For anyone who has followed my "Model K journey", I'd like help with the following survey questions.
How would you answer? What do you think of the way the questions are structured? If you'd like, email (or post here) any answers or opinions. There obviously are no right or wrong answers, only opinions (and this is one of the few times I'm interested in someone else's opinion ).
Whose idea was it to produce the big, heavy Model K?
Was it Henry Ford's idea?
Thank you for helping out,
I should have added, the answers may be based on what one has read, heard, or general impressions. I appreciate any and all responses.
That is a very interesting question you pose. The Ford A, C and F where two-cylinder opposed with chain drive while the B had four cylinders in line and was shaft drive. The Model K seems to be sort of an improved version of the Model B with something extra.
My thinking, with little to support it, is that Henry designed / pushed the Models A, C, F and N(RS), and that "others" pushed the Model B and K. Your research on the success of the Model K as a racer shows it was a good car. Was the death of John Gray and expulsion of Alexander Malcomson coincidental with the end of Model K production, or, the change that permitted Henry to drop them?
Thanks for the response. Actually, these questions were asked in a survey, and I thought I would see how we might answer them today, with the benefit of hindsight and historical records.
I'll put you down as "others pushed the Model B and K." I've had one email that said essentially the same thing. We'll see if anyone else has an opinion based on the questions as they were posed.
Thank you again,
The gang was dumb fat and happy with the decision to go for the 'K'. It was the 'right' decision at the time it was made. I don't think the Board minutes record one dissenting vote.
Henry agreed yet continued to 'politik' for his surrey without the fringe and 4 cylinders. My guess is the Dodges said no way they could fit it in and Henry with his bravado said, I'll start a company that can furnish all of these that you may want and need when you need them at a cost you can make money at. Everybody laughed, had a cigar, and said, go for it...
The rest is history and the 1907 financial bind/recession kicked the knee-caps on those over $1500 under $3000 cars.
Not to digress with drift...Did I ever share with you the 1909/1910 article I found that said the under $1200 cars were meant to last for only a 'few' seasons, and also offered a rationale as to why they needed the level of technology they did?
Do you have it handy, george? i'd love to see it.
Cars costing $1200 or less. (A transcription from an original publication)
When a selling price is $1200 and under, it is no longer possible, at this date, to furnish a four-cylinder car with three-speed transmission. The motor also must be reduced; and accordingly motors are found of 3-3/4-inch and 3-1/2-inch bore, with usually 4-1/2-inch or 4 – inch stroke. The cylinders are cast in one unit and sometimes integral with the upper half of the crankcase.
The valves, as a rule, are together on one side, to save the expense and complication of overhead valves in a small engine. Transmission is of the planetary type giving two speeds forward and one reverse, by clutch and friction bands. The fan is omitted from behind the radiator, the flywheel spokes being formed to act as fan blades, and gravity (thermo-siphon) circulation is used or else a small gear pump is built into the engine. The springs, instead of being semi-elliptic, are in some cases front and rear cross springs, the axles being held parallel by radius rods.
Cars of the type just described have achieved a great popularity with owners who expect to use a car only one or two seasons and then dispose of it. They are light in build, very simple in mechanism, and are sold at a low price.
Necessarily they do not contain the materials or workmanship of higher priced cars, and they are rushed through the factory at a rate which precludes the possibility of much individual attention being bestowed on any given car. The purchaser must expect to watch for minor faults in ignition, carburation, and adjustment generally, and correct them as they appear.
Nevertheless in intelligent hands these cars will run as much as 10,000 miles before needing anything of consequence in way of repairs.
A planetary gear cannot to advantage give more than two speeds ahead and it is inefficient in any but direct drive. This fact has led to the adoption recently of two-speed sliding gears in a considerable number of low priced runabouts and roadsters selling for $800 and less.
1 Automobile Engineering Cyclopedia, 1909/1910 edition. Verbatim transcription of actual section. Pg. 335
Not exactly where I intended to go with this thread, but you brought up something I've noticed when comparing cars. In regard to the Model K, as we now know, there were two versions, the 1906 and 1907 Models. In 1906, the K was one of only five domestic six cylinder cars on the market. At $2500 the Ford was much less expensive than the nearest competitor, the six cylinder 30 hp Franklin ($4200).
By 1907, the Ford K is greatly improved, and there were over twenty six cylinder competitors. At $2,800, Ford was still the best buy in a six cylinder, and at 40 hp still a high power car.
When comparing 1907 with 1909 (first Model T year), not only are cars rapidly improving, the price is coming down across the board. Below are comparisons. Prices are taken from "Cycle and Automobile" magazine's March 1907 and 1909 car comparison guides.
