The Highland Park Powerplant Story by Paul Rentz

When we wrote about the Highland Park Plant in a previous issue of Model T Ford Fix we got the attention of Paul Rentz who has researched the subject to a greater extent than we have. The building existed until after WWII, but the smoke stacks were silent from the day that power became available from the River Rouge plant’s generating station.

WWII era photo showing the Executive Offices in the foreground and the silent smoke stacks of the Power Plant Building. The clouds in the sky make it appear that the smokestacks are operating, when in fact there are no engines in the plant to produce smoke!

Below is Paul’s story of what actually happened to the huge DC generators inside, and why they went silent in the 1926 time frame.

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The 1914 Model T Ford

Ford had a difficult year in 1913. The new 1913 bodies looked more modern and were cheaper to build, but the touring bodies were too flimsy. Often the bodies broke in half in the middle of the rear door sills. A factory recall, which sent kits to dealers to repair and reinforce the flimsy bodies was the largest recall in automotive history up until that time. Ford was still the most profitable automaker on the planet, with Ford sales eclipsing the entire output of their ten closest competitors.

At $750 the 1914 Town Car was the most expensive model in Ford’s catalog that year. Almost 1700 of them were sold.

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Ford’s Highland Park Manufacturing Plant

Henry Ford knew before he started building the Model T Ford that his manufacturing ability was the limiting factor to his success. Ford had followed typical early automotive principles when building the earlier Ford cars. Wheels were purchased from several companies, bodies from two companies, lamps from several other companies.

The Dodge brothers, Horace and John, built Ford’s chassis and delivered the chassis parts to Ford. The Dodge brothers had been the manufacturer of the curved dash Oldsmobile, and were well known for their ability to supply a high quality automobile chassis and engine. This arrangement allowed Ford to build a fairly large quantity of the Model N – R – S car, which was the most profitable and prolific automobile manufactured  anywhere in the world from 1906 – 1908. Not only were the Dodge brothers the manufacturer of the Ford chassis, they were also shareholders in Ford Motor Company. No doubt they were not happy when Ford announced plans to build his masterpiece of automotive manufacturing, the Highland Park Plant, in 1908.

The new Ford plant would be able to manufacture everything from bodies to engines, and every part of the Model T chassis when it was fully operational. The Dodge brothers knew that when it was finished it would spell the end of their ability to sell parts to Ford. On top of that source of displeasure, Henry also lowered stockholder dividends in order to pay for the new plant with cash on hand.

Summer 1910 photograph of the Highland Park Plant nearing completion.

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The 1913 Model T Ford

Must have been a cold day when this man brought home his brand new 1913 Model T Touring. Ford completely redesigned the body and fenders for the 1913 model year, and changed nearly every other part of the car as well. Let’s look at the very interesting 1913 model year in this edition of Model T Ford Fix.

The 1913 model year began September 1, 1912. The models and prices announced were as follows:

Touring car, $600

Runabout, $525

Town Car, $800

Delivery, $625

Chassis (unknown price)

Ford records also claim that one coupe was built in 1913, probably for a Ford executive since it was not a cataloged offering. The delivery bodies were left over from 1912, the result of ordering more bodies than the market could bear.

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Model T Advertising In Ford Times and Other Periodicals

The Model T Ford upon its introduction in 1908 as a 1909 model was destined to be the world’s most popular and best selling car. It was replacing Ford’s Models N – R and S, already the world’s best selling and most popular cars.

Back cover of a 1911 Ford Times sows racing events in England. Of course a Ford won!

Ford advertising took many forms. There were advertisements placed in trade journals such as The Automobile, and advertisements in popular magazines such as Life and Harper’s Weekly. There were newspaper advertisements, post cards, and of course the in – house publication known as Ford Times.

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