As many of you are aware, I've decided to find out as much as possible researching archives and old newspapers concerning early Fords in general, and Model Ks in particular (this is OT, you don't have to read this ).
I thought the following story is a good example of how "research" doesn't always take a person where they expected to go......
About three months ago, shortly after going to Benson Library for the first time, I came across an internet "snippet" saying there was a letter at the Benson Library, sent by Frank Kulick (Ford race car driver and Model K tester) to Henry Ford that talked about his (Kulick) driving the new Model K.
I thought this sounded like a great find. This could be the "smoking gun" I had been looking for. Maybe a lengthy description of the newly built Model K. Maybe insights in to Henry Ford's involvement with the project. Who knew, any number of good information.... The problem, there was no Accession number or any reference. Nothing, just a blurb saying a letter existed and was at The Henry Ford.
No problem, I called my friend Dan Walters, an Ann Arbor MI native, and asked him to try to locate the letter. Dan, being a great guy (and too nice to tell me no) said he would look for the letter. Of course I was excited, a letter between Kulick and Ford, discussing the "new" Model K (I know, I need to get a life ).
Unfortunately, Dan spent an entire afternoon at the library, looking for this "needle in a haystack" with no luck.
By now, I'm sure this letter is the "Holly Grail" of early Ford literature. It probably is a lengthy document, stating how Frank Kulick thinks the Model K is the best thing since sliced bread. It probably also says Henry Ford is a creative genius for forcing the other investors to allow him to build the car (OK, I'm reaching now).
So, what to do. It's OK, I'm accepted to the Old Car Festival, I'll just plan my trip to stay over an extra day, and go to the library on Monday following the OCF.
Then, on this forum, I learn about a week before OCF, Benson Library is closed on Monday......... No problem, I'll leave home a day early (I'm also going on the Dearborn to Lansing tour) to have time at the library. It's all worth it for the letter I by now am sure contains earth shattering information concerning early Fords.
So, I begin a day early from Nebraska, get to Dearborn, and am at the Library (Benson) bright and early on Wednesday before OCF. I spend all day looking for this letter. Nothing. Finally, at abot 3:30, Linda, one of the great staff at Benson, finds it for me. She's located it in Accession #2, Box 37. She tells me "no one has ever looked in this box that I'm aware of"!
I'm ecstatic. We've found it. The letter to end all letters......
Well, not so much
While the letter provides good information, it's not the "end all" on Model K history. It is a letter written by Frank Kulick to Henry Ford. In the letter, Mr. Kulick tells Mr. Ford the "K" is performing well on hills, and recommends a few things, including adding brass trim to the firewall, as the "forne" cars have (his spelling, not mine). Needless to say, the end result doesn't meet my expectations. However, I do gratefully make a copy, and copy a few other letters in the accession to work on later.
Yesterday, I began to work on the letter and other items from the Accession. Then, the "story" started to "expand." Remember, this is nothing earth shattering, just an example of where research sometimes leads a person.
Following is the text of the letter written by Frank Kulick to Henry Ford, from Boston on March 14th 1906. The first Model Ks will not be delivered to the public for another month. The Model N won't be ready for delivery for four more months:
Mar 15th, 1906
" My Friend Mr. Ford,
I thought I would write you and tell you, how we got along on our trip. Our model K seams to take very good in Boston and is running better than ever. I made the hill whear they have the hill climbing contest on the high speed. The copling on the magneto came louse and we brazed it on the shaft. Rockeys skimmer (the six cylinder racer, or the Model N?) is running fine as ever making a big hit hear in Boston. The fiber gear in magneto swelled up and we filed it down. To make our dash look better I would bolt a brass rim around the dash (end page 1)
all forne (foreign) cars dashes are finished that way it looks better.
The gears don't get much oil they looked dry we put fuel oil over the gears and let it drip in the crankcase. I close and bid you good by.
