Before the Model T: Henry Ford’s Letter Cars

At this year’s Old Car Festival (our 63rd offering), we’ll continue to celebrate Henry Ford’s 150th birthday by bringing together examples of all of the pre-Model T Fords, known as the letter cars. From the Model A to the Model T, these cars helped revolutionize the car industry. Which cars can you expect to see in Greenfield Village this weekend?

"Evolution of the Ford Car," 1949 (Object ID: P.O.7085).

“Evolution of the Ford Car,” 1949 (Object ID: P.O.7085).

1905 Ford Model B Touring Car from the Collections of The Henry Ford (Object ID: 00.136.121).

1905 Ford Model B Touring Car

The rarest of these cars is the Model B. It was Ford’s first front-engine car and first four-cylinder model. It was also quite expensive ($2000) and sold poorly. Consequently, only seven complete examples are known to survive today. The Model B at Old Car Festival will be the museum’s own, coming off of the floor to make this special gathering complete.

1907 Ford Model K Touring Car  from the Collections of The Henry Ford

1907 Ford Model K Touring Car (Object ID: 00.3.2425).

Also of note is the Ford Model K. It has its place in the Ford story as the expensive ($2500) six-cylinder car that Henry Ford didn’t like. He was thinking seriously of his “car for the masses” when the K was introduced, and the Model K led directly to a split with his original backer Alexander Malcomson. Malcomson wanted to build big, expensive cars which generated big profits per unit sold, while Ford wanted to build inexpensive cars and make the profit up in volume. Interestingly, Ford Motor Company would not produce another six-cylinder car until 1941.

1906 Ford Model N Runabout (Object ID: 85.115.1).

1906 Ford Model N Runabout (Object ID: 85.115.1).

Finally, the Model N deserves some attention. Many people don’t realize that Ford Motor Company was a great success even before the Model T. The N, introduced in 1906, was the best-selling car in the United States with more  than 7000 produced. Reliable and inexpensive ($500), it was very much a proto-Model T.

Henry Ford and the Model A

During an anniversary celebration in 1933, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford posed for this commemorative photograph in a 1903 Model A — the first automobile produced and sold by his fledgling company thirty years earlier (Object ID: P.189.10644).

In addition to showcasing the letter cars this year, we’ll also be running four additional historically significant vehicles, with replicas of two (the Quadricycle and Sweepstakes) built by Henry himself.

We’ll be open late Saturday night for car enthusiasts to enjoy exploring Greenfield Village looking for some of their favorite classic cars in the gaslight parade as they enjoy the sounds of The Hotel Savarine Society Orchestra. Which car will you be looking for? Share your favorites online us by tagging your content with #GVOldCarFest.

vintage-car-journalFeel like taking the spirit of Old Car Festival home with you? Can’t make it out to Greenfield Village? Not to worry. Take a look at our OnWheels online shopping destination on our website. Here are some of our favorites:

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