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Want to learn more about Ford Motor Company and its legendary past? Keep reading for Ford facts and history.

The Founding of Ford

Ford is, in many ways, the quintessential American automaker. It has often stood as a bellwether for the automotive industry as a whole.

Like the company, its founder, Henry Ford, was an iconic automaker. In fact, the Ford Motor Company was Ford's second attempt in the business. In 1899, he founded the Detroit Automobile Company, which later reorganized as the Henry Ford Company, but Ford eventually left the company with the rights to his name and a small sum of cash.

Moving on, he partnered with a coal dealer named Alexander Malcomson to found Ford and Malcomson. Malcomson left the company by 1906, leaving it as the Ford Motor Company.

The Model T, Lincoln, and the Great Depression

Ford's major breakthrough was the esteemed Model T, first built in 1908. The all-purpose vehicle was designed to be rugged enough to travel over rocky or muddy terrain and could even (pardon the pun) ford a shallow stream.

You could modify the Model T into a tractor, or remove a wheel and use the hub to drive a belt to run a water pump, electrical generator, bucksaw, or other pieces of equipment.

While the Model T was originally built by hand, it is known as the vehicle manufactured on the world’s first moving assembly line at Highland Park, Michigan. This reduced the time to assemble the car's chassis from more than 12 hours to fewer than 3, leading to a huge boost in annual output.

Prior to the assembly line, Model Ts were available in red, green, and gray. Ford could only find one type of paint that dried fast enough for the assembly line process, which lead to Henry Ford's famous quip that "any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."

By 1920, half of all of the cars in the US were Model Ts. Ford was quick to move into international markets. In 1925, a factory in Yokohama, Japan began manufacturing Model Ts from knock-down kits. In the 1930s, Ford established a factory in Russia to build a version of the new Model A for military use.

In 1922, Ford bought the Lincoln Motor Company. In an interesting twist, Lincoln's founder, Henry Leland, was also a key founder of Cadillac, a company whose remnants derived from the Detroit Automobile Company—Ford's original start-up.

The purchase was a move that would propel Ford into the line of luxury, and in the 1930s, lead to some of Ford's greatest automobiles under the direction of Edsel Ford. These vehicles include the Continental, which had originally been engineered to be Edsel's personal car.

Ford, like other automakers, suffered during the Great Depression and responded to decreased demand with layoffs. Ford did offer assistance in the form of loans or parcels of land to a small number of laid-off employees.

Even during these hard times, Ford was producing one of its most iconic models: The Model B. In the post-war era, the Model B—’32 coupes, specifically—became sought-after by hot-rodders. This trend was immortalized in the classic Beach Boys song "Deuce Coupe." The 1932 coupe was so popular among hot-rodders that today it's hard to find unmodified examples.

WWII and a New Era

In 1942, Ford started producing B-24 bombers for the US military during World War II. With the use of the assembly line techniques pioneered on the Model T, Ford was able to turn out a new plane every hour.

Unfortunately, in 1943, Edsel Ford, company president since 1919, Lincoln division director, and Mercury founder, died from stomach cancer. Henry Ford resumed responsibilities, but sadly, also died a couple of years after the war.

It is reported that at his funeral in Dearborn, Michigan, more than 5,000 mourners passed by his casket each hour, a rate which, perhaps, the pioneer of the assembly line would have appreciated.

Edsel's son, Henry Ford II, became president of Ford in 1945 at 28. It dawned a new era and one which lead Ford to the top, where it was known for its innovation and dominant cars.

This all started in 1948 when Ford introduced the F-series pickup truck, which would go on to become one of its most popular models, the F-150.

In the prosperous 1950s, consumers were looking for more powerful cars. This was the era when hot-rodders made the Deuce Coupe famous, and Chevrolet had just introduced the Corvette. There was also a new demand for luxury cars.

The Birth of the Muscle Car: From the Thunderbird to the Mustang

Ford’s Thunderbird, similar to the Corvette, was a two-seater with a powerful V8 engine.

The Thunderbird could reach speeds of up to 110 miles per hour. Neither strictly a sports car nor a luxury car, it was categorized in a class of its own: The personal luxury car. Other cars that eventually joined that class include the Cadillac Eldorado and the Buick Riviera.

Ford head Robert MacNamara (later President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense) thought making the Thunderbird a four-seater would increase the sales market. In 1971, the Neiman Marcus catalog listed a pair of "his and hers" Thunderbirds with such amenities as tape recorders and telephones.

Later Thunderbird models also had some racing success in NASCAR, from 1977 to 1997. The Thunderbird, like the Deuce Coupe, was also immortalized with a mention in the Beach Boys song, "Fun, Fun, Fun."

In late 1964, Ford introduced the Mustang. It was a smash hit and the first of a set of affordable sporty cars with long hoods and short cabins—such as the Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Plymouth Barracuda.

In honor of the Mustang, this style of small, sporty two-doors is now known as the pony car. In the end, these cars eventually became four-seaters.

The Mustang was officially introduced at a Grand Prix race in upstate New York, where a Formula One driver took it around the track in a time only slightly off the pace of the F1 cars that had raced earlier.

It was the first car to be awarded the Tiffany Gold Medal for excellence in American design in 1965.

With its performance pedigree and stylish appearance, it's no surprise that the Mustang quickly became an iconic car, appearing in the James Bond film “Goldfinger” in 1964, and in 1974's “Gone in 60 Seconds.” It was also featured in the 2000 remake of the latter film.

In the 1980s, the Mustang shrank to a smaller, more economical car, which became a successful trend for other Fords like the Taurus and Focus. The Mustang was on the Car and Driver 10 Best list in 1983, 1987, and 1988.

A New Class: The Taurus, The SUV, and Near Bankruptcy

Ford is known for spearheading automobile advancements, including the Taurus’ aerodynamic "jelly bean" shape that eventually changed that of the conventional car.

First introduced for the 1986 model year, the front-wheel drive Taurus grabbed everyone's eye, and at first, Ford executives were a little worried about how it would fare with the public.

Its oval shape and grille-less front end were so radical that it stuck out like a sore thumb in a world full of boxy cars.

It came with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine, but many opted for the 3.0-liter V6, which boosted its popularity, and eventually lead to the Taurus becoming the best-selling car in the US from 1992 to 1996.

On the larger end of the vehicle spectrum, the Ford Explorer helped popularize Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), and the F-series truck continued to win awards left and right—including Motor Trend's Truck of the Year Award in 2009 and an Automotive Excellence Award in the Workhorse Category from Popular Mechanics.

Ford then decided to move ahead with a restructuring plan, known as “The Way Forward.” The company sold off foreign brands it owned including Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin, as well as a 20% share in Mazda. Although Ford originally intended to maintain the Mercury brand, it closed Mercury in 2010.

Ford Today

While Ford Motor Company is arguably the most recognizable automotive brand in the US, it stands today as the 10th-largest US-owned company in any industry, according to the Fortune 500 list.

It is also the 3rd-largest automaker in the world in terms of profit, according to Forbes. Ford has also expanded its reach across the world, effectively globalizing the company. Many of its models can be found driving the streets of China, as well as in many European countries like the United Kingdom.

Ford’s F-Series models are still strong, as well as Mustang and Taurus models. It's also broken into the electric motor market with the Ford Focus hybrid, which can reach up to 110 MPGe.

Henry Ford's family still owns a minority interest of special stock, which allows it to run the company. Ford Motor Company is one of the largest family-run corporations in the world.

Ford is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Ford or Ford Motor Company. See all trademarks.

Ford is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Ford or Ford Motor Company. See all trademarks.

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