Edsel Ford was a tragic figure. Born in 1893, he idolized, respected and loved his father, but unfortunately, the feeling was not mutual. His entire life, he lived in the shadow of his Father, who took all the credit for many of Edsel's accomplishments, such as the Model A. Edsel, ever the nonconfrontational gentleman genius who had his own ideas for the direction the FMC should take and who had the potential to be even greater than his father, was thought to be weak by his father, who treated him with open contempt. The few times he tried to assert himself or do things on his own his father smacked him down and humiliated him until he simply stopped trying and began biding his time until the old man either retired or died. Edsel's plan did not work out. He died of stomach cancer at the age of 49 in 1943, caused by ulcers brought on by the stress of having Henry Ford for a Father. Henry outlived Edsel by 3 years, having, by then, almost destroyed the Company through mismanagement, jealousy, paranoia, stubborness and brutality.
Can anyone speculate as to what direction the Ford Motor Company would have taken had Henry retired at the age of 60 in 1923 and allowed Edsel to take over? Jim Patrick
There would have been a new model in 1926, similar to the Model A. It would have had hydraulic brakes. GM's Chevrolet would not have over taken Ford in 1926. There would have been a V8 engine available by 1930, probably in an auto similar to the Model 18 (the 1932). The new Mercury in 1939 would have been a new model and not a dressed up Ford. Henry Ford II (Edsel's oldest son) would have had to wait a while before taking over as the President of the Ford Company.
Hank the II was brought back from the Navy during WWII due to the poor health of his grandfather, Henry. The US government was depending upon the Ford company for B25 production and for engines for land vehicles and other. Old Henry did not seem to be capable of managing the company. Young Henry took over as he could in about 1945 and in full force upon old Henry's death in April of 1947.
Unfortunately the biographies say that Edsel got stomach cancer from ulcers caused by the way Henry treated him. It might be true that Henry belittled him, but today we know that stress is not the cause of ulcers nor of stomach cancer, but it is H pylori bacteria which causes both.
I assume that the Ford Hospital was up-to-date in detection and treatment of stomach cancer. One wonders why the problem was not caught and treated at an earlier time.
I was always told (and the internet confirms) Edsel died of fever as a result of drinking unpasturized milk from the family farm. Although the benefits of pasturizing were known at the time, the elder Ford was stubborn and refused to change (hard to believe).
Anyway, the company would have been different in other ways. Harry Bennett would have been forced out much sooner and the famous union troubles Ford had in the '30's may not have happened.
If Ford became known as a company that emphasized forward styling and engineering, this would have played out in their recruitment of the best and brightest. Could they have recruited, for instance, Preston Tucker or Harley Earl?
I've often wondered, but never wrote nor verbalized any speculations. I'm glad Jim brought this up.
Our "T" would've been phased out after the market share figures had shown an irreversible downward trend, possibly as early as late 1924.
Even with the du Pont family's investment in GM, and the very capable management team there, GM's decentralized management was slower in response to a single-individual-ownership business such as Ford.
I once read that at the height of his involvement with Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller owned a total of 27% of the stock. Henry Ford owned 59% of Ford, and Edsel the other 41%. That put Henry in a position unequaled by any of the "Men Who Built America."
Had Edsel assumed genuine control in 1923 and had lived longer than his 49 years, Ford would've been a more progressive company, possibly less colorful. I do believe, for certain, that GM's Chevrolet would've taken much, much longer to overtake Ford's leadership position.
Too bad the history ch prgram diddn't mention the Seldon Patent case instead of Henrys faults!! Henry was a product of a more differant time/lifestile than most of us can immagine espc if we have our mind set to what we see 75 100 125 or 150 years later.Bud.
My thought on the 'what if' would be the Ernest Kanzler letter that got him fired was really written with a nod from Edsel anyway. Had to be for Ernest to hang out the whole front line of Highland like he did.
So with the ongoing failure of the Model X as an engine, but the body style work all done anyway and waiting...what we call the improved car would have been the Model Y with a six, with a 4 speed planetary and a few other goodies. The Y would have stood in a class by itself, Kanzler was still willing to build and sell the T but in limited volume...the T would have been marketed as the entry level car, the Y the 'step-up'for 2nd time buyers...we probably would not have had the Model A at all...and maybe/maybe not the V-8 'might' have come along sooner or later anyway.
Edsel saw the future.
Henry lived in the past.
15 million Model T Fords would have not been built.