On the left are 1907 cars listing from $600 to $900. Ford and Cameron are the only makers offering a low priced four cylinder car (Ford Models N and R). Twenty five models are shown listing $600 to under $900. For 1909, only two model years later, over 63 models list for $600 to $900 (including two Model T, the touring and runabout):
Only one six cylinder car sold for $3000 or less in 1907, Ford (Model K Roadster and Touring). By 1909, ten six cylinder models are available at $3000 or less:
The high end cars were coming down in price too. In 1907, four models sell for $7500 or more. Two of them list at $8500 and $10,000 (10,000 dollars in 1907 would equal about $250,000 today). By 1909 the two highest priced models listed are $7500:
The advertisements below show a 1907 Ford Model K and 1909 Thomas. Both cars sell for about the same price, both with 40 hp six cylinder engines. Both ads promote the lack of vibration associated with a six cylinder, and the use of vanadium steel. It appears to me cars are improving and dropping in price. If Ford had stayed in the six cylinder market, they would have had to reduce price, increase horsepower, and/or make other improvements to keep their competitive edge.
My guess is carmakers were becoming more efficient, and using volume production to reduce prices. I don't know if Ford was also influencing the market with their low priced cars, but I would think one could make that argument.
I'll go into the Model K survey on another thread. Have a good weekend,
I left off the high priced comparison. 1909 is shown first, with the most expensive cars at $7500. 1907 follows, with $8500 and $10,000 cars listed:
I sort of worried that my reply to John might have sent your original thread off...but once you hit send...too late! S-O-R-R-Y
Interesting comments on the price consolidation while the industry segment was expanding as to suppliers...
Economies of scale was a concept started in the 1880's but really not too mature until the turn of the century.
Somewhere there is a printed book, and I think it is on the birthing of the T. Sort of interesting as it reads like...'OK so does everyone agree that the Dodge Bros should build a complete chassis for $125, yes? OK how about tires, we can pay $50 per set of 4, OK? etc.
Point there is that my strong guess is that they did exactly that in the era...give an outside supplier a 'number'...let him run his own P&L in achieving it and still have some left over for himself at the end. In Fords case, they all did real well, extremely well, and as a reward Henry started to vertically integrate after he sent his boys over to watch how it was done, surely under the guise of 'my guys will help'.
Some of the others like you mentioned probably tried the same sub-contract by the numbers trick and either got low end quality, or picked subs that couldn't make a buck on their share and were simply not sustainable where regionally more than a few 'should' have actually excelled. Then, like now, cross continental shipping was a killer. Ford or rather Couzens realized this with the idea of branches, first to put back together Michigan built cars...then to actually build the cars using local supply for all but key parts.
I read and enjoy the early Ford car information that you and others have posted over the years. I am far from being a Henry Ford historian or even knowledgeable in Ford history but I always got the impression that Henry did things "his" way and you went along with what he wanted or you were on his sh*t list and let go once he was done using you.
So I guess my vote would be it was Henry's idea.
Not at all, great ideas and information. If someone else doesn't send threads adrift I will anyway. As I said earlier (or tried to), the price of cars and where prices went is very interesting to me. I suspect Ford was ahead of the curve, but the industry was heading toward a period of more efficiency and tighter margins. It seems to me that Henry Ford and FMC were able to provide light, good cars at lower prices than the competition, from the Model A right up to, and into the Model T period.
I think you are in the minority (and I agree with you). My guess is that Henry Ford was obstinate, knew where he was going, and would not be controlled or deterred from his goals.
The two questions "Whose idea was it to produce the big, heavy Model K? " and "Was it Henry Ford's idea? " were asked in a type of survey. I wondered how we would answer the same questions today. I also felt they were "loaded" and leading questions. I'll get into that in more detail at another time (after a little more "fact checking").
Thanks for your replies and information,
Darn it, meant to say "Denny" instead of calling you "Seth." I'm sorry (this is the second time). Obviously I'm having a problem paying attention to details....
I don't think we would ever know. Certainly corporations have board meetings to vote on whether to go forward with a big project or not, but such votes are simply a rubber stamp if the de - facto decision has already been made. It doesn't serve any purpose to voice an objection vote in the face of a room full of people who feel otherwise. Henry Ford in 1905 - 1906 was a minority shareholder when that decision was made. He could not make the decision without everyone in the room making the same decision.
Henry Ford in 1907, on the other hand, was certainly able to make the decision to abandon the Model K marketplace entirely, showing exactly how he felt about building large expensive cars for a limited number of clients in the face of dozens of competitors selling similar products. Henry knew that he could make huge profits on more cars selling to a much larger clientele against no competition. If there had been plans to sell huge quantities of the Model K in 1908 and 1909 orders would have been placed by Ford to Dodge Brothers for more cars to be manufactured. There were no such orders, because after all, hundreds of the chassis initially ordered in 1906 remained unsold. So Ford struggled along through 1908 and into early 1909 selling the remaining cars.
While this has no relationship with the survey questions, Henry Ford was always one of two major shareholders in Ford Motor Company. He, along with Alexander Malcomson each owned 26% of FMC shares. Furthermore, the board of directors did not allocate voting power based on number of shares. Each director held one vote, according to company by laws.
Henry Ford bought A. Malcomson's shares in July 1906, becoming the major shareholder in FMC. In October 1906 FMC made substantial improvements to the Model K, and set up a schedule and contract with Dodge Brothers for the remaining 650 Model K engines to be built throughout 1907 (months after Malcomson sold his shares). The bulk of Model K were sold in 1906 and 1907 (301 and 457). The remainder sold in 1908 (119) and 1909 (42). These are fiscal year FMC audit numbers. About 50 to 80 Model K are unaccounted for. Some of these (10) cars were lost in fires and others may have been accounted for in other ways, I just don't know.
Ford had to modify the original K design. It had a multitude of design problems including overheating, weak frames, and rear axles breaking. Ford had only sold a few hundred of the contracted number in 1906.
The original order and contract with Dodge Brothers to build the K was for 1000 units, a number which was never exceeded.
I just noticed, one could substitute "T" for "K" in the statement:
"Ford had to modify the original K design. It had a multitude of design problems including overheating, weak frames, and rear axles breaking."
Indeed. And the Model T, being successful, continued to be built year after year. When the T design was discontinued, Ford introduced a new model to compete in the same market area, because the business plan was successful. The Model T defined its market for almost two decades.
The Model K participated in a marketplace that Ford withdrew from.
"Ford had only sold a few hundred of the contracted number in 1906.
The original order and contract with Dodge Brothers to build the K was for 1000 units, a number which was never exceeded."
Actually, as this article confirms, Ford Motor Co. had a very successful roll out of the Model K. Ford audit information also tells us the model was an immediate financial success, providing 85% of the profit for the company in 1906 (fiscal year). This article also mentions that Ford initially intended to build 500 Model K, increasing the intended number to 1000 due to the initial success. By the end of June Ford records show over 200 Model K were sold. Many high end automakers had a successful year if they sold 100 cars, total:
Could any of those 50-80 unaccounted for Model Ks been the Ford six-40 race cars?
: ^ )
The Ford six cylinder race cars had 6x6 and 6x6 1/2 inch bore and stroke, making them 10000 to 1100 cubic inch motors. While there are many similarities to the Model K engine in appearance, they were much larger in size. To the best of my knowledge, at least three were built, the 1905/06 and 1907/09 versions (when Frank Kulick wrecked driving the 07/09 version, He ry Ford said there was a second racer available to make an upcoming race:
Henry Ford driving the first six cylinder racer, i believe at Ormond Beach, 1905:
Frank Kulick with improved 05/06 racer, 1906:
Frank Kulick with the 1907 version:
I don't know if 1000 Model were produced, however number 952 still exists, so I assume at least that many were built (of 1000 originally agreed to in FMC Baird of directors minutes).
Ks known sold according to Ford FY records:
1906 - 301
1907 - 457
1908 - 119
1909 - 42
Destroyed in Ford Chicago Branch Fire, Feb 1907 - 10
Total - 929
Right, less than 1000 sold over the 1906 - 1909 period. Ford's order of 1000 chassis in 1906 was never completely sold, and no further orders placed because the market was not interested in buying any more of them.
I agree with your musing Rob that 250 cars sold in 1906 would have been considered a success by any other car maker. Ford, on the other hand, obviously did not consider his efforts with the Model K to be a success. If he had, he would have continued to participate in the market for big expensive cars.
Musing is spelled "mussing." And Ford sold 300 Model K, between April 1906 and October 1,1906 (end of the fiscal year, if we're going to let details get in the way.
Deep in thought; contemplative.
1. Contemplation; meditation.
2. A product of contemplation; a thought. "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
mus•ing (ˈmyu zɪŋ)
1. absorbed in thought; meditative.
2. contemplation; reflection.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Oh, I thought you meant this:
Always good to communicate effectively. And always a pleasure to read your comments to my posts.....