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Ford & Firestone history?


Guest Marideth
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Guest Marideth

That's what I thought... Ford didn't like to be tied down/be completely dependent on any one company.

Can anyone give me specifics or lead me to a source I can use, please? My son wrote a paper on Firestone and his teacher docked him points because of this. The two companies/men had a close relationship, but not to the point of marriage. (They left that to their grandkids...)

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Guest Marideth

Wayne, I will absolutely politely inform her that her four "corrections" of my son's paper were all, um, "misguided/misinformed"! Future students must learn the truth! :D

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Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford were actually quite good friends, and together with Thomas Edison and presidents Coolidge and Harding, would often go "camping". Of course, their idea of camping was to travel with an army of helpers, and there are amusing photos of the men, suits, ties, and all, sitting out in the Michigan wilderness somewhere, "roughing it."

Fords used predominantly Firestone tires in the early years, but certainly not exclusively. Some clubs will dock points for using a non-authentic brand, but that's often a tough call to make, since if there was a shortage of a particular tire, the automaker would go elsewhere to keep the assembly line moving. So while Firestones were often associated with Ford, they were far from the exclusive supplier (and vice-versa: Firestone supplied to anyone/everyone).

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Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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I once saw a picture, reproduced in one of the Model A club magazines, of a Model A going down the assembly line with one brand of tire on the rear-mounted spare and another on the right rear wheel. I think one was a Firestone and the other was a U.S.Royal. It would be worth a post on one or both Model A web sites to try to get that picture. The teacher wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

Gil Fitzhugh, Morristown, NJ

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Here is a picture taken of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison & John Burroughs (Re-enactors) camping at Swallow Falls on Muddy Creek in 2011 for the 66th AAA Revival Glidden Tour. They brought two Model T Fords down for the one time re-inactment. Even the Maryland State Park Rangers were in period dress.

The re-enactors stayed in character and answered questions, but nobody asked the one about exclusive use of Firestone tires. It was a special treat for the Gliddenites to walk down to the falls and see the early encampment. Swallow Falls were nice too (About 100 feet away)

A nice Glidden Tour hosted by the Queen City Region of AACA. (The Queen City is Cumberland, MD)

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Guest billybird

It is my understanding Ford made some of their own tires. Ford script wide whitewalls and Ford script blackwalls. I know the Early Ford V-8 Club only recognizes Firestone or Ford script on some early V-8 Fords. I have Ford script blackwalls on mine. If anyone else ever made these tires for Ford I've never read about it. You can't believe everything you read in every book. My kids have came home from school with bogus info that I proved wrong before. It seems that since we entered the "information age" this happens more frequently. I also remember Mustangs in the showroom in the late 60"s equipped with Goodyear Polyglass raised white letter tires.

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From what I remember reading decades ago, when I was more inquisitive of anything "Ford", Henry and Harvey were indeed good friends and such (as Matt's documented above). Ford also went so far as to have their own rubber plantation in South America so they'd have a supply of rubber (including tires with Ford script, tread or sidewall) for their assembly lines. This gave Ford a dedicated supply line, which also could be oriented toward being self-sufficient.

I rather suspect that Firestone was the dominant tire supplier for Ford automobiles back then, just as they typically were well into the 1970s. But, as also noted, if there was a supply hiccup, they would fill the gaps with other brands of tires to keep the lines moving.

Such alliances between tire manufacturers and automobile manufacturers is not unusual. Ford had Firestone, GM had U.S. Royal (later UniRoyal), and Chrysler had Goodyear. BFGoodrich also had some OEM-spec tires, which usually were on Fords and a few GMs back then. BFG had their Silvertown Radial 990 along about 1967, with the disguised state trooper with his testimonial about how good the new BFG radials handled. I went to a national meet for the Tri-Five Chevy club and every '57 Chevy there had the repro Firestones on them, except one which had repro BFG Silvertowns.

Ford started offering Michelin X radials on many full-size cars in the 1969 model year. Select GM cars had radials a few years earlier, usually USRoyals. Chrysler didn't jump into radials until about 1972 (their unibodies were more sensitive to certain frequencies which radials tended to amplify at lower speeds, it was claimed, but bias-belted tires worked fine on their vehicles; additional suspension "tuning" was in place for the 1972+ vehicles).

There were many ways in which Henry Ford was an innovator of many things. Allowing his workers to make enough to be able to afford the products they built (in the early days . . . the "$5.00/day wage") proved many financial wizzzards of the day wrong as the financial impact from such a move was highly positive for the company's profits. Alliances with Edison and Firestone were just some of his forward-thinking orientations, for the time. But Fordlandia was NOT one of his best ideas.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, From TEXAS!

NTX5467

Edited by NTX5467 (see edit history)
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In the 1928-1931 Model A era, Firestone and Goodyear would be the primary, if not only, supplier of Tires for Ford. From my limited reading, I know that the Ford Rubber production venture was an absolute failure. Ford failed to understand the different approach needed to deal with the different culture of that part of the world.

Did the Fordlandia venture ever succeed in producing tires?

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According to Wikipedia, Fordlandia was more concerned with building a rubber tree plantation so Ford would not have to rely on British/Malayan sources for rubber for tires for Ford vehicles. There were issues with tree spacing and other agricultural issues. By the time they moved to another location with better tree spacing and soil, synthetic rubber for tires had been developed.

Take care,

NTX5467

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Ah, ya gotta love Mr. Ford, he did amazing things getting durable cars built and sold to the common man, but as is always the case with such high profile individuals and companys, the truth soon gets distorted.

