There was a presentation at the Oroville, CA Bolt's Antique Tool museum about the Model T Ford. Present for the talk were 2 Ts, a 14 and a 21 touring. There were also some folks who showed up in Modern cars--Model As.
During the talk I brought up the K and mentioned it financed the Ts development and production. The presenter argued that the K was a money-loser for ford, quoting the (now known as wrong!) Henry Ford quotes. He even brought up the T V-8 built by a dealer in Southern California and claimed that Ford told him "4 cylinders is an engine, 6 is an engine and a half, and 8 is two engines--get that two engine out of your cars or lose your dealership."
I told him I didn't have the records handy, but if they would look at Ford's records, the K was very profitable and the leader in it's class.
Other than that, it was a pretty good talk with only a few other falsehoods mentioned (such as all '26 had all electrics, including starters).
Here are the two Ts at the talk.
Now these were no ordinary Ts, they wuz FAST!
OK, they weren't that fast, I had my camera on the wrong "pic type" settings and found this "special effect" when I downloaded the pics.
That was Ed Rose from the NORCAL HCCA and his 14. Too bad he didn't have all his facts checked out.
Good Job! If you have the presenter's e-mail and/or contact information we (ok .... Rob) can easily send him the links to the numerous posting correcting that folk lore.
Even Wikipedia has made the correction ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Model_K )
Two nice Ts in the photos.
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Unfortunately, I did not get his contact info, but I might be able to get it from the Bolt's museum, or maybe John has it (it was Ed Rose).
I'm not expert, but I do try to "read all about it" as much as I can.
I was a little surprised in the many missing links in the presentation. I brought up the Piquette Museum and he acted like he never heard of it--his "Bucket List" for the Detroit area is to see the HF. Heck, I'd put the Piquette at least equal to, if not above the HF--although there's still a lot other stuff to see at the HF and I'm acquainted with one of the T drivers there, so I'd have to do it too!
Of course, "wallflower me" had to speak up when something was just, uh, um, WRONG! Had a good audience though, with some good questions.
Hard to put a lot of history in a one-hour program. He had a copy of the T bible he showed everyone, mentioning that it's available as a paperback, but was surprised when I mentioned it was also available as a CD with updates.
I love the saying, “Everyone makes mistakes. That’s why they put erasers on pencils.” Google has a long list of folks who have said or posted that. But I read it in Emily Guy Birken’s “The 5 years Before You Retire” and she heard it from her mother. So that was before it was posted on Twitter last year.
In this case, Ed Rose maybe using the best sources that he knows about. Until Rob Heyen started researching and posting on the MTFCA forum about the documentation he found, all the other references I had personally read repeated the same general inaccurate folklore. They said something along the lines that Henry was forced to produce the K and it was a financial disaster. From Rob’s excellent research we know that was not the case. So Ed may not have read or heard the truth about the Model K before.
But other than on the MTFCA forum and tonight on Wikipedia, I don’t recall reading in a book or magazine the truth about the Model K Ford – that it was the number one profit maker for Ford Motor Company USA in 1906 etc. I subscribe to several old car magazines, “Horseless Carriage Gazette,” “Model T Time,” “Vintage Ford,” “Hemmings Motor News,” and “Hemmings Classic Car.” But I do not recall every seeing one of them print the “True story about the Model K Ford.” Perhaps they did and I missed it? None of us can read all of the articles in all the great car magazines.
Does anyone know of an article in a book or magazine that shares the story about the Model K Ford the way it really was rather than the way it has been falsely maligned since at least the 1950s? (Ref page 43 Stern’s “Tin Lizzie” “It sold for $2,800, but the company lost money on it at this price.” I suspect Stern got his misinformation from someone else’s comments? Clearly, he did not arrive at that comment from looking at the Ford ledgers that showed how well it actually did.)
