One question I've had while researching the six cylinder Model K and racer, when and why did Henry Ford choose a six cylinder motor? Most Ford historians tell us A. Y. Malcomson and other investors "forced" Ford to build the six cylinder car. I think this explanation is unlikely due to the fact Malcomson's first car, which coincidentally was shown for the first time at the January 1906 N.Y. Auto Show (as were Ford models K and N), had a 24 hp air-cooled four cylinder motor.
Had Malcomson been the driving force behind the six cylinder Model K, he surely would have chosen a similar motor for his first car (Aerocar), not a much smaller four cylinder engine.
Following the news paper and journal trail below may give us an idea when and why Henry Ford went with the six cylinder motor.
By 1901, there were a few production cars and racers using six cylinder engines, mostly European:
Wikipedia lists the Spyker" company as the first maker of six cylinder automobiles, in 1903:
Meanwhile, in 1902, Henry Ford built two racers, Arrow and 999, that would set records over the next several years, helping make Henry Ford, Tom Cooper and Barney Oldfield famous:
Photo of medal presented Barney Oldfield for setting a world record in the mile, driving the Ford built racer 999, July 1903:
In an August 1903 news article, Barney Oldfield reports he will take a racer to Europe to compete, and that Henry Ford will build it. Could this be the beginning of Henry Ford and the six cylinder racer? The next large powerful racer Ford builds will be the 1,000 cubic inch six:
Shortly after this, Oldfield is hired by Winton to drive their racers, ending his racing relationship with Ford.
Meanwhile, according to the "Oral History" by Oliver Barthel, Henry Ford began work on a six cylinder car in early 1904, and tested it in the spring of 1904:
Courtesy of a benson Library, THF, all rights apply
In November 1904, newspaper reports say Ford will run a six cylinder racer at Ormond Beach in early 1905:
Henry Ford driving the 1905 six cylinder racer:
After witnessing the Ford racer warming up at Ormond Beach in early 1905, Oldfield and Winton both comment about the Ford racer:
Thank's for the thought about the Aerocar and the man behind it.Once at the HF i got real low and looked under the no oil pan 999 and found grease cup's on the rods!! Any up date on the 6 40 roadster?? Bud in Wheeler,Mi.
I would suspect that HF went to 6 cylinders because in those days more displacement meant more power and it kept the engine size down compared to a 4 cylinder of the same displacement.
He put a 4 cylinder in his pet project, the Model T, to keep it simple.
That's just MHO, YMMV.