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There’s a bad mistake on the voice track for the video. I mistakenly said that Alexander Malcomson had a role in the development of the Model T assembly line. I confused Malcomson, one of Henry Ford’s partners who left the company in 1906 over Ford’s decision to concentrate on inexpensive cars, with Charles Sorensen, one of Ford’s production bosses. It was Clarence Avery, Peter Martin and Sorensen who developed the assembly line. Henry Ford was indomitable and he changed the world, but he was a crackpot six ways to Sunday. Ford Motor Company survived because of him, but it also survived despite Henry Ford. Fortunately Ford’s greatest talent was perhaps his ability to hire talented people who somehow managed to be creative while working under his thumb. The first car in this video, a 1912 Flanders 20 Roadster barn find is an example of the talent Ford hired. Walter Flanders was the general manager of Ford’s Piquette Ave. plant, and talented enough that he continued to operate a side business in production machinery with Henry Ford’s apparent consent. Flanders was the link between Ford and an earlier American industrialist, Isaac Singer. Flanders apprenticed as a machinist at the Singer Sewing Machine factory in Cleveland, Ohio. Singer was mass producing sewing machines decades before Ford started making automobiles. Ford would later follow Singer’s model of building factories overseas to build products for foreign markets. Flanders was responsible for streamlining the station assembly process at Piquette and undoubtedly had some role in the development of the Model T. He didn’t get along with Henry Ford, though, and quit a week before the Model T was first publicly announced.
After Ford, Flanders literally moved down the street on Piquette Avenue, where he was a principle in the E.M.F. car company which soon became a part of Studebaker. Also in this video is a Willys Overland and one of the first Dodge Brothers cars, which were introduced in 1914. The Dodge brothers had a critical role in the success of the Ford Motor Company. Almost all of the cars built at the Piquette plant were assembled from mechanical components supplied by the Dodges, in some cases complete rolling chassis minus wheels and bodies. The Dodges also became Henry’s partners when they got paid stock in lieu of cash. Eventually they tired of dealing with Ford and as talented engineers and machinists wanting to make a modern automobile, they were tired of the Model T. Automotive technology had improved by leaps and bounds between 1908 and 1914 but Henry Ford insisted that the Model T was all anybody would ever need or want. Billy Durant’s Chevrolet brand and the Dodge brothers proved him wrong. Next to the 1915 Dodge is a Hupmobile, the product of Robert Hupp, who also worked for Ford at the Piquette factory. Like the Dodges, Hupp wanted to sell a better car, unlike the Model T, Hupmobiles had modern sliding gear transmissions. The Model T would keep its primitive two speed planetary transmission until it went out of production. It’s said that some folks kept buying Model Ts, with their unusual controls, despite more modern cars being available, because it was the only one that they knew how to operate. A 1916 Studebaker is also on display, perhaps it was assembled in the former E.M.F. plant nearby. Studebaker did not really compete with Ford, they were definitely upmarket from the Model T.