As I search articles from turn of the last century newspapers, I'm reminded that automobile numbers and makes were very different prior to 1909 and the advent of the Model T.
I suspect one of the reasons the Ford Model K, and to a lesser extent the Model B, have been relegated to history as "losers" for Ford Motor Company is due to what by Model T standard were anemic production and sales.
However, when putting Model K sales into context, the numbers "in the day" were quite different from the perspective handed down by historians. The article below provides a glimpse of what must have been quite a sight, 740 automobile parked at one spot for a sporting event. And as you can see by the marquees present, not a lowbrow event. For comparison in todays dollars, the most expensive automobile at the event is listed at $15,000. In todays dollars that's about $375,000.
There were nine Ford 'K" at the event, second in "sixes" only to National. Again, lost to automotive historians is the fact Ford was the largest maker of six cylinder cars in the world in both 1906 and 1907. Below is an article about planned 1907 production by National, a well know automobile of the period. Their projection was 100 six cylinder cars, and a total 1907 production of 400 cars. By contrast, Ford produced about 500 Model K alone in 1907:
Wow. I would love to spend several days of that one day at the races, just looking at all the cars in the parking lot!
Even though I well know of the misinformation about the too much maligned model K, it is still great to see another view from the era to help put it back into proper perspective.
Thanks again Rob!
Thank you Wayne. I wonder what the $15,000 car was? Maybe one of the first "Silver Ghosts" to arrive in the U.S.? The then new RR 40-50hp chassis alone was over $9,000 in the U.S., so possibly?
National became one of the major U.S. racing sponsors, while remaining a relatively small producer in number of cars. Another thing that caught my eye in the National article was mention of the use of ball bearings. Regarding other makers at the time, the article states "friction of steel shafts running on brass bushing." I've wondered for some time why over 2% of Model K survived while most of the other large cars have a lower survival rate. One reason may be the wear and tear on most car makers crankshaft/main bearing and eventual failure due to broken crankshafts while Ford was using softer babbitt bearings? Just a thought....
Thanks Rob. I know most Rolls Royce automobiles of that time did approach the $15,000 cost before completion, and also suspect that the $15,000 car likely was the one Rolls. Hotchkiss also built very large and expensive cars by 1907, so it would also be a possibility. Hotchkiss was one of several companies word-wide building cars based upon Mercedes Benz designs (including Simplex in America). Those all tended to be very expensive. Darraque was also a very well known automobile world-wide, somewhat known for quality and reliability. However I think most of their really large models did not come about until about 1910 or later. The marque was plagued by financial troubles and mismanagement. I don't think anything they built by 1907 would have sold much over the European $5000 figure given in the article above. But I could be wrong about that.
One other consideration, however. Exactly when did Rolls Royce introduce the new Silver Ghost? June of 1907 could be a bit early for a chassis to be delivered and then fitted with a body? I googled Wikipedia to refresh my memories, take what they say with a grain of salt. My recollection is that the first Silver Ghost is the 1907 one and only true "Silver Ghost". Wiki says that construction began in 1906, but the first 40/50 hp models were shown to the press in March of '07. It actually seems unlikely that one could have been sold, shipped, and completed in time to be at a horse race in New York by June. Especially when most major custom coachwork took about six months to be completed (painting and upholstery alone usually took close to six months).
Wikipedia does say that Rolls Royce offered a 30hp six cylinder model in 1906. So this is likely to be the one at the races that day.
All fascinating stuff.
Slight side-step if I may. I read this yesterday and couldn't process it all. Interesting articles!
Ball bearing engine shafts and cam shafts? I wish I knew more about National's notions on ball bearing equipped engines. How far along was ball-bearing technology in 1906?
Cushman's "Roll'r" single cylinder engines, IH's McCormick-Deering/Farmall four cylinder engines, Kohler's smaller "K series" single cylinder engines and I'm sure there are others but the engine shaft has to be extra stout to put up with huge stresses if anything other than a single cylinder.
The 2 huge ball units in the IH engines sure do the job but that slow speed crankshaft is enormous.
But automobiles? Yikes. And the potential costs compared to regular friction bearings...
Hehehe! I'm prob'ly out in left field like usual tho! :-)
Thanks Rob! More little nuggets to cement your thinking about the Ford K's.
Speaking of Rolls Royce, a story was told last week of a fellow who broke an axle in his vintage Rolls a few years ago. He wrote to the factory to see if one could be obtained. Weeks later a representative arrived at his home with a spare axle and supervised a local shop in installing it.
Months went by without a bill from Rolls or the shop. A call to The factory resulted in a stern "Sir, you must be mistaken. Rolls Royce s do not break axles".
I was not there but enjoyed the story.
It may have been a little early for a Rolls 40-50 to show up, however, we can unpack a few things, and possibly identify the $15,000 car.
The term "Silver Ghost," as mentioned above, was initially attributed to one car painted silver that performed well at the Scottish and Irish trials in the spring of 1907. Ford Models N and K incidentally participated in both trials and equities themselves well:
However, as early as April 1907, at least one "Silver Ghost" was in the U.S.:
Mercedes may have been the $15,000 culprit (or Hotchkiss, or other marquee). The 1908 six cylinder Mercedes had a price tag of $17,000:
More neat stuff! Thank you Rob. One is never sure of "The Rest of the Story" from these clippings. The dates of the articles would indicate that the first six cylinder Mercedes was delivered too late to have been the car at the race track in June of '07, as its article says Mr J Brandt "last week purchased a six cylinder Mercedes" printed in Nov of '07. However, many such articles (even then) would be reprinted in various newspapers, sometimes without updating small details like "last week". They are close enough in time-frame to at least wonder if that could have been possible.
Another possibility is also that such cars sometimes were held by their importers/dealers for a short time while sales were being finalized. I have heard of those dealers using such cars to show them off to prospective clients during that "holding" period. So that could also explain the difference in the dates IF it were to be the Mercedes there.
Mr S B Stevens taking delivery of a 40-50 H P Rolls in April would seem to be early for a European built car introduced only a month earlier to the press in Europe. But it certainly is in a doable timeline.
Fun speculation. But at this time, I think I would bet on the 40/50 Rolls Royce being the $15,000 car.
Tight time-frame or not? It apparently was there in time. It was in New York. And the owner was into motor racing and the New York Motor Club. Both of which would indicate at least some interest in speed and racing, which likely would include horse racing.
Just fun speculation.
I believe Mercedes had a six prior to this 1908 model. The initial article reads that foreign six cylinder marquees at the races were Darraq, Hotchkiss and Rolls Royce. The RR may have been the earlier 30 hp model, or the new 40-50. The 30 hp was also pricey (I believe I saw an article for the chassis only in NY for about $7200). I'll have to find the price of the other foreign sixes. We may come up with one that matches the $15,000 value assigned by the author. Thank you for your well thought research and contributions.