If it the real story has not been published them maybe we can convince Rob or work with him to put his excellent research into an article? Or perhaps even a you-tube “Myth Busters?” I don’t know if the original cast is willing to do "pro bono" work. But if the factual information hasn’t been put out there already, I think it should be put out there in print in several places to help educate folks that the earth is not flat, I mean that the Model K was a success that got a lot of bad press for some reason. Even as late as Robert Casey’s excellent book, “The Model T A Centennial History” copyrighted 2008 he incorrectly states on page 16, “It looked impressive in this 1906 company publication, but it was a consistent money-loser.” And we know the ledgers refute that statement.
Does anyone recall some articles or books that portray the Model K Ford correctly? And can they point us to them (title, month, year etc.)?
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This is a good debate!
1,000 Model Fs, over a 14-month period, at $1,000 - turnover @ US$1,000 per unit is US$1,000,000 = $US$71,428 per month turnover.
900 Model Ks, over a 29-month period, at between $2,500 and US$2,800 - turnover @ US$2,700 per unit is US$2,430,000 = $US$84,000 per month turnover.
7,000 Model Ns, over a 29 month period, at between US$500 and $US$600 - turnover @ US$550 per unit is US$3,850,000 = US$132,758 per month turnover.
(Turnover per unit is a guessed average over the sales period.)
On paper, it is easy to see which looks better, but we don't know the outgoing costs on each car.
But what we do know is that Henry Ford was all about building a car for the masses, at the lowest possible cost, and "making all the profit we need to make". The Model K could never be that car, and the N was getting closer to the goal.
And the rest is history!
Hap and Rob
I just read your post Hap - do we actually know the profit on each car (both Models K and N)?
I think an article on the K in at least one of the "major hobby magazines" is a GREAT idea. As much as we are partial to The Vintage Ford, the Horseless Carriage Gazette might have a larger audience?? Maybe it could be published in both, depending on how the copyright is handled.
I think Rob writes fine, but if he wants help, I'm willing.
Time to set the record straight, "The Ford Model K wasn't an Edsel!" (one suggested title)
I am not adding anything really worthwhile, because I can't find the actual numbers right now. But if I recall what I read in those excerpts from the original ledgers shared on this forum a couple years ago (?). If I recall correctly, the dollars per car markup to the factory for the model K was nearly ten times (I think closer to eight times) the markup for each of the NRS cars. It is not just what the total sales were that matters. It was the total profit (aka markup). The later half of '06 and all of '07/'08 were very profitable for Ford. Money which was mostly put into the purchase and building of the new factory site at Highland Park. Without those couple very profitable years, the factory that made the future tremendous success of the model T Ford likely would have never been built. The model K, in light of newly discovered solid records and evidence, clearly contributed a lot to that success.
Henry was a complicated man. Clearly he was a bigot. Clearly, he was not. He was controlling, mean, and quite ruthless. He gave (out of his own pocket, mind you, not because a government or union forced him to) one of the best private health care systems in the world to that date, to all his employees, and their immediate families (including parents).
Often said to be a true anti-Semite, many of his closest friends, and business advisers were Jews. His Ford Motor company hired emigrants from all parts of the world. And probably more blacks than any other company in the USA if not the world.
In his later years, he did become bitter, about many things. Some of that was for good understandable reasons. I know that he did say some disparaging things about the model K in interviews with historians and writers, in his later years. However, many of the quotes about how bad the K was were not from him. Much of that folklore came from people that worked with him later in the model T and model A eras. Henry had a mystique, and a reputation, partially based in truth or fact. Part of their (historians and writers) goal, was to maintain that mystique. What is wrong with a little falsehood in order to maintain the notion that Henry was "forced" to build the K.
The fact is, Henry's goal from the beginning of his automobile work, was to put everybody in an automobile. Henry KNEW from the beginning that a high quality low cost car was what had to be achieved to reach that goal. And it is very true, that Henry did not like bankers and other investors telling him what to do.
Henry knew that he had to work through the designs, engineering, chemistry, as well as the pushing from investors, to get to the point where he could put the every man's car out for the public. The fact is, that in circa 1904, nobody, including Henry, knew exactly how to build that car. All those things required many steps. And Henry had a better idea hoe to figure it out. The model K was one of those steps. Maybe several of them.
