The History of Ford

   

Henry Ford was 40 years old when he founded the Ford Motor Company, which would go on to become one of the world's largest and most profitable companies. As one of the largest family-controlled companies in the world, Ford has been in continuous family control for over 100 years.

After two unsuccessful attempts to establish a company to manufacture cars, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903 with Henry Ford as vice-president and chief engineer. The infant company produced only a few cars a day at the Ford factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. Groups of two or three men worked on each car from components made to order by other companies.

Henry Ford pioneered concepts of mass-production that are now taken for granted in today's world. He realized his dream of producing an car that was reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. This vehicle initiated a new era in personal transportation. It was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads, immediately becoming a huge success.

By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts. To meet the growing demand for the Model T, the company opened a large factory at Highland Park, Michigan, in 1910. Here, Henry Ford combined precision manufacturing, standardized and interchangeable parts, a division of labour, and, in 1913, a continuous moving assembly line. Workers remained in place, adding one component to each car as it moved past them on the line. Delivery of parts by conveyor belt to the workers was carefully timed to keep the assembly line moving smoothly and efficiently. The introduction of the moving assembly line revolutionized car production by significantly reducing assembly time per vehicle, thus lowering costs. Ford's production of Model Ts made his company the largest car manufacturer in the world.

Today, Ford Motor Company manufactures cars under several names including Lincoln and Mercury in the United States. In 1958, Ford introduced a new marque, the Edsel, but poor sales led to its discontinuation in 1960. Later, in 1985, the Merkur brand was introduced to market Fords from Europe in the United States; it met a similar fate in 1989.

Ford has major manufacturing operations in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, the People's Republic of China amongst others.

Initially, Ford Motor Company models sold outside the U.S. were essentially versions of those sold on the home market, but later on, models specific to Europe were developed and sold. Attempts to globalize the model line have often failed, but one recent exception is the European model of the Focus, which has sold strongly on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ford Europe has broken new ground with a number of relatively futuristic car launches over the last 50 years.

Its 1959 Anglia two-door saloon was one of the most quirky-looking small family cars in Europe at the time of its launch, but buyers soon became accustomed to its looks and it was hugely popular with British buyers in particular. It was still selling well when replaced by the more practical Escort in 1967.

The third incarnation of the Ford Escort was launched in 1980 and marked the company's move from rear-wheel drive saloons to front-wheel drive hatchbacks in the small family car sector. It also offered levels of style, comfort and refinement which were almost unmatched on comparable cars of this era.

The 1982 Ford Sierra - replacement for the long-running and massively popular Cortina and Taunus models - was a style-setter at the time of its launch. Its ultramodern aerodynamic design was a world away from a boxy, sharp-edged Cortina, and it was massively popular just about everywhere it was sold. A series of updates kept it looking relatively fresh until it was replaced by the front-wheel drive Mondeo at the start of 1993.

Ford sports cars have been visible in the world of sports car racing since 1964. Most notably the GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in the 1960s and is the only American car to ever win overall at this prestigious event.

Ford has a long history in rallying and has been active in the World Rally Championship since the beginning of the world championship, the 1973 season. Ford took the 1979 manufacturers' title with Hannu Mikkola, Bjorn Waldegard and Ari Vatanen driving the Ford Escort RS1800. In the Group B era, Ford achieved success with Ford RS200. Since the 1999 season, Ford has used various versions of the Ford Focus WRC to much success. In the 2006 season, BP-Ford World Rally Team secured Ford its second manufacturers' title, with the Focus RS WRC 06 built by M-Sport and successfully defended this in the 2007 season.

Ford was heavily involved in Formula One for many years, and supplied engines to a large number of teams from 1967 until 2004. Ford-badged engines won 176 Grands Prix between 1967 and 2003 for teams such as Team Lotus and McLaren.

The Ford Mustang has arguably been Ford's most successful sports car.

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