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Subject: June 4, 1896
Date: Sat, 4 Jun 2005 08:40:27 EDT


June 4

1896 Ford's Quadricycle
At approximately 1:30 a.m., Henry Ford test-drove his Quadricycle, the first
automobile he ever designed or drove. Ford was working at the Edison
Illuminating Company in Detroit at the time that he began building the Quadricycle.
He had reportedly seen an article on the gasoline engine in American
Machinist while in the company of friend and fellow engineer, Charles King. In King's
recollection Ford claimed, "I want to build one of these." Ford employed the
help of his friends in the Detroit engineering community to build an
internal combustion engine on his kitchen table. It's important to note to what
extent Ford was a visionary and an organizer. He was an engineer, of course, but
he didn't by any means accomplish his engineering feats alone. Men like King,
along with a whole slew of other engineers, volunteered their time to Ford's
projects. King provided Ford with a whole crew of workers who worked in the
makeshift machine shop Ford had constructed in his garage behind his Bagley
Avenue residence in Detroit. Ford even convinced his neighbor, Felix Julian,
to donate his half of the shed to the cause. King was building his own vehicle
at the time, and actually preempted Ford in testing the horseless carriage
in March of 1896. Ford followed King's carriage's test run on his bicycle.
Ford did make one major innovation in building his first vehicle: he decided not
to attach an engine to an existing carriage, but rather to construct a
four-wheel body based on the principles of bicycle manufacturing. Ford completed
his "Quadricycle" early in the morning on this day in 1896. He couldn't wait
to test the invention. Only one of his associates, Jim Bishop, was present at
the time of the vehicle's completion. In all of his enthusiasm in getting the
car together, Ford failed to consider that his contraption was wider than
the doors of the shed in which he built it. He and Bishop set upon the door and
adjacent walls with axes in order to hack an entrance sufficient for the
Quadricycle. The 500-pound, two-cylinder vehicle came to life in the alley
behind Ford's house. Ford drove it down Bagley Avenue to Grand River Avenue, to
Washington Boulevard, when the Quadricycle stopped. Bishop and Ford pushed the
automobile to the Edison plant, where they replaced a nut and spring that had
come loose. The next month, Henry drove his vehicle to his father's farm to
show it off. His father apparently walked around it cautiously. Later he
expressed his doubts to one of his neighbors: "John and William (Henry's brothers)
are all right, but Henry worries me. He doesn't seem to settle down, and I
don't know what's going to become of him." Maybe he'll become the most
powerful citizen in the country!


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