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In 1891, Henry Ford started his career as an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company. His first engine was tested in his kitchen sink in 1893 with wife Clara helping to dribble gasoline into the intake valve. In 1896, Ford completed his first automobile in the shed behind the family house. Half of the shed had to be removed, as he had forgotten to make a door big enough to remove the car. Once removed, the quadricycle performed well. It had a two-cylinder horizontally opposed motor, producing about 4 hp. Drive was by leather belt and chain. Although he had not planned to sell it, he was offered $200 for it, which money was used to finance his second car.
The second car, completed in late 1897, drew the attention of wealthy backers, including William H. Murphy, and the Detroit Automobile Company was formed, with Ford as superintendent. Initially, Ford could not decide what to build and settled on a race car, which beat a Winton at the Grosse Point racetrack in 1901. Several investors lost faith as cars were not forthcoming, but several backers stayed with him and a new organization, the Henry Ford Company, was created in late 1901.
By March 1902, with cars not forthcoming, the remaining backers brought in a consultant, Henry M. Leland. Ford was infuriated and left the company with a settlement of $900 and a promise not to use the Ford name. Murphy was good to his word, and the car built by Leland for the former Ford company was called the Cadillac.
Ford set up a small shop and built two race cars, the Arrow, and the famous “Old 999”, driven by Barney Oldfield and later Ford to period land speed records.
Ford then decided to become a real car manufacturer. With money from coal baron Alexander Young, the Ford Motor Company was created. From mid-1903 through 1904, about 1,700 Model A – Two cars were produced. Several new models followed in 1905 and 1906, including this much lighter and less expensive Model N. Total production for all three models in 1906 was around 2,800 cars. This car paved the way for the Model T in 1908, and the rest is history.
- Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942, Kimes & Clark 3rd ed. pg 571