Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Model T Ford on Ben Nevis

Getting a Model T Ford up Ben Nevis was a formidable undertaking. Dudley Grierson got about two-thirds of the way up on an MMC-Werner motorcycle in 1901 but Henry Alexander, the Edinburgh Ford dealer, made it all the way in May 1911. Ford of Britain, celebrating its centenary this year, has just released a picture from its archives showing the car on a mountainside bridge. Alexander and his chums had to build some crossings over rocky screes and tumbling burns, and the car underwent a certain amount of dismantling. It had only minimal bodywork. Snow-chains were used but since a Model T weighed only 1200lb (544kg) manhandling was possible. I got as far up as Grierson once, on foot, on narrow steep pathways.
Easily assembled. Easily taken apart to ascend Ben Nevis The first British Ford assembled from imported parts was produced on 23 October 1911. Ford’s Irish factory supplied chassis items until Joseph Sankey, of Hadley Shropshire, could take over so by the 1920s Model Ts were made from home grown components. A moving production line came in September 1914. Assembly had been a stationary affair with axles and chassis laid out on the floor and building a Model T took 12 hours. Moving assembly tracks had been used elsewhere, but Ford waited until components could be made accurately enough to be interchangeable. Build time was cut to an hour and a half. The following year the flywheel magneto operated an electric lighting set, not altogether satisfactorily, since being dependent on engine speed, the lights grew dim when driving slowly. The Model T’s success was overwhelming. All other Fords were discontinued to try meeting the demand. A quarter of a million Model Ts came off the line at the new Detroit Highland Park plant; 3000 a year made Ford Britain’s biggest car maker. Historian Anthony Bird wrote: “To say of the Model T Ford that it was a remarkably bad car would be tantamount to doubting the judgement of the 15,007,033 satisfied customers who bought the Lizzie during her production life of 19 years. To placate their shades and turn aside the howls of angry derision which must greet the statement let it be rephrased, to say that Henry Ford, like Carl Benz before him, was an obstinate man whose undeniable ingenuity was tinged with perversity, with the result that his masterpiece was marred by some curiously maladroit features.”
From The Ford in Britain Centenary File: Available March

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