F Kulick "
As I said, nothing "earth shattering". In fact, the letter leaves me with more questions than answers. Why is Kulick in Boston with the car? Who is Rocky, and the "Skimmer" (I thought possibly the six cylinder racer, sometimes referred to by the press at Ormond Beach as "beach skimmer")? Is Frank Kulick just on an extended trial of the Model K, and happens to be writing from Boston?
Then, I recall reading about Fords at the 1906 Boston Auto Show. So, it's back to my files to find the date of the Boston Auto Show.
And, sure enough, the 06 Boston auto show is March 4th through the 18th, 1906. So, more than likely Frank Kulick and the Model K are there for the show.
Now we know why Mr. Kulick is in Boston. We also know the car he is discussing in the letter to Henry Ford is one of the Model Ks at the show.
But wait, there's more (sounds like a Ginsu Knife TV commercial).
I also recalled a letter written by an individual to Henry Ford in the Accession. The letter was about the individuals ride in a Model K with Frank Kulick, and his dissatisfaction with Ford Motor Company over the demonstration. So, back to the files.
And, this is what I found. A Mr. Caswell wrote Henry Ford a personal letter, complaining about the demonstration he received WHILE AT THE BOSTON AUTO SHOW. The letter is dated March 14th, 1906 (fifty years to the day before I'm born). The letter follows:
Henry Ford, Esq.
I had the pleasure of attending the Boston Automobile Show today and had a very fine ride in your six cylinder with Mr. Kulick. It is certainly a great piece of mechanism. Was very much disappointed however to find that the runabout does not stand test in making grades. Your agent in charge, Mr. Block (I believe we've discovered the name of the other person mentioned in Frank Kulick's original letter, not "Rocky", but "Blocky"), absolutely refused to give me a demonstration elsewhere than on a level asphalt street, which does not highly recommend the little car. He simply said that if I ordered a car and did not like it, I did not have to buy one. Such explanations are neither courteous or pleasing for customers; and as the name of Ford stands in the shadow of strong prejudice in this section of the country, (end page 1)
you can hardly expect to gain favor through such representation.
Should like to state, on the other hand, that courtesies extended by Mr. Flint(?) and Mr. Kulick were very pleasant.
Now, instead of just a letter from Frank Kulick to Henry Ford, we know that Frank Kulick is demonstrating the Model K to prospective buyers. He gives Mr. Caswell a demonstration, and he (Caswell) seems satisfied with the Model K. However, Mr. Caswell is so disappointed with the Model N ride he feels compelled to write a somewhat scathing letter to Henry Ford. In the letter, he identifies the "N" demonstrator as "Mr. Block". I think we've now identified "Rocky" in Frank Kulick's letter. Instead of "Rocky", I think it is "Blocky", a nickname for Mr. Block.
Why, though, is the Model N so limited? Why won't Mr. Block demonstrate the car on the Boston hills, instead of on a level smooth piece of pavement?
Following is the Ford Motor Company response to Mr. Caswell (see, there's always more ). The letter is the draft, probably placed in the file with this letter at Ford Motor Company, because the final letter is signed (by Henry Ford, James Couzens, we'll probably never know) and sent to Mr. Caswell.
"Mr. Philip Caswell,
Dear Sir: -
I regret to learn from your letter of March 14th that the demonstration in the four cylinder runabout did not please you, but wish to state that Mr. Block was only acting under instructions, and as time would not allow us to demonstrate all the possibilities of this car, we think you will agree with us that we could not very well discriminate.
We would suggest you call on our agents, the Providence Motor Car Co., at Providence where you will receive a full demonstration. Hoping that the results will be favorable, I beg to remain.
Yours very truly,
Ford Motor Company,
So, why was the ride in the Model N so limited? I think the answer is that this is the only Model N Ford Motor Company has that is operational. We are still four months out from Models N being delivered to buyers. I suspect this is the N prototype, and Ford is being very careful to not have anything happen to the car, so it's able to carry on at the next auto show or scheduled event (purely speculation on my part).
And there it is. What started as a search for one letter led to an entire story about Frank Kulick, Henry Ford, the Boston Auto Show, and a demonstration for a prospective buyer.
