henry ford
Henry Ford's portrait from 1919. The American is responsible for inventing the first gas-powered automobile. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/United States Library of Congress

The history of the automobile is inextricably tied to American engineer Henry Ford.

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During the day, Ford worked as chief engineer for another famous inventor, Thomas Edison, at the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit, US. But at night, Ford had a project that he hoped would one day see the light of day – he was creating the first gasoline engine.

According to History.com, on Christmas eve, 1893, he successfully tested his engine with the help of his wife Clara, after he convinced her to take a break from Christmas cooking. The engine functioned for precisely 30 seconds, but Ford wasn’t disappointed – he knew he was on the right track.

Just three years later, Ford developed the Quadricycle, a self-propelled vehicle and his first attempt at a full-fledged automobile. And after two failed business ventures, he opened the Ford Motor Company in June 1903. Ford went on to produce eight car models, all of which had different aspects that all came together in his final, successful Model T, which was released in 1908. It was the first affordable automobile, selling for $850, and Ford intended on continuing to lower prices as his production increased.

He didn’t have to wait long – between 1913 and 1927, Ford factories produced more than 15 million Model Ts.

Model T
Model T Ford in 1917. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

When Ford wanted to get his cars covered in British newspapers, he usually engineered publicity stunts. In 1911, a Scottish car dealer who sold the Model T, challenged his son, Henry Alexander Jr., to drive one of Ford’s vehicles to the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 4,411 feet. If his son failed, he would lose his allowance.

Starting at nearby Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, Alexander Jr. drove the Model T over rocks, through snow and across bogs on a five-day journey. Using a zig-zag driving pattern, he successfully steered the Model T to the summit. Upon his descent, Alexander Jr. was met with cheers from hundreds of people. Word quickly spread and over 14,000 Model Ts were sold in the UK soon after.

Rest assured, that was the last time Ford ever had to resort to publicity stunts to sell his vehicles.

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