The 1930s were full of fascinating experiments and exotic multicylinder Classics, but few cars of that era were more important or more influential than the humble Ford flathead V8. Cheap, pretty, and fast, it launched the American fascination with inexpensive V8 engines and spawned countless hot rods and customs. This week, we look at the 1932 Ford, its 1933–1940 successors, and the history of Ford’s famous flathead V8 — Henry Ford’s final triumph and the beginning of his downfall.
THE SELF-STYLED GENIUS OF HENRY FORD
Throughout his life, Henry Ford was a greater admirer of legendary inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Ford had worked for the Edison Illumination Company from 1891 to 1899, and Edison himself had encouraged Ford in the design of his first automobile. Ford and Edison later became friends, and Edison remained one of Ford’s greatest heroes throughout his life. In 1925, Ford even bought Edison’s former laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and had it painstakingly recreated in Dearborn, Michigan’s Greenfield Village.
Ford had much in common with his idol. Thomas Edison had what his one-time employee and long-time rival Nikolai Tesla described (in a scathing New York Times editorial written the day after Edison’s death) as a contemptuous disdain for the scientific method. Edison preferred experimentation to theory, relying on meagerly paid “muckers” to test and implement his ideas. Ford treated his engineering staff the same way; many Ford engineers had surprisingly little training, and their job was not to think, but to follow Ford’s orders. For all that, Edison was widely considered America’s foremost genius, and many people described Ford in similar terms.
By the mid-1920s, no one was more convinced of Henry Ford’s brilliance than Ford himself. His confidence was understandable: although raised as a poor farmer with little formal education, he had risen to become one of the world’s richest men. He had put America on wheels and he had revolutionized the science of mass production. John Dahlinger (who claimed to be Ford’s illegitimate son) told author David Halberstam that Ford once declared himself — not inaccurately — to be the author of the modern industrial age.
The consequence of Ford’s tremendous self-confidence was a growing isolation. He surrounded himself primarily with yes-men, and the only qualities he truly valued in his staff were loyalty and obedience. Many senior Ford employees had no formal titles or hierarchy; they were directly answerable to Henry Ford himself. Ford was above all an autocrat. He could occasionally be talked into something or tricked into changing his mind, but arguing with him was perilous. He was known to fire men just for seeming too bright or having too many ideas of their own. Even Edsel Ford, Henry’s only son, was not immune, sometimes suffering humiliating abuse for daring to voice an opinion his father didn’t like.
It is often said that Henry Ford resisted innovation. He was stubbornly opposed to four-wheel brakes, and later to hydraulic brakes. He clung to beam axles on transverse leaf springs long after most of the industry had adopted independent front suspension. He hated sliding-gear transmissions — in fact, he did not learn to use one until the late twenties — and he introduced a conventional gearbox on the Model A only under great duress. While he often justified such recalcitrance in terms that sounded conservative, we think Ford was not so much afraid of innovation as he was unwilling to follow anyone else’s lead. The reason Ford clung to the Model T’s odd planetary gearbox, for example, is that he hoped to introduce a self-shifting planetary transmission that would have allowed him to leapfrog all rivals. In his own mind, Ford was a genius, and geniuses did not follow the crowd.
FORD’S RADICAL X-8
In the early twenties, Henry Ford’s great dream was to develop a radical new car to replace the elderly Model T, which was dangerously close to outliving its usefulness. The planned “X-car” was to be powered by an eight-cylinder radial engine, an X-8. Ford worked extensively on this design from 1922 to 1926, but it never worked satisfactorily; while air-cooled radials were common on aircraft until after World War II, the configuration posed insurmountable cooling and oiling problems for cars.
Ford was not easily dissuaded, but in 1926, he finally admittedly that the X-8 was a lost cause. Later that year, he reluctantly approved the creation of an interim four-cylinder replacement for the Model T, which became the Model A.
