The Ford Model K was nothing, if not fast. With one world speed record, and numerous hill climb and track wins, the Model K built a reputation as one of the fastest production cars built between 1906-1908. However, with speed came accidents. Below is one of the Model K fatality accidents that made national news.
This was probably the first "K" fatality accident, as it happened in July, 1906, only three months after the first Model K deliveries began.
I suspect this accident caused Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company some concern. The driver was Ford employee Louis Block, and the car was owned by Ford Motor Company. The following newspaper excerpts lay out the story:
Louis C. Block went to work for Ford Motor Company in 1905. By 1906, he travelled with the Ford staff to all the major auto shows, introducing the new models K and N.
This account credits Mr. Block with attending all the shows as of mid April 1906:
Block was photographed below at the first auto show of the 1906 season, at the New York 69th Armory. He is driving the Model N demonstrator (I believe the only working Model N "prototype" at the time):
Inside photo of the Ford booth:
Block's name also comes to the attention of Henry Ford, as a result of the Boston show. A disgruntled prospective buyer wrote a personal letter to Henry Ford, complaining that Block would not take him for a ride with the Model N on any hills or off the path routes, only the level streets where the show was held.
Pg 1, courtesy THF, all rights apply:
After I move more snow, the accident.
Keep the snow. We have enough in southeast Michigan for now.
Is that one of your unaccounted for Model K?
Thomas, your supposed to get more snow than us....
Keith, my guess is this one would not be included in the count, as it was still owned by Ford, however I don't know how FMC accounting would have handled a destroyed unsold car.
By late July 1906 the auto show run has ended, and L. Block is back at Buffalo working as assistant at the Ford branch store.
This Canton Ohio newspaper July 20, 1906 news account says Block was driving a six cylinder Ford racing a Pope Toledo side by side when a "woman drove a horse and buggy toward the side of the roadway where Block was driving." Walter Wilson was killed instantly according to the report.
San Jose, CA: this report describes the accident in more detail, at the end of the article, quoting Block as saying "I lost my head, I put on power instead of reducing it."
Newspapers across the U.S. and Canada carried stories about the accident. Mr. Wilson, the deceased, appears to have been a well known figure in his own right:
The local paper, "The Buffalo Courier" carried an extensive half page story about the accident. A few excerpts:
The Courier account says the "Car Had Racing Record," elaborating that the Ford "has run and won many races in this vicinity and in the State."
Later, in the article, a nearby farmers son who arrives on the scene first tells the reporter that Block told him he (Block) "lost his head" and applied the throttle when he meant to brake the car:
So, this is probably the end of Louis Block and Ford Motor Company. Surely with the national attention (unwanted) and self admission by Block that he caused the accident, while racing on a public road, will end his career? Not to mention, he (Block) will probably do time for manslaughter or reckless homicide?
As Lee Corso would say on College Football Gameday, "Not So Fast, My Friend....."
Interesting that the incident was reported all the way across the country.
I grew up in Williamsville; The "Williamsville Road" cited in the first article was most likely what is now Main Street/NY Route 5.
Interesting to see a picture of a model K chassis!! Bud.
The language with in the text of the articles was at a time when horsepower was measured with a real horse pulling the carriage. The text of the articles - " car runs away" would indicate it was viewed as a a horse breaking away from the control of the driver, the automobile too broke away from the control of the operator (aka driver).
R.V., I've been surprised by some of the stories that gained widespread attention too. However, the newspapers filled the same function as TV, Internet, radio, and all other social and news media at the time. It also seems as though automobile stories probably were widely covered due to their novelty and exclusiveness.
Bud, the 1906 chassis is a much lighter, different looking animal than the later 07/08 version. The frame rails were made thicker, with wider center portions, and under frame truss rods added, about like the difference between a T and TT.
George, I hadn't thought of it that way, but it does sound as though many auto terms of the period were probably borrowed from horse and buggy terminology. It's also interesting that two of the three Model K accidents that received nationwide attention involved a horse and buggy.
As for Mr. Block, a day after the accident the story begins to change:
The New York Times, July 22, 1906:
Seems as though, according to Louis Block, the dead man, Walter Wilson, grabbed the wheel from Mr. Block in a panic, ultimately causing the accident and his own death.
Springfield, MA, July 22, 1906:
As it would turn out, this story "stuck." Louis Block went on to a lengthy tenure with Ford Motor Co. Below he is seated to the right of James Couzens at a managers meeting in Detroit a few months later (second from the left, top row):
Two years later, Block moved up to manager of the Philadelphia Branch:
In late 1921, Louis Block left Ford, and became a distributor for Gray Automobile Company. And I doubt that ended well......
I bet that was quite a difference, going from Branch Manager in the height of the Model T sales period to a regional distributor for a company that may have sold a few thousand cars a year. I don't know what became of Mr. Block after this,
I did a little more checking, Louis Block died in 1940. Like Barney Oldfield and Tom Cooper (contracted Henry Ford to build 999 and Arrow racers), he was a bycycle racer before entering the automobile field:
In 1908 Block received this certificate from Ford for getting 33 mpg with a Model S:
I have read this story before, about a Ford customer who buys a Model N expecting it to be full of gas because advertising said "Gasoline tank under seat, containing ten gallons." I didn't realize Block was the dealer involved:
Louis Block Obit: