Ray's Rust

Henry Ford

Understanding Henry Ford

By Ray Hinnant

Until I get tired of it, I am planning on a series of interesting (at least to me) facts, fiction, and philosophy of Henry Ford. Most will come from Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress by Douglas Brinkley.

Henry had a major problem with banking. This was probably derived quite understandably since he had borrowed and tried to borrow money over the years from various banking institutions. His anti semantic views were readily apparent when discussing the banking business.

Garet Garrett, a writer from New York, made an appointment to meet with Henry and William Cameron, Ford's public relations officer. Henry immediately launched into a dissertation on the banking industry. It went on for over an hour when Cameron finally suggested that they adjourn for lunch.

On the way to the cafe, Cameron asked Garrett, "Do you wonder how so much chaff can come out of what you know to be really a fine mill?" As they sat down to eat, Henry began once again, not from where he left off, but on a new banking topic.

As the soup was served, Henry stopped talking, got a very serious look on his face, and said to no one in particular "Ahhh! I'm not thinking about that at all." With no other word, he pushed the chair back, rose abruptly and walked rapidly away. I guess he finally figured out he was not going to solve that problem and so off he went to solve one he could.

By 1927, Ford finally realized that his love, the Model T, which at one time accounted for a third of the yearly production of automobiles, was now far behind Chevrolet and even the Whippet which was running third was nipping at his heels.

Ford had to totally retool so he shut down the "T" factory and spent months and $250 million dollars producing what most of us consider maybe the most important car to be built. His marketing and advertising genius were well displayed in introducing the Model A.

However, there was a major problem that did not allow Ford to just redesign a new car and get it into the hands of the population. Chevrolet had GMAC financing. One didn't have to either save for a new car or buy a used car when he could buy one that was worth a little more if he could take a little extra time to pay it out.

Ray Hinnant

Ford had to finance in Germany as the A was introduced and Edsel and Henry knew that the same model would have to be done here as well. Edsel worked with some banking folks and with backers started the Universal Credit Corporation.

With financing, 1.5 million Model A's were sold the next year besting Chevrolet and all others. For only $150 down and $12.50 per month you could buy a $550 Model A rumble seat roadster. Will Rogers noted that “even the most experienced can't tell by looking at a car.”

A couple of quotes by Thomas Edison concerning Henry Ford. Edison dismissed Ford's intellect early in their relationship. However, by the 20's, Edison said that he was "afraid of him, for I find him most right where I thought him most wrong."

Edison was once asked what made Ford tick, and he wrote on a card "An even and flowing foundation of energy, a vivid and boundless imagination, a marvelous instinctive knowledge of mechanisms, and a talent for organization. These are the qualities that center in Mr. Ford."

See you down the road.

Brazos Valley A's

Ray Hinnant is a member of the Brazos Valley A's, a vintage Model A Club, located in Bryan-College Station, Texas.

Henry Ford Photo Attribution: By Hartsook, photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Model A