All of this, along with copies of the letters and articles, is available at this Dropbox link"
Now, on to find out who "Mr. Block" is........
If you could find a physical object to associate with all the great information you are finding, you could contact the "History Detectives", maybe they would be interested in doing a show about it!
Rob, neat stuff, between you and Hap we have a great history of the cars before the T. Thanks
Interesting stuff as always Rob. The Model N certainly is a great hill climber. I expect that the demonstrations were limited to a certain course owing to the number of people on hand who wanted a ride, or what ever, who knows.
In any case the important fact is how stunned the automotive press, and the public in general, were with the Model N. No other manufacturer offered anything similar. A reliable, powerful car for $500 was the reason the Model N became the best selling car in America during its 3 years of manufacture. It was a product that stood the entire industry on its ear. Exactly as Henry Ford knew that it would.
Strange (pun intended ) you should say that. Bob Trevan from "down under", owner of K number 2 sent an email. His K number 2 has a hole above the cam gears drilled (not factory) exactly where Frank Kulick might have drilled a hole to "oil the gears" (first letter).
Wouldn't that be something if the Model K Frank Kulick is writing about, and using to demonstrate to Mr. Caswell, is the same K #2 that Bob Trevan now owns?
agree............ with .......... you.
There, that wasn't so hard was it? (yes it was)
Thank you for the kind compliment. However, I'm a "ham and egger", no comparison to Hap, Trent, Bruce (RIP) and all the other great researchers and in our hobby.
But very kind nonetheless,
And I should have mentioned Carlton Pate. (see, that's what happens when you try to single a few people out)
Great stuff! I for one continue to enjoy all this.
Keep it up, Rob. You may become one of the greats of automotive history research yet!
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Thank you Wayne.
Well, I found "Mr. Block". I'm not sure if he was a Ford Motor Company employee, or worked as an agent at a dealership called "Ford Automobile Company". It turns out I've run across his name before. One of his accidents is included on the thread Jay began about auto accidents.
Louis Block was the demonstrator that Mr. Caswell wrote Henry Ford about, because he wouldn't challenge the hills with the Model N when he was giving demonstrations in Boston in March 1906 at the car show.
I turns out, Louis Block is the driver in what is probably the first Model K fatality accident, three months later near Buffalo N.Y.. Mr. Block is driving (and probably racing a Pope Toledo) when he swerves to avoid a carriage, and strikes a trolley pole. One his passengers, a Mr. Wilson, is killed immediately. Another, Mrs. Wilson, probably did not survive her injuries.
Below is one of several stories I placed on the link.
This story certainly didn't go where I expected it to.
The Model N prototype engine at the Piquette Plant is believed to be the one displayed in a Model N at the 1906 New York Auto Show in January. The engine looks pretty much like the later production engines but the transmission frame was quite different. I understand this engine does not even have pistons or a crankshaft. It was just mocked up to show at the New York Show.
By March of 1906 Ford must have completed the power plant for the Model N and changed to the final production transmission frame, but likely did not have many completed cars to show and demonstrate. I wonder if the car Clara Ford is in in this picture might be the same car demonstrated in Boston.
The following page is from a four page article written by Glen Rand for the July - August 1971 Model T Times. I think for some time now information stating that Clara was one of the women in this and another picture may be incorrect. I believe that Glen may be correct with his text. Does anyone have other proof that Clara was present when this photo shoot took place?
Yes, I've heard the same thing. Hard to believe "history" could be so wrong, after all, "all the Ford History books" with this photo say it is Clara Ford".
Somewhere I have a Model N article published about July 1st 1906 (first N sold at retail to Frank X. Mudd of Chicago about mid July 1906). In it, the "first" Model N is used for the test drive, and by this time this N is said to have something like 20,000 miles on it. However, by then (the article has numerous closeup pics of the car) many parts may have been changed/updated.
I suspect the N in this story was the only one (or one of only a few) that is operable and that is why Mr. Block is instructed to drive it sparingly.