Not only did the model K make a bunch of money in its short two and a half years of production. It was also the first real proving ground for many of the features that became the model T (look at the differential housing on the K, as well as the steering gear).
Let me try to answer and add to this excellent discussion.....
First, what Ford Motor Co. fiscal records show us.
1906: Due to production delays, both the K and N were not on the market in "prime time," Automobiles were sold primarily in the late winter, early spring as purchasers looked toward the summer months for primary usage of their new automobiles. The first Model K reached customers in mid-April. The first Model N didn't reach market until early to mid July. As a result, the Model K provided 85% of the new car profit for FMC during Fiscal Year (FY) 1906 (Oct 1, 1905-Sep 30, 1906). Included below are "profit per model" and "profit per unit (car):"
I'll break this into a couple of posts. Next, 1907.
1907, in my opinion, should be considered Ford's "breakout" year (not 1908, 1909, 1913, etc. Of course everyone will have a different opinion about this.... ).
For 1907, FMC had it's first one million plus profit year, Ford became the largest auto manufacturer in the world. As seen below, Model K sales and profits played a significant role, along with Models N and R, in that success. While behind total profit of Models R and N, the Model K provided a strong profit per car:
audit information courtesy of THF, all rights apply
William McCarty, University of Texas, wrote an article titled "Where the Tin-Lizzy Took Us" - a discussion about Fordism and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." Ford is to have stated "We want to live in the present. The only history that is worth a tinkers damn is the history we make today." McCarthy states we have a history but there is a central theme to our American History -- it is we have a history of forgetting how to remember the past.
1908 and total Model K production numbers:
For 1908, only 118 Model K are sold domestically (this is important later). Profit per car is still good, and when compared with the celebrated Model N, profit per model is still similar. Notice how profit per car of the S Roadster was large. Ford hit a home run with the Model S. While almost the same chassis, and not much more cost to build, the S Roadster was a huge profit generator, and was produced in what were huge numbers for the day. Add to this the fact FMC was tooling up for the Model T throughout FY 1908, the number of cars put out the door had to be staggering numbers for the auto industry:
FY data courtesy THF, all rights apply. Two Model T and one (T?) "Laundaulet" were also sold during FY 1908, Oct 1, 1907-Sep 30, 1908.
Next, finding the actual number of Model K produced, and "why did history get it wrong" about the Model K?
How many Model K were produced? Early in 1906 FMC board of directors transcripts reveal 1,000 Model K chassis were contracted with FMC dedicated shop Dodge Bros. Later in 1906 specific delivery times were arranged with DB through 1907. Meanwhile, the 1907 FY Model K was vastly changed from the 1906 model. The chassis was beefed up, wheelbase extended from 114 to 120 inches, a more modern touring body installed, and the engine power increased by increasing compression. Oil lines were added from the McCord oiler to each thrust side cylinder wall. Interestingly, the oil lines to each of the six cylinders was similar in concept to the same thing Rolls Royce did with it's new for 1907 Silver Ghost.
The highest production Model K still existing is #952. Year by year totals for domestic production were:
1906 - 301
1907 - 457
1908 - 119
1909 - 42
About 32 K were sold by component to Ford Canada between 1906-1908. I doubt those Model K would be included in the production numbers of the FMC audit, since those cars are listed by number sold, with a price per unit (car). Ford Canada cars were broken down by part cost for Tariff purposes, and profit per car reported through Ford Canada (a separately owned company).
Meanwhile, at least two Model K were shipped to Germany, a minimum of one to England (participant in the Irish and Scottish Trials, 1907). Model K were also shipped to Australia and New Zealand, and possibly others to South Africa, Belgium (seen in photographs from the 1907 Belgium auto show). These may have included the 32 K known to be sold through Ford Canada, although at least the England K should not have been included with the Canadian numbers (different arrangement between FMC and English partners).
Another ten Model K were destroyed in a Chicago Branch store in early 1907. I doubt these ten were included with the 1907 domestic K production numbers, although they may have been. Ford did have fire insurance so insurance revenue may be entered in another place (I'm obviously not an auditor...).
Adding FMC and Ford Canada numbers bring us to 951 Model K. Add the ten destroyed by fire, 961. I suspect some Model K were carried over to FY 1910, and we know at least one Model K was retained by FMC until 1919 (later document). Other Model K were converted to "trucks" (seen in photos of the "six cylinder factory" (former Ford Manufacturing Co. facility). Add to this demonstrator K sent to all the Ford Branch stores, and the number may increase (I don't know how FMC carried demonstrator cars on the "books").
This doesn't absolutely get us to 1,000 Model K produced. I suspect the number was very close, and may even have gone over. Hopefully more records will surface over time.
Next, "why did history get it wrong?" A few examples of when, and why the reputation of the Model K went from iconic example of Ford ingenuity and performance, to what we read today.
FYI - Sometimes the sale of a product may be related to the economic and social events of the period - in this case the period the Model K was in production --
>1907 - Early signs of weakness in the Stock Market:
==Mar.04 > A sharp break occurs in the Stock Market
==Mar.13 > New York Stock Exchange prices suddenly collapse in a ‘silent panic’ - ~a modest recession commences
==Mar.25 > More panic selling on Wall Street - Frick, Rockefeller, Harriman, and Schiff briefly consider pooling $25 million to steady the market
==late.Mar > The government attempts to bolster the banking system by announcing that it will maintain its funds in New York banks (see Oct)
Good point, and an outside influence I suspect is often forgotten. I believe this makes the profits and sales numbers of FMC that much more remarkable. A couple of period articles concerning the panic. A side note, Ford was not only the largest producer (in terms of cars sold) in the world in 1907. Ford was also the largest producer of six cylinder automobiles in the world, both in 1906 and 1907, outselling other well known six cylinder builders such as Franklin, Stevens-Duryea, Napier, National and Rolls Royce, who came out with the Silver Ghost in 1907:
I'll get back on task after Church.....
While we've been talking magazine article, if one were to expand this a bit, include the stories that Rob has found about various cars and owners, add some photographs, Tell the stories of the K cars after T production started--ye gads man, there's a BOOK here. "Ford's Model K, the Unsung Hero"
I know I'm not the only one who finds this story fascinating.
Thanks David. I certainly have enough material for a book, maybe even a sequel. I 'd begin at the beginning (profound... ). In mid 1903, when Barney Oldfield was still eating up the track setting world records with Henry Ford's creations, 999 and Arrow, he commented that he had commissioned Henry Ford to build a European style racer that he would compete here and abroad with. Shortly after this, he left to join the Winton racing team.
Then, six months later, in early 1904, we learn from the "Ford Reminiscences," that Henry Ford and Wills are working on a six cylinder racer.
I would probably end with the Model K at the Henry Ford museum, that one of the "Reminiscences" subjects, longtime Ford employee and relative, Louis Scott, says is Henry Ford's personal Model K.
Okay, back on task (again...... I'm so easily sidetracked...)
Back to it......
Henry Ford and his biographers didn't seem initially to discount or even bastardize the Model K. In 1923, this biography by William Stidger appeared. It was written with Henry Ford's approval. This brief passage regarding the six cylinder (K) didn't show disapproval by Henry Ford. I thought it interesting that Henry Ford said "I still Owned one until I had one of the boys sell it for me. It is still running." Doesn't sound like HF disapproved of the Model K as of 1923:
In 1926, when advertising the improved Model T, one of the features of the improved T is credited to the Model K in FMC advertising, the wider brake band. Yes, the Model K had a wider brake band than low and reverse. It also had Ford's first patented magneto, and tapered axles.
This 1943 biography of Henry Ford seems to show a turning tide regarding the Model K. The author implies the Model K is somehow responsible for lagging sales in 1906, and "the heavy car must be discontinued,".