I can see the T for a (very) few years more as the mentioned entry level car. Possibly without many of the changes that came in the last years. An improved model, possibly something like the model Henry supposedly wrecked would be up shortly as a quick & easy stop gap measure and an A or very A like car would appear earlier too. Maybe as early as late '26/27. I don't see any future for the planetary in this senario. Looks, comfort, power is what you'd have seen and I do believe we'd be here jawin' about Liz just as we do today. There'd still be plenty of them around even if a few years were lopped off the end and the history it created would still exist.
As some of the above comments suggest......if Edsel would have been ALLOWED to use his initiative Ford would have started building real cars much sooner.
The differences between T's and a Model A's are nothing short of astounding.
I'm leaning your way on this (all speculation anyway). I'm sure it would be difficult for any mortal to attain the wealth and power Henry Ford did, without human faults and frailties appearing.
However, let's keep sight of the immense accomplishments. Henry Ford had the right combination of engineering ability, desire and salesmanship to build incredible machines (world class racers), recognize advances such as vanadium steel, and create efficiencies in manufacturing to build an manufacturing empire like we may never see again.
His skill for surrounding himself with the right people, and lead them where he wished to go was unparralled.
What I'm unsure of is, if he was such a "tyrant" concerning Edsel, why didn't Clara step in, and later, why didn't Edsel put up a stronger fight, even leave FMCO? I'm not a Ford family historian, and have no real knowledge or opinion, just curious about the circumstances.
Good thread with a lot of interesting posts.
BTW, I have an interesting article by the British Press about Edsel driving Model K (as a young boy) in 1906. Send me a PM if anyone would like to see the article.
Whoever approved the design of the Model A should have been fired.. It has godawful heavy front brakes, and has to have three times as heavy a front axle to support them. People say they aren't effective, at that. I imagine the rest of the car is built the same way.
If Ford had moved the T to a 3-speed planetary, they could have avoided the crash boxes of the 1930s and 40s entirely, and gone straight to automatic. After all, the Fordomatic and Powerglide are nothing but 2-speed planetaries with a fluid coupling and servos. Think of the brand allegiance, never having to learn to shift a crash box. That was a tremendous advantage Ford gave up in 1928
I'm not sure to what degree of involvement Edsel had in the Lincoln Division of Ford, which was bought in 1922, but I believe it was substantial. That Division of Ford included the larger, more elegant and luxurious designs which I'm certain Edsel had a hand in. Had Edsel been put in charge of the FMC, I'm sure he would have made his father proud. He would have probably included many of the improvements and design features of the Lincoln in a cheaper, more affordable car. That would have been interesting to see just what he was capable of. It's a shame we'll never know. Jim Patrick
Hmmmmmm......I love my '29 Model A....... ???????
"People say they aren't effective, at that. I imagine the rest of the car is built the same way."
So.......you don't know........well.......they aren't.
It was GM who first introduced Synchro-Mesh transmissions in 1929 in the Cadillac and LaSalle models. GM expanded their Synchro offering in the 1932 Chevrolet Confederate as well.
If you want to talk about crash boxes you oughta take a crack at driving my '25 Dodge.........on second thought I'll leave that to me.......
I have slid all four wheels of my '30 A sport coupe on a panic stop. Shifting the 'crash box' is fairly easy. So far, my car is running on whatever bearings were in the rear axle in 1954, so I think the car was pretty well engineered. Of course, my car has a little under 50K miles on it (I'm only the second owner).
(not me in the pic) 1975
Let's cut that paragraph a little differently:
"It has godawful heavy front brakes, and has to have three times as heavy a front axle to support them. . I imagine the rest of the car is built the same way."
Is there a single significant part of an A that's as light as it is on a T? Looks like they threw away the book on building "light and strong."
It doesn't matter when syncros came along; they are still inferior to a constant mesh 3-speed planetary. How many more years did it take Ford and Chevy to put in a syncro first?
I've put thousands of miles on crash boxes in my prior 1950 and 1951 VW, and shifted without using the clutch a lot of the time. I'm sure crash boxes kept a lot of women from driving - a whole large market Ford could have kept.
A T was the only car my Mom ever drove.
In no way am I denigrating the T's (I adore and LOVE driving both of mine)......but face it.......they were built to provide the most basic means of transportation to the masses.
Building a "real" car with a bunch of amenities and more power obviously add weight.
I "heard" Ford made some attempt at making a 3 speed planetary but that didn't pan out so, I guess, everyone had to wait until somebody perfected a synchro transmission.