I'll start a thread about the first K and N when I get to it, we'll see what info we are able to pull in.
Here is another one that contradicts the information in Glen's 1971 article. regards, John
The two photos are dated 9 years apart. What do you think?
And is this Mrs. Ford a year and a half earlier in a Model B?
Is this Henry Ford doing a test drive on a ''K'' CHASSIS
I am pretty sure not. I found a copy of this pic at the Detroit, however with no caption. I thought it was a homemade speedster.
A few more K related:
Stripped down K on a hill climb
The "Six Cylinder Plant." Formerly Ford Manufacturing. This is where the Model Ks were assembled after Ford Motor Co. bought Ford Manufacturing. (Unknown publication)
Testing Model Ks at the Highland Park racetrack. Frank Kulick was in charge of testing and approving all Model Ks before the bodies were placed on and they were shipped. (Unknown publication)
Rob,If and when we think about it the auto was mostly for the rich until much later! So why would Ford not have built the upscale model K?? Bud.
Great question. Shortly after Ford began producing cars (initially on a shoestring budget) in 1903, Ford Mo Co was showing different models at car shows, rolling out new models frequently (many such as an air cooled four cylinder and a coupe bodied car in 1904, that never made it to market even though it was shown at an auto show).
We think of the Model B (Ford's first real "luxury market" car) as a 1904-1905 compliment to the Model A, C and F. However, even though it was second in the alphabet, only a very few were sold in late 1904 (November/December) with most being sold in 1905, in my mind, making it a 1905 model.
So, we have Ford selling a "low end" luxury car ($2,000 was a median price for autos). Then, on the heals of the Model B, the Model K and N appear and are ready for sale by April and July 1906 respectively. Again, the Model K was a "low end" luxury car, selling for $2500 then $2800 when the median price for automobiles was $2700-$2800.
I suspect an automaker didn't want to be "pigeon holed" as just a runabout/inexpensive car maker (or just a high end maker) at the time. All of the major automakers I can think of in the U.S. made multiple models (as they do now).
Interestingly, Ford and Rolls Royce broke that mold, both selling at only one model (at each end of the price spectrum) for many years.
I've often wondered, what did Henry Ford and other Ford officers do when they wanted to take friends to the opera, theatre, etc. in the late teens/early twenties (before acquiring Lincoln)? Did they dare own and drive a higher end non Ford?
I've read that James Couzens never owned a Model T, but drove a Chadwick(memory?) for some time.
We know John Dodge drove a "special" Model K until shortly before the advent of the Model T. Did he and Horace switch to Model Ts, or simply buy other high end cars, even though their fortunes were being built by their investment and supplying of Ford Motor Company?
I think there are a lot of questions about the early years of Ford Motor Company waiting to be researched (of course I do )
Hi def copy is enroute, Rob:
Ralph, thanks for the ad. Do you have a date (not for the prom, for the ad)?
This is a similar theme, dated January 1905:
And May 1905, showing four models (the original "Doctor's Car"):
And, just to see if anyone's paying attention:
Rob , The picture of the ''K'' in chassis form is being driven in the well known street in Detroit[note sign on post].
It [in my opinion] it is in a testing stage of the early ''K'' [note chassis style] but has the second style radiator fitted[narrow -with no camel back top expansion hump].
It is also has a fan fitted .
WERE THEY TESTING THIS STYLE RADIATOR WITH A FAN ?.
Yes, I see the sign. Maybe that was the test "body". I assumed there wouldn't be the rear "trunk" portion for a test seat/body. Howeve, when I look at the 07/08 K being tested, it looks like there is the shape of a trunk to the rear too.
It looks like this K is ready for testing (or finished) without a body. The seat looks more like buckets than a touring, so maybe the entire "body" was a test body that bolted on and off. I have an article where Frank Kulick is driving a test K on the streets of Detroit (before Ford bought Highland Park?).
At the K assembly plant (former Ford Manufacturing building):