History of Ford

Lookers on the past and present of one of the most important car brands​

No car brand is as connected to its founder as the eponymous Ford Motor Company.

In the days before businessmen became presidents or were known for their TV appearances on shows such as Dragons Den, one man was leading the field. With many of his philosophies still resonating today, one of America's foremost industrialists, Henry Ford, became as well-known for his quotes as his cars.

In order to understand the brand, first let’s try and understand the man.

Who was Henry Ford?

Henry Ford was born on July 1863 at his family’s farm in Michigan, USA. From a very young age he was said to have been fascinated by the way things worked. When he was 13 years old his grandfather gave him a pocket watch which the young teenager ably took apart and reassembled. His flair for entrepreneurship and engineering was arguably cemented during this period and it was in a small work shop, which he had equipped himself, where he successfully constructed his first steam engine.


Henry Ford and the Model T
Henry standing next to the Model T

At the age of 16 Henry moved to Detroit (not yet the motoring hub of the US) to begin an apprenticeship as a machinist. After marrying Clara Ala Bryant in 1888 and in order to support his young family, the future Ford CEO ran a sawmill. By 1891 Henry had made another move – this time to work as an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. Ambitious Henry was promoted to Chief Engineer two years later, allowing him enough time and money to pursue his real passion – the development of an internal combustion engine.

Under the bonnet of the Ford Motor Company

The late 19th and early 20th century was a time of great invention and engineering activity. In Europe Karl Benz was credited with producing the first motor car in 1885 and many car brands that we recognise today started production. Renault launched the Voiturette in 1898, Fiat its 4 HP in 1899 and Peugeot the Serpollet-Peugeot in the same year.

Henry Ford himself constructed the Quadricycle in 1896 which he sold for $200. This car was a simple design with an ethanol-powered engine and four bicycle wheels mounted on the frame. Within the same year, he attended a meeting with Edison executives where he presented his automobile plans to Thomas Edison. The lighting innovator encouraged Ford to build a second, better model.

In 1903 the Ford Motor company was formally established and five years later the now iconic first Model T was made. Its introduction created something of a frenzy amongst early drivers looking to take to the roads. In order to meet the surge in demand for the revolutionary vehicle, Henry Ford developed never before seen mass-production methods, including large production plants, the use of common, interchangeable parts and, in 1913, the world’s first moving assembly line for cars. In the early part of the 20th century half of all automobiles produced were Ford’s.


1972 Ford Capri in Black
Ford Capri circa 1972
Red Ford Fiesta 1970's
Vintage Ford Fiesta
Ford vision of the future car
Ford vision of the future

The Ford Legacy

Henry Ford was born at a time of great technological development and using his natural combined instincts of engineering and business acumen not only to develop a globally recognised brand but also innovated new ways of working.

The assembly line has become the standard method of producing goods and works as efficiently today as it did over 100 years ago. Ford pioneered successful working practices which ensured workers were well paid and those who stayed with the company for more than six months were also rewarded with a share in the company’s profits.

Henry Ford also left us with some memorable quotes which wouldn’t be out of place on social media memes these days. If ever in search of some motivation try on one of these for size:

  • “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right.”
  • “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
  • “Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again.”
  • “You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
  • “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

Ford Today

Today Ford is one of the most recognisable and iconic motoring brands, employing around 200,000 people the world over.

With the same innovative thinking that Henry Ford used to launch this most famous of brands, the company has brought to market a wide range much loved and iconic vehicles. From the original Model T through to the V8 Pilot or even that 60’s classic, the Cortina.

With a trophy cabinet to match its reputation, recent awards have included “most innovative volume brand” “best hot hatch” for the Ford Fiesta ST-2 and “car of the year” for the ever popular Fiesta.

Originally founded in Manchester in 1908 by John Lookers – originally we sold bicycles, accessories and the occasional used car. Cleverly capitalising on the increase in demand for this emerging new technology Lookers began to establish relationships with key car manufacturers. Ford became a key partner – a relationship that still exists today.

So if you are looking for the latest Ford range, pop into your nearest Lookers Ford dealer.

By Tracey McBain