Of course we know the reason sales numbers lagged were due to production issues with the Model N. We also know the Model K provided excellent profit for Ford Motor Co. each of it's three production years:
And I think the final "nail in the coffin" of the reputation of the Model K occurred in the early 1950's. Owen W. Bombard conducted a series of interviews of acquaintances, friends, relatives and FMC employees to preserve individual recollections of those who had known, worked with, or in the same industry as Henry Ford. These interviews, known as "The Reminiscences" give us an invaluable look into the life and work of Henry Ford.
However, there seems to be a recurring negative tone toward the Model K, along with other similarities of opinion with several of the interviews. I had wondered for some time what questions or information were given to interviewees prior to the interviews, and did those questions taint or maneuver interviewees recollections.
Then, at the back of one of the interviews, I found the following. The questions sent to the interviewee, in this case long time FMC employee John Wandersee:
One question, "Whose idea was it to build the big, heavy Model K? Was it Mr. Ford's idea?"
In a past life as an investigator, these are what I call leading questions. It set's the tone for all future readers and biographers/historians that it's indeed true, the Model K was a big, heavy (cumbersome) car, and was it really Henry Ford's idea to build such a car?
That's my story and I'm sticking with it.......
(Message edited by Rob on May 21, 2017)
Wow, That sure sounds like the smoking gun. That question assumes that the K was 1)BIG, 2) HEAVY (interpret this as cumbersome and sluggish) and not a good decision. It's sort of asking the plaintive, "And when did you stop beating your wife?" No answer is going to be good, nor likely valid!
Some book chapter ideas:
1)The beginnings of the Ford company
2)Racing activities (leading to the K)
3)Other product of Ford at the time
4) The K and its competitors
5) Leading to production of the T
6) The K in competition with other large cars of the times; racing, reliability, hill-climbing, and everyday use
7) Post K era and the"conspiracy" against the K.
8) Rediscovery, survivors, and correcting history.
With the news stories, the company records, existing photos, this is a "natural!" Go for it Rob!!
David, I think I've found my "co-author." Between you and Hap, I would have a couple of dedicated, attention to detail people to help push the project......
Thanks for the encouragement,
Thank you for chiming in and sharing once again what you have found out about the Model K Ford.
I think many of us would encourage you to put together an article or two about the Model K Ford to help dispel the folklore that has prevailed for the past 60 plus years. And several of us – me included would be more than willing to help you put together an article based on the research you have posted on the forum for your review and approval.
I suspect that even you may have believed the folklore before you purchased your Model K? As you had your Model K Ford worked on at: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/257047/303226.html?1344265781 you shared in part:
By Rob Heyen - Nebraska on Sunday, July 29, 2012 - 09:40 pm:
Well, this started in January, and now the K is finished. I've probably driven it 50 - 100 miles, and there are some "bugs" to work out, but it's coming along.
Driving the K is a different experience compared with Model Ts and our Model N. The K has a really "big" feel to it. The car itself seems a bit cumbersome compared with the lighter Fords. …..
My opinion of the K is changing too. It seems like a well made car (unlike what we read about the Model K) and some things, like the oiling system and dual ignition system seem advanced for the period.
And of course you were already in the fact finding hunt to discover if the Model K was or was not a failure as another posting from the same time frame at: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/257047/331442.html?1357021032 showed you were already determined to track down the truth.
