struggling and Ford's cash reserves were less than $250.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Dr. Pfennig to the rescue

Like Henry's other automobile ventures in the previous years, the company was struggling and needed help. In July, with the company short on cash, Dr. E. Pfennig of Chicago (seen here) stepped in, one of three customers who came to the rescue.

A much-needed cash infusion of $1,320 arrived on July 13, 1903, keeping Ford Motor Company afloat. This amount included Pfennig’s full payment of $850 and deposits from the two other customers. The company had spent $19,000 in 25 days, and before these sales had just $223.65 left in the bank.

Pfennig’s Model A was shipped to him on July 28, 1903, from the plant on Mack Avenue. The 1903 Ford Model A had a two-cylinder engine producing 8 horsepower and displacing 100 cubic inches, and topped out at 30 mph.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford's 150th birthday

2013 is a big anniversary year for the Ford legacy. It's 110 years from the founding of Ford Motor, and 150 years -- a sesquicentennial! -- since Henry Ford's birth, on July 30, 1863. In Michigan, of course.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company

The original Ford Motor Company logo from the Model A automobile which began coming off the production line 110 years ago this week..
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

1903 Model A returns to the Ford family

The 1903 Model A sits on a wheelbase of 72 inches and weighs about 1,250 pounds. About 1,700 were produced over 15 months, and today only one of the first three sold on July 13, 1903, remains.

This part of Ford Motor's heritage is again with the Ford family, recently purchased at auction by Executive Chairman Bill Ford in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Ford.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

The Model A

A view of the 1903 Model A drive train which had a two-cylinder engine producing 8 horsepower.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

The 1903 Ford Model A had a two-cylinder engine producing 8 horsepower and displacing 100 cubic inches. It could reach 30 mph on smooth roads, which were rare.

By contrast, the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 has an eight-cylinder engine displacing 355 cubic inches and can attain a top speed of more than 200 mph.
Photo by: CNET

The Model A

This photograph shows two women sitting in a display model of a Ford Model A automobile at the Automotive Industry Golden Jubilee in 1946.
Photo by: Ford Motor Company


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