I also searched Mr. Google, and can't find any thread that shows that Ford actually produced tires. I would think that he possibly licensed the Ford name and script to suppliers, and they then produced the tire itself.

I've read numerous books about Ford, as I'm sure that many of you have, and there's scant, if any, mention of Ford producing tires. Why should that company do so, when there were good companies competing for the business. Also, it's one thing to bolt mechanical pieces together on an assembly line. It's entirely another to master the art of threads and rubber and carbon black.

Many, many people in this world, a while back, had in their minds that Ford not only invented the assembly line, but also invented the automobile. In the mid 1960's, I was a kid in a junior high school, and when I mentioned my 1931 Chevrolet, was told by a fellow classmate that I was a liar, only Ford made cars back in the old days.........

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Guest Old48Truck

For what it's worth, one of those camping trips took place on Green Island, near Albany, N.Y. Ford built a radiator plant there that operated for decades and closed in 1989.

Why Green Island? I don't know, but Thomas Edison had the headquarters of his General Electric Company in Schenectady, a few miles away.

Edited by Old48Truck (see edit history)
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Guest Old48Truck
Neat photos Matt. Any idea who the 4th person is in the last photo? Might it be Edsel Ford?

My guess would be Harvey Firestone, Jr. Edison, Firestones Sr and Jr, and Hank Ford "camped" on Green Island, a few miles north of Albany NY, in 1919. This might be a photo from that trip.

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Guest Jim_Edwards

The middle photo was taken in Ft. Myers, Florida on February 11, 1929, two years before Edison's death. Edison and Ford had neighboring winter homes in Ft. Myers.

Back to the Ford - Firestone relationship, they were in-laws. William Clay Ford, Jr. was grandson to both.

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Circa 1975, after GM debuted their "Efficiency System" for their 1975 cars . . . catalytic converters, retuned engine calibrations, and GM-spec radial tires (a special story unto themselves!), I noticed that 1975 or 1976 new Mercurys had what I termed "Ford-spec" radials on them.

Briefly on the GM-spec radials . . . regardless of manufacturer, they were built to GM's specific specifications (Tire Performance Criteria, "TPC ____") to have the best blend of ride, handling, and durability for each of the vehicles they came from the factory on. They also had the unique "M+S" All Season tread, too, which was unique only to the GM-spec radials of any size. In the grand scheme of things, different brands of tires, built to GM's specs, would all be completely interchangeable as to design characteristics, unlike the normal consumer models which could vary widely in performance from brand to brand.

When I was looking at the new Mercury's that year, I noticed something different on the tires. There was a tread design somewhat similar to the new GM design, but not enough like it to be called "copy cat". There was no tire spec number, but the same tread design whether they were Firestones or BFGs. After about two model years, Ford was more involved with Michelin (which was a better selling point than just a particular tread design) and the prior tires were no longer available. Seems like I found some BFG literature which listed these tires as Ford/L-M OEM use only?

No doubt, there was a good working relationship between Ford and Firestone from "way back". But as some noted, Firestone was not the only brand of tires which ever came on Ford products. Rather than actual tire production, the Fordlandia project was about having an internal-to-Ford supply of rubber, which could possibly be shipped to Firestone to make tires for Ford's vehicles. Supply line maintenance issues more than anything else.

Each OEM extensively tests tires for their vehicles (some more than others) and works with tire manufacturers on new products for the upcoming new vehicles. For over a decade, the OEMs have put some incentive for tire manufacturers to design and produce lower rolling resistance tires, plus have improved features we tend to expect (treadlife, toughness, etc.). Just as with the newer motor oils being the result of OEM pressure for improved fuel economy and such, newer OEM equipment tires have resulted from some of the same concerns. If a tire manufacturer wants the OEMs business, they'll do what they can to keep it lest another company end up with it.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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Marideth, Getting to the point, here is a specific reference you can use. The Model A Judging Standards and Restoration Guidelines, highly researched by recognized Ford historians and published jointly by the two national Model A Ford clubs states; "Tire makes used by Ford were Firestone, Goodyear, Goodrich, United States Royal, Ajax and Fisk". This pertains to Model A Fords, which were produced for model years 1928 through 1931.

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Guest Marideth

Oh my... you all are NOT going to believe this. The teacher first said ALL Fords had Firestones. So I wrote a note and said not true, and gave the examples from the 60's and 70's. Then she said she meant EARLY Fords. So I gave her the Model A (1928-1931) quote from Dave. So she told my son she actually meant the Model T's only!!!

I have the feeling I could take her in a time machine back to MEET Henry Ford, and he could personally show her the assembly line and tell her himself that she's wrong, and she still would make up some excuse! :P

But, I've made my point with her (and my son) that I am keeping my eye on her and I will go to bat to back up my boy. He originally got an 'A' on the report, so I'm not going to press the matter further. She is a very strange person, but I tell him it is a good learning experience because someday he will probably have to work with someone like that at his job.

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She is a very strange person, but I tell him it is a good learning experience because someday he will probably have to work with someone like that at his job.

There is the "teachable moment" in this scenario. A better approach than fighting the teacher, who no doubt read a blurb on this subject somewhere and happened to remember it.

Perhaps she could follow up that everyone knows Henry Ford invented the automobile and all Model Ts were black. Todd C

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Guest Marideth

Hey, everyone knows ALL Model T's were black. This one's easy to provle: just look at the original photos of them -- all black! :D

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Guest Marideth

re: the picture of 4 men camping posted earlier.

Just saw this at a historical website. The mystery man with Ford, Firestone and Edison is listed as President Harding

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