Ford hadn’t give up on the idea of a low-priced eight, however, and in 1928, he ordered engineer C. James Smith to start work on a V8 engine. That project took on a new urgency a year later, when Chevrolet introduced its first six-cylinder engine. Edsel Ford and production boss Charlie Sorenson both pushed strongly for Ford to introduce its own six, but Henry resisted. He grudgingly authorized some preliminary development work on an inline six, but the project’s main purpose was to validate his disdain for that configuration; he was not interested in it succeeding. Ford would have a V8 or nothing.
THE BIRTH OF THE FORD FLATHEAD V8
Despite his determination, Ford knew surprisingly little about V8 engines. In 1929, he ordered engineer Fred Thoms to acquire as many used eight-cylinder engines as he could find with the purpose of taking them apart and studying their designs.
V8s were not terribly common in the late twenties and early thirties. Cadillac, of course, had used V8 engines since before World War I, Lincoln used them, Chevrolet had briefly had one in the immediate postwar years, but most automakers preferred inline sixes and straight eights. Making a V8 run smoothly required a 90-degree vee angle and a 90-degree crankshaft with a counterweight on each throw, which was complicated and expensive. In the late twenties, GM tried V8s with flat-plane crankshafts for Viking (Oldsmobile’s short-lived companion make), Oakland, and Pontiac, but the resultant engines were rough and unrefined, multiplying the shake of an inline four-cylinder engine rather than reducing it. Furthermore, casting the cylinder block of a vee engine as a single piece strained the manufacturing technology of the time. Most contemporary vee engine blocks were cast in three or four pieces and bolted together, making them even more expensive to manufacture and assemble. Developing a workable V8 for a low-cost, mass-production car was a challenging proposition.
Henry Ford did not make it any easier. Including Jimmy Smith’s early work, Ford eventually had four different teams working on the V8, all under his personal supervision. Each team worked in secrecy, largely unaware of each other’s efforts. Each was micromanaged by Ford himself, who often complicated the engineers’ work with his arbitrary and sometimes irrational whims.
The initial Smith engine did not work out well, mostly because Henry Ford resolutely refused to allow the use of a water pump. In May 1930, Ford assigned Arnold Soth to start a completely new design, a 299 cu. in. (4.9 L) engine with a 60-degree bank angle. This had balance problems and its lubrication proved to be a disaster, this time because Ford demanded that it run without an oil pump. Engineer Gene Farkas took it upon himself to design a suitable pump, which earned him a withering rebuke and nearly cost him his job. (Ford eventually accepted the necessity of pressurized lubrication.)
By November, Ford abandoned Soth’s engine and ordered Carl Schultz, Ray Laird, and Fred Thoms to start work on what became the production V8. Schultz, like many Ford engineers, had very little formal training in engine design. All the concepts came from Henry Ford himself. Ford dictated every detail, often treating his engineers as little more than draftsmen.
The development process was driven more by trial and error than systematic planning. The engineers worked from sketches, rather than proper engineering drawings (mostly because Henry Ford could barely read engineering drawings) and they machined most of the parts themselves. They worked seven days a week, taking turns sleeping on the floor as they struggled to accommodate Ford’s sometimes-impossible directives.
Schultz, Laird, and Thoms finally produced two prototype engines, one of 299 cu. in. (4.9 L) displacement and the other 233 cu. in. (3.8 L). Both were 90-degree V8s with three main bearings. Like many contemporary American engines, they used an L-head, or flathead, layout with both intake and exhaust valves in the block. The block was cast as a single piece, an operation that initially proved extremely troublesome; the scrap rate for early castings was nearly 50%.
The V8 had a number of peculiar design quirks, most of them imposed by Ford himself. The exhaust was routed through the block to outboard exhaust manifolds, which made for tidy packaging and quick engine warm-up in winter, but contributed to persistent overheating problems. The cooling system had no thermostat and the dual water pumps were fitted to the top of the block, where they attempted to suck hot water out of the engine rather than pumping in cold water. The distributor, with an unusual integral ignition coil designed by Emil Zoerlein to Ford’s specifications, was similarly troublesome, requiring the distributor to be completely removed for service. Ford also vetoed a dual-plane intake manifold, insisting on a simpler single-plane design that could not provide an even mixture to all cylinders. Such oddities were a product of Ford’s blind faith in his own instincts, which was not always justified.
The bigger engine was eventually discarded, and Schultz and Laird de-bored the smaller V8 to 221 cu. in. (3,622 cc), mostly to allow more mass between the cylinder bores. Laird subsequently devised an even smaller version of 136 cu. in. (2,227 cc) displacement, which debuted in England in 1935 and in the U.S. two years later. Henry Ford committed to production of the new engines in December 1931.
Testing was even more haphazard than development. Supervision of road testing was usually assigned to Ray Dahlinger, whose main occupation was managing Ford’s family farms. From a scientific standpoint, the tests had little practical value. The engineers complained that the road tests rarely provided any detailed or cogent information; even obtaining accurate fuel consumption figures was difficult. Dahlinger’s testers were often brutal, subjecting cars and parts to terrible abuse, but just because a part didn’t break didn’t necessarily mean it worked well. Henry Ford was unconcerned; to him, the testing process was a series of yes or no questions.
Just as frustrating for Ford employees was their boss’s capricious attitude toward secrecy. Ford was so worried that someone would leak information about the new engines that he barely allowed his engineers to talk to each other about their work. He nearly fired sales manager Fred L. Rockelman over a rumor that Rockelman had told Walter Chrysler about the V8. Not long afterward, however, Ford himself proudly showed the prototype engines to GM president Alfred P. Sloan.
THE 1932 FORD MODEL 18 AND MODEL B
By the fall of 1931, rumors about the new engine were flying. Very few observers believed that the V8 was intended for Ford’s low-priced cars, presuming instead that Ford was going to introduce a new middle-class car to bridge the gap between Ford and Lincoln. That would have been a logical move — indeed, Edsel Ford had encouraged his father to do exactly that — but the elder Ford had never had much interest in expensive cars. Lincoln, which Ford had purchased in 1922, had always been more Edsel’s domain than his father’s. Henry Ford had always believed the car of the future was one that farmers and working men could afford.
Ford’s first public acknowledgment of the new eight was an interview with Detroit News reporter James Sweinhart in February 1932, less than two months before the V8 went on sale. Henry Ford told Sweinhart that Ford shortly would introduce a new low-priced car with a choice of four- or eight-cylinder engines. The news shook the industry and did wonders for the morale of Ford dealers. Production of the Model A had ended in November 1931, but the new cars didn’t arrive until nearly six months later, leaving many dealers with no cars to sell. (The four-cylinder Model B could have been available sooner, but however concerned Ford might have been about the plight of his dealers, he was not about to dilute the impact of the V8 by introducing an identical-looking four-cylinder model beforehand.)
Although Chevrolet had overtaken Ford in total sales in 1931, Ford still had many loyal customers and the prospects of an inexpensive eight undoubtedly drew many conquest sales. Ford dealers had 75,000 orders by March 5 and 100,000 more by month’s end. When the new cars made their public debut on March 31, more than 5 million people swarmed Ford showrooms to see them.
The new Fords made a strong impression. For one, they were rather pretty, with styling reminiscent of the big Lincoln; we’ll have more to say about that point shortly. They also had a number of welcome new features, including automatic spark advance and a new transmission with synchronized second and third gears. One important safety improvement was the abandonment of the Model A’s cowl-mounted, gravity-feed fuel tank, which many states had rightly deemed a hazard.
The main attraction, however, was the new engines. The cheaper Model B had a much-improved version of the Model A’s familiar 201 cu. in. (3,285 cc) four rated at 50 hp (37 kW). The Model 18, meanwhile, had the V8 with an advertised 65 hp (49 kW).
As was customary for Ford, the new cars were still very affordable; in fact, the cheapest Model B roadster was actually $20 less than the equivalent Model A. The V8 cost $50 more than the B, model for model. In price, the Fords bracketed the contemporary Chevrolet, and undercut the four-cylinder Plymouth by almost $100. If that sounds trivial today, in modern dollars, it represents a difference of almost $1,500.
The four-cylinder Model B was anemic compared to its Chevrolet and Plymouth rivals, but the Model 18 was another matter. The flathead V8 was not dramatically more powerful than Chevy’s 194 cu. in. (3,184 cc) six (with 60 hp/45 kW) or Plymouth’s 196 cu. in. (3,213 cc) four (with 65 hp/49 kW), but V8 Fords were up to 280 lb (127 kg) lighter than either competitor with a significantly better power-to-weight ratio. Britain’s The Autocar found that a V8 Ford cabriolet could reach a top speed of nearly 80 mph (128 km/h), brisk business for an inexpensive car of the time. The Ford was nimble, too, although it was not particularly quiet or smooth.
Despite its sub-par acceleration, the Model B accounted for nearly 76,000 sales in 1932 compared to more than 179,000 V8s. While the V8 was clearly the more popular of the two engines, its early production problems meant that there initially very few to go around. When the Model 18 went on sale on April 2, Ford had not yet built enough V8s to provide each of its dealers with a display model. Furthermore, while the V8’s $50 price premium was eminently reasonable, it was still a lot of money for working-class buyers in the depths of the Great Depression, particularly for a completely new and untried engine.
FLATHEAD TEETHING PAINS
If buyers were wary of the new V8, they had ample reason to be. Rushing an entirely new engine into mass production in only 16 months would have been daring even if the development and testing process hadn’t been so cavalier. In a taped interview with Owen Bombard in the early fifties, engineer Larry Sheldrick lamented that Ford had basically used its customers to do the testing that should have been done by the factory.
The early V8’s problems were extensive. Block cracking was common, and piston failure became almost routine. Oil consumption was often massive; one quart every 50 miles (76 km/liter) was not unusual. The fuel pump was prone to vapor lock in the summer and freezing in the winter. Overheating was a constant issue, particularly on the more heavily stressed commercial models.
Some, although by no means all, of these problems were rectified in the first year or two of production. Charlie Sorenson developed new casting methods that alleviated the block-cracking problems, while Henry Ford eventually relented on a few of his less-successful design demands, including the single-plane intake manifold and, by 1937, the high-mounted water pumps. Some problems were resolved by Ford suppliers, whom Ford persuaded to do a substantial amount of detail engineering.
By 1934, the V8, now sporting aluminum cylinder head with a higher compression ratio, was a reasonably trustworthy engine, although it was always more troublesome than the older four. Ford continued to make running changes to the flathead throughout its lifetime, usually though not always for the better.
The teething pains did not affect the V8’s popularity, which took off quickly once the early production delays had been resolved. Sales of the Model B tapered off quickly after 1932, and Ford dropped it entirely in March 1934. Ford sold its three millionth V8 in 1936. The seven millionth example came off the line in June 1940.
THE BANK ROBBER’S CHOICE
Ford brochures claimed that the new V8 set a new standard for performance in mass market cars and that became even more true as Ford began to address the engine’s early problems. Along with greater reliability, the engineers found more power: 75 hp (56 kW) in 1933, 85 hp (63 kW) thereafter. (For some reason we’ve never understood, Ford claimed 90 hp (67 kW) in 1936, but returned to the 85 hp rating the following year.) While Ford never had a vast advantage over Chevrolet and Plymouth in rated horsepower, it was consistently the quickest member of the “Low-Priced Three.”
