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16 June, 1903 - This Day 120 Years Ago

120 years ago today, the Ford Motor Company was founded.

That was not such an unusual event during those times.  Many engineering firms, bicycle manufacturers, inventors and speculators tried their hand at producing their version of a motor car powered by the internal combustion engine.  Indeed, Ford himself had already been involved with two failed attempts - the Detroit Automobile Company and. in 1901, the Henry Ford Company. 

Early car makers relied on outside contractors to build the components that would go into their cars.  The new Ford Motor Company would be no different, and the first design was to be called the Fordmobile, pictured below.  The CR Wilson Carriage Company would supply the wooden body (at $52 each) and the leather upholstery ($16).  The Pruden Company of Lansing supplied the wheels ($26 for a set of four).  Possibly the rubber tyres were supplied by Harvey Firestone, who was to become a great friend of Mr Ford.

Ford approached John and Horace Dodge to supply the engine - Ford's own two-cylinder "flat" design - and the transmission and axles.  The Dodge brothers became shareholders in the Ford Motor Company and went on to manufacture their own cars, the Dodge.

The various component parts were delivered to Ford's rented premises on Mack Avenue, Detroit for assembly.

On 15 July, 1903 the Ford Motor Company sold their first Fordmobile, at $750.

That first model Ford was inexpensive and it soon developed a reputation for reliability in service.  Ford then designed a second car, which they called the Model B, and the Fordmobile became known retrospectively as the Model A.  But Henry Ford had a vision that was unique in the new motor industry - he saw how motor cars could change folks' lives for the better.

So the Ford Motor Company continued to evolve with new models, all given a letter title in alphabetical sequence.  (Not much has changed, if we think about the Tesla model names!)  The ultimate goal was to produce a car that was affordable and reliable.  It had to be light, but strong, easy to drive, simple to service and with off-the-shelf replacement parts available anywhere.  By the time Ford had arrived at the Models N, R and S they were just about there - so they decided to put all of what they had learned to produce just one model.  That was the Model T - and the rest is history!

Meanwhile, back to the Fordmobile....

There is much more about this early Ford history in the Ford book, Driving Ahead.  Indeed, on page 13 is a photo of what is almost certainly the very first Ford to arrive in New Zealand, in 1904.  Fast-forward to New Zealand today, where we are graced with a globally unique example of that very first Ford, which is effectively a 2-owner, unrestored 120 year-old car - and it is used!

That car was purchased new by Mr John James Boyd, who was a builder living in Wellington.  He was clearly a very interesting man.  As well as having a keen interest in the new craze of motoring, Mr Boyd also loved animals.  That second interest took him to Auckland where he set up his Onehunga Zoo - but that is a whole new story - and he later became mayor of Onehunga borough.  His move to Auckland saw him quite literally abandon his home in Wellington - he even left the Fordmobile in the garage!  It was not until after his death in the early 1950s that his former home - and garage - were explored.  Above left shows the car soon after its recovery.

Once the cobwebs had been cleaned off, the car was offered back to The Colonial Motor Company.  Colonial said "yes!" to the offer of the already historic 50-year-old car - and it remains in their ownership to this day.

The photo above left is a news article about the car soon after it's discovery.  The photo above right shows Stuart Gibbons in the car recently in Wellington - Stuart is now the managing director of The Colonial Motor Company.

The full New Zealand Ford history is given in the book Ford in New Zealand - Driving Ahead.   


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