That said I had the "crash box Dodge" out this morning (WORST shifting thing EVER) and when I got back I wanted the '27 Tudor to sit out in the HOT sun today to "normalize" the new top.......dang I love driving that car.......
Whenever I read stuff like this thread is made up of I always think that with all the drive Henry had, with all the genius brainpower he had and the great imagination he had he could have done a lot more.
That is not to say he did not do enough, I just think he sort of stopped when the model T was in production.
Fifteen million model T Fords were not nessesary, after the first five or six million the point that the car was very good was well proven.
With all the new advances in the automotive industry he and his team could have probably built a car that would have sold far better than the T did.
I think something happened that he would not allow himself to continue doing wonders in the automotive field.
Maybe the airplanes, airports, farm equipment and other new projects took too much of his focus.
A lesson was taught my boss in the fifties. The examples used were gas stations and a drug stores.
The lesson is; you can run two gas stations and you can run two drug stores but you can NOT run a gas station and a drug store at the same time.
My boss nearly lost everything trying to run a gas station and a sodding business.
Maybe running an auto factory and auto design business is hard to do while running airlines and farm equipment design and manufacturing businesses at the same time.
Another thought about ol' Henry being so obstinate about the T's is.......they obviously were immensely profitable........could it have been the money?
(Leaving control freak out of this)
Henry Ford was a billionaire by 1923 or so. That was silly wealth back then, so I don't think making more money was high on Ford's list of priorities. He believed in the same idea later pursued by Professor Porsche and Adolf Hitler: that a car for the masses would have to be as affordable as possible. A while ago a gentleman remarked that he was on the market for a new car, 4 cylinders, 4 doors, 4-speed stick, manual windows and no crap inside. He was not possible to find such a car.
He was not *able* to find such a car. Weak coffee this morning, it seems.
But he could have found a 5 speed car with 4 cylinders, 4 doors, manual windows and no crap inside. Couldn't he?
I always thought building a car with a 5 speed transmission without the fifth gear installed was about as stupid as you could get.
I have been able to convert 4 speed Honda Civics to 5 speeds without removing the trans.
I really miss having a 5 speed manual shift car or pickup with 4 cylinder engine and manual windows.
I am driving around this week with my V6 Aerostar with 5 speed trans guzzling gas and oil and no AC in 100 plus degree weather with the electric window on the passenger's side stuck in the closed position.
I tossed out the A.C. so I could do minor repairs on it and if it had a four cylinder engine I could rebuild it and keep it for a long time.
No way will I try to pull the V6 & rebuild it and get it back in.
"(Leaving control freak out of this)"
Since Henry was a billionaire at the peak of the Model T's production, I too doubt that more money was his sole objective. As the T began its downhill slide in the mid-twenties, it's a shame that Henry was not able to relinquish some of his power to the forward-thinking Edsel.
Edsel had the ideas of how to build a better car by then, and FMC could have sustained and even increased their lead in the business, rather than losing market share to Chevy and others. Henry was just too much of a CONTROL FREAK to let it happen.
Not sure that's the case.
Henry Ford was the undisputed leader in affordable mass transportation, which is the reason why I personally maintain a Model T is unlike any other car. You don't want a heavily weathered Pierce Arrow, as such a car would have never be neglected or become a cheap alternative to a new Model T or A, but the average Model T did not look like even a 20 year-old Pierce after a few years. A Model T is different, unlike ANY other car.
Sure, Ford could have made himself a competitor, as he announced it before buying back all the shares in 1919 (?), but why? People who were lusting for a 3-speed could buy a Chevrolet or Dodge Brothers (by the way, Craig, I think a 1915-'23 Dodge Roadster is one of the coolest affordable cars of the period) for a bit more money. That's not the market Ford wanted to own. It would have diluted his idea of a car that has everything you need, nothing you don't, at the lowest price possible. If you offer a more expensive alternative, you basically telling your customers that you are full of it. Don't think Mr. Ford ever drove a Locomobile to work either.
Let us be accurate here. Henry built the four engine B24 not the twin that North American built and called the B25. Those were the ones that Jimmy Dolittle used to bomb Tokyo from the "Shangila". A.K.A Hornet. A B24 could never get off of the deck of a carrier.
They both had twin tails i.e. fins and rudders, and to the untrained eye looked the same . . . . . not.
I've heard WWII B-25 pilots loved their planes just like we love our T's, but unlike the B-24 Liberators, the B-25 Mitchells, were a bear to fly. Jim Patrick