Even in stock form, V8 Fords quickly found favor with performance-minded customers. The notorious bank robber John Dillinger preferred Fords for fast getaways, although a telegram he supposedly sent to Henry Ford, boasting that he could make any other car eat a Ford’s dust, was apparently a hoax. Hot rodders were even more enthusiastic. People had hopped up Model Ts and Model As, mostly because they were cheap and readily available, but the V8 provided a much better foundation. For a modest investment of time and money, the flathead Ford could be made to produce substantially more than its rated output. By the late thirties, there was a growing cottage industry churning out performance parts for Ford V8s, ranging from camshafts and intake manifolds to more exotic modifications, like the overhead-valve “Ardun” heads developed by future Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov. Ford’s smaller 136 cu. in. (2,227 cc) V8-60, added in 1937, had fans of its own. Although it was underpowered in stock form, it later became very popular in midget racing.
The flathead’s popularity only increased after the war. With buyers clamoring for new cars, a decent-running prewar V8 Ford could be had for as little as $15, part of the reason it became so ubiquitous in the postwar hot rod and custom scene.
In a later era, Ford Motor Company would certainly have promoted this sporty image, but Henry Ford was never interested in marketing or promotions, leaving advertising decisions to Edsel. While Ford ads of the thirties made decorous mention of the V8’s brisk pickup, they were just as likely to emphasize practicality, urbane road manners, or chic styling.
THE LION IN WINTER: HENRY FORD’S DECLINING YEARS
Even with the V8, it took Ford until 1934 to pull even with Chevrolet in sales and until 1935 to regain the number-one slot. Although Ford remained America’s best-selling automotive nameplate until 1938, the margin was often narrow and Ford didn’t regain the top slot again until after the war.
Ironically, Ford’s greatest commercial strengths during this period were in areas Henry Ford either hadn’t considered, like performance, or didn’t care about, like styling. The V8 had been his last great accomplishment; Ford had lost touch with the market he once commanded.
Henry grew even more intransigent as he approached his 75th birthday in 1938 and there were signs that his stubbornness was becoming dementia. Although he finally consented to the use of hydraulic brakes, he wasted years on an abortive five-cylinder engine rather than the six Edsel still insisted they needed. Edsel eventually ordered Larry Sheldrick to design a six-cylinder engine, but the elder Ford insisted on developing a competing overhead-cam design, perhaps still looking for something to reaffirm his engineering prowess. The OHC engine was a failure and Sheldrick’s six went into production in 1941, replacing the smaller V8. Henry never forgot what he saw as Sheldrick’s treachery. Sheldrick was fired in the fall of 1943 after Henry discovered that he and Edsel had discussed ideas for postwar car designs with Henry Ford II, Henry’s grandson, without Henry’s permission.
Late in his life, Henry Ford became increasingly dependent on security chief Harry Bennett, who had been Ford’s strong-arm man and union buster since 1917. Bennett fed his boss’s paranoia for his own benefit, taking it upon himself to protect the old man from all enemies, real or imagined — a category that conveniently included anyone who threatened Bennett’s power or position. Henry gave Bennett enormous latitude, even allowing him to bully Edsel, whose health was increasingly poor.
Edsel had suffered for years from recurring stomach ulcers and in 1942 was diagnosed with stomach cancer. His condition deteriorated rapidly, exacerbated by a bout of undulant fever, allegedly contracted after drinking unpasteurized milk from one of the family’s farms. He died on May 26, 1943, at the age of 49. Upon his death, his father resumed the role of president, the position Edsel had held since 1919. A week later, he appointed Harry Bennett to the board of directors.
Although Henry Ford hated Franklin Roosevelt and had little enthusiasm for the war, the Ford Motor Company was one of America’s largest wartime contractors. One-time Ford executive William “Big Bill” Knudsen, who headed the Roosevelt administration’s National Defense Advisory Commission, had dealt primarily with Edsel and was uneasy about the ramifications of Edsel’s death. Aside from Henry’s possible dementia, he was almost 80 years old. If he died or became incapacitated, it was possible that Ford Motor Company would collapse, which would be strategically disastrous, or that control would fall to Harry Bennett, which Knudsen did not consider a palatable alternative.