The only positive comments I found about the Model K before your investigative reporting were at: : http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/118802/150054.html?1278958310
Friday, July 09, 2010 - 05:29 pm:
For 1906 Carl [Carl Pate – in “Pate’s Early Ford Encyclopedia”] has an estimated 350 Model Ks sold and for 1907-1908 and estimated 650. If you look at the production records from the book “The American Car Since 1775” put together by the editors of “Automobile Quarterly” on page 138 they have Ford listed as #1 in 1906 with 8,729 cars; Cadillac #2 with 4,059 and going down to #12 Stoddard-Dayton 385 cars. So the Model K was probably in the top 15 or so models produced in 1906. [Note the dates may not correspond to the same time frame –i.e. calendar verses fiscal year and different companies could do different fiscal years – but still 350 cars in 1906 was a bunch.] For 1907, Brush was listed as #13 at 500 and Overland was listed as #14 with only 47 cars. So clearly the Model K would have been #14 at least in 1907. By 1908 production was cranking up and the #14 maker was Brush with 700 cars and Ford [Model K would not have been in the top 14 car makers]– so falling behind at that time. But for a car in the 1906-1908 time frame to sell 1000 units – it was doing really well for that time frame. And if Ford had not be so influential in the direction Ford Motor Company went, Malcomson who really liked the big cars, may have convinced the other stock holders to move in the “Big Car, small numbers, Big Profit per car” direction rather than Henry’s direction. That is the direction Oldsmobile went – from the very small and affordable Oldsmobile runabout to the larger versions. Oldsmobile also ousted R.E. Olds along the way.
Somebody named Hap submitted those and I had several things still wrong in that posting. I.e. I also repeated what I had been reading…..
So, my hypothesis is that any book written/published between 1950 and when you started discovering and printing the truth (during 2012), probably has some of the folklore version. From a pure number of vehicles sold standpoint – the Model K did not sell nearly as many cars as the Model N, R, S, or SR cars. But as you correctly point out from a profit stand point the Model K clearly paid the way for Ford motor company in 1906 and was a substantial contributor in 1907. And the Model S Runabout and Model S Roadsters were the leading profit makers in 1908 but the Model K beat out the Model N Runabout again as well as the S Coupe, and Model R Runabout.
Does anyone know of a book or magazine article published after 1950 that clearly articulates that the Model K Ford was a success for Ford Motor Company? If so I would like to add that to our information.
And yes Rob, I would love to help you, David, and others put together an article. I believe you already have enough information to refute much of the folklore.
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Rob, This sounds like a plan, a really good plan. Put me down for one of the first autographed copies!
Rob, I'm on board!!!
What Keith said!! Bud.
Harper's Weekly for March 1907 had an automobile edition. Discussion on the development of the motor car. Of interest was a discussion on the development of the electric automobile, the advantages of a 6 cylinder motor, and other items of interest on how an engine words and the future of the horse. Included were advertisements. As this one for Ford's Model K -- which reads as a justification for the car.
An article on the advantages of a 6 over the 4 was also presented
Of interest to is the beginning of the year, the economy was of interest -- example was an individual being refused a $5,000 loan..his response was to bomb the bank.
Thanks for the ad George. Ford advertising showed up in some upscale publications during 1907. This may be one of the most prestigious, The Harvard Lampoon:
A full page ad in the Oct 2, 1907 issue:
Ford wasn't the only auto maker to advertise in the issue, however they were the only one to take a full page ad:
In your 1906 and 1907 charts above, when I multiply the profit/car numbers by the number of cars produced, it almost never adds up the profit you indicate. I realize some of the production numbers are estimates, as you indicate, but even where not so indicated, it doesn't add up. ???
I'm on the road but did the 1907 R. These are copies of spreadsheets in the numbers app. That profit divided by cars came out correct.
Give me a specific example.
From the 1906 chart:
For K: 301 x 340 = $102,340, not $102,314
For N: 2 x 712 = $1424, not $1661
Do the reverse math. For example, $102,314 divided by 301 = $339.91. Round to $340 x 301 = $102,340.
Rob, please write a book.
I'd like to at a point. I've made arrangements that were something to happen to me, my files (electronic) go to another Model K owner...
Did that answer your questions regarding accuracy?
Yes Rob. Thanks much.
I'd like to borrow $233. I'll pay you back $200 next week.
When rounding with a spreadsheet, the accurate numbers remain. I simply see no reason to show groups of monetary numbers to the dime and penny. Often sight of the forest is lost due to all the trees....