Eleanor Clay Ford, Edsel’s widow, and Clara Ford, Henry’s wife, did not like that idea any more than Knudsen did. In August 1943, they arranged for Henry Ford II, Edsel’s eldest son, to be released from the Navy. In December, the younger Henry officially became a Ford vice president.
The intention was for Henry Ford II, then only 26 years old, to become his grandfather’s apprentice. The younger Henry had some allies, including sales chief John Davis, but Harry Bennett and Charlie Sorenson made every effort to shut him out, constantly attacking and belittling him the way they had his father. Henry’s grandfather offered little help. By then, his trust in Bennett was unwavering, although Bennett succeeded in turning him against Sorenson, who was forced to retire in 1944.
According to author David Halberstam, Eleanor finally decided that she had had enough. She had watched her husband destroyed because he was too loyal to stand up to his father and she was not about to watch the same thing happen to her son. In the summer of 1945, Eleanor and Clara Ford presented the elder Henry with an ultimatum: If he did not step down in favor of his grandson and allow Henry to remove Harry Bennett, they would sell all their Ford stock, which amounted to about 45% of the company’s total shares. The old man was furious, but he recognized that he was beaten. He announced his resignation and named Henry Ford II as his successor; Henry II wasted little time in removing Harry Bennett. (In the younger Henry’s later account, he downplayed the role of his mother and grandmother, saying his ascension was more the result of a careful and difficult effort he and a handful of allies had made to isolate and eventually oust Bennett and his cronies.)
Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947. He had left his grandson a company in ruins, losing some $10 million a month. Henry Ford II, realizing that the magnitude of the crisis was beyond his ability, recruited former Bendix executive Ernest R. Breech as his executive vice president and de facto regent. Ford subsequently hired a host of former GM executives and designers as well as a group of bright young ex-military officers known as the Whiz Kids. They spent the next decade setting the corporation on a more orthodox, fiscally responsible, conservative course.
FORD AFTER FORD
Bob Gregorie did not last long at Ford after the death of his patron; he was fired in late 1943. In 1944, he returned at the request of Henry Ford II, but they never established the same kind of congenial working relationship that Gregorie had had with Edsel. Henry Ford and Ernie Breech were uncomfortable with Gregorie’s postwar designs and his tenure was short. He resigned in December 1946 and moved to Florida, where he became a yacht designer; his final Ford designs were the 1949 Mercury and Lincoln.
The small V8-60 disappeared from American Fords after 1940, but it continued to be used by Ford’s European subsidiaries. In 1954, Ford sold its French operation to Simca, which continued to manufacture the 136 cu. in. (2,227 cc) V8 until 1960.
The bigger flathead V8 remained Ford’s mainstay well into the 1950s. From 1948, there was also a bigger, 337 cu. in. (5,518 cc) truck version, also used in 1949-1951 Lincolns. American production of the flathead ended in 1953, although Ford Australia and Ford Canada continued to produce it for an additional year. As with the small V8, Ford subsequently licensed the flathead engine to Simca, which built beefed-up versions for military trucks until the early 1990s.
Even today, there remains a thriving business in flathead Ford hop-up parts, but Ford’s subsequent OHV V8s never developed the same loyal following. In 1955, the new Chevy V8 captured the fancy of the hot rodder crowd, a market Ford didn’t really reclaim until the 5.0 L Fox Mustangs of nearly 30 years later.
The reign of Henry Ford II, who retired in 1980 and died in 1987, was in many respects the diametric opposite of his grandfather’s era. Under Henry II, Ford emphasized all the values Henry I had disdained, like marketing and financial controls; the company was fiscally responsible to a fault. The consequence, however, was the loss of most of the previous era’s strengths. For all the company’s newfound ability in product development, it rarely innovated in either styling or engineering. Its specialty models, like the Thunderbird and Mustang, were attractive, but the styling of Ford’s bread-and-butter products was generally staid. Ford was good with little details, like double-sided keys and clever two-way tailgates for station wagons, but there were no more great leaps like the flathead V8. In technology, Ford no longer invented, it refined; it no longer led, it followed.
The tragedy of Henry Ford (and we are inclined to look at it as a sort of Greek tragedy) is that in some ways, he was a genius. He was hardly a great human being — by many accounts cruel and sometimes sadistic, an anti-Semite and a bully — but many of his ideas about manufacturing and low-cost transportation were legitimately revolutionary. The problem was that he was not the kind of genius he thought he was; he was not Thomas Edison. The more he became convinced that he was, the more he blinded himself to his actual talents. The cost was substantial: He undermined his own son, almost did the same to his grandson, and came perilously close to ruining the company he had worked so hard to build.
It’s tempting to wonder what might have happened if Ford had cultivated his staff and his son as allies rather than treating them as servants, if he had not retreated into paranoid, self-justifying insularity. Some of his wilder ideas might well have worked even if he himself didn’t know how to make them work. Certainly, the fortunes of the Ford Motor Company would have been very different and perhaps American business would have taken a different course, as well. Instead, Detroit — and eventually the rest of the business world — decided it had had enough of the stubborn engineers and contrarian entrepreneurs who’d built the auto industry, retreating to the comforting predictability and more manageable ambitions of accountants and finance men.
While we can’t admire Henry Ford, we’re inclined to think that the world needs visionaries, people who are willing to swim against the tide and create new paradigms. Sadly, the modern world has little place and less patience for such dreamers and we think the excesses and irrationality of men like Henry Ford had something to do with that. His achievements were inarguably great, but the shadow cast by his failures has proven long indeed.
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NOTES ON SOURCES
Nikolai Tesla’s withering comments about Thomas Edison came from “Tesla Says Edison Was an Empiricist; Electrical Technician Declares Persistent Trials Attested Inventor’s Vigor. ‘His Method Inefficient’ A Little Theory Would Have Saved Him 90% of Labor, Ex-Aide Asserts — Praises His Great Genius,” New York Times 19 October 1931, www.nytimes. com, accessed 26 October 2009.
Our account of Henry Ford’s life, including his declining years, comes primarily from David Halberstam, The Reckoning (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1986) and Douglas Brinkley, Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress (New York: Viking Press, 2003). Our principal sources on the development of the flathead V8 were Michael Lamm’s articles “Model A: The Birth of Ford’s Interim Car,” Special Interest Autos #18 (August-October 1973), and “Henry Ford’s Last Mechanical Triumph,” Special Interest Autos #21 (March-April 1974), both of which are reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Prewar Fords: driveReports from Special Interest Autos Magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2001). Those articles were in turn based on tape-recorded interviews with engineers Gene Farkas, Fred Thoms, and Larry Sheldrick, conducted by Owen Bombard of the Ford Archives between 1951 and 1958. Additional information on the development of the flathead came from “The Life Cycle of the Ford Flathead V8: 1932-1953,” 35Pickup, May 2002, www.35pickup. com, accessed 26 October 2009) and “SF Flatheads: History,” SF Flatheads, n.d., www.sfflatheads.com, accessed 26 October 2009).
Information on the Model B Ford came from Arch Brown, “1932 Model B Ford: Son of Model A,” Special Interest Autos #130 (July-August 1992), which is also reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Prewar Fords.
Information about Eugene (Bob) Gregorie, Edsel Ford, and the foundation of Ford’s in-house design studio are from Gregorie’s 1985 interview with Dave Crippen (David R. Crippen, “Reminiscences of Eugene T. Gregorie,” 4 February 1985, Automotive Design Oral History Project, Accession 1673, Benson Ford Research Center, www.autolife. umd.umich. edu/ Design/Gregorie_interview.htm (transcript), accessed 25 October 2009; and Dave Holls and Michael Lamm, “Chapter 8: Edsel’s Plaything,” A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design (Stockton, CA: Lamm-Morada Publishing Co. Inc., 1997).
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