Ford chalked up long list of firsts
Henry's company helped shape the industry and its products
The automobile industry would be very different today without the production and technology breakthroughs by Ford Motor Co. engineers, scientists and researchers.
In the early part of Ford's first century, Henry Ford focused on increasing production, improving quality and reducing costs, which led to such breakthroughs as the moving assembly line and better casting methods for engine blocks.
In the 1950s, Ford engineers began working to improve automobile safety by designing better braking systems and researching airbags.
In 1968, Ford became the first automaker to offer an antilock brake system. Though the system did not sell in large volume, it did validate the technology and lead to more sophisticated antilock systems. In 1979, Mercedes-Benz introduced the first computerized antilock braking system.
Here's a look at some of the technological milestones attributed to Ford. 1908: Model T engine. First engine made with cast cylinder liners and removable head. It was a stronger, lighter, less expensive and more durable engine that was easier to repair. 1913: Moving assembly line. Bringing the work to the man instead of the man to the work was Ford's greatest contribution to the auto industry. The time to produce one Model T dropped from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes. Production rose dramatically, and costs and prices plunged. 1925: Aviation. Ford Tri-Motor airplane. First airplane built on a production line. First airplane with a braking system. 1926: Aviation safety. Navigational radio beam enabled pilots to fly in low visibility and bad weather. It was hailed as one of the most important aviation inventions. 1927: Safety. Laminated glass windshield improved safety by preventing glass from shattering into small pieces and separating. 1932: V-8 engine breakthrough. Ford's V-8 was made with a one-piece casting for the cylinder block. A major engineering triumph, the one-piece block cut costs and weight and increased strength. 1932: Ford's first V-12. The Lincoln KA was available with a V-12 engine. 1950: Manufacturing. Automated stamping for making body parts reduced cost and increased production efficiency. 1955: Safety. Front seat belts; child safety locks on rear doors. 1956: Safety. Padded instrument panel, front and rear seat belts, impact-resistant door latches. 1957: Supercharged engine. The Thunderbird was the first mass-produced car with an optional supercharged V-8 engine. 1957: Airbags. Ford began its research. 1957: Retractable hardtop. The Ford Skyliner had a folding metal roof. Mercedes-Benz revived this ahead-of-its-time idea in the late 1990s for the SLK roadster. 1965: Child restraint system. The Astro-Guard was optional. 1968: Antilock brakes debut. "Sure-Track" rear antilock brakes were optional on the Lincoln Mark III, introduced in April. 1973: Monolithic catalytic converter. This emissions-reducing device became the industry standard. 1978: Electronic engine controls. The Lincoln Versailles is the first car with digital microprocessors that perform multiple interactive engine control functions. 1981: Aerodynamic styling. The wind-cheating Ford Probe III concept. 1986: Antilock brakes. The European Ford Scorpio was the first production car with standard antilock brakes. 1987: Service bay diagnostic system. Enables technicians to download trouble codes from the car's computer and make faster, more accurate repairs. 1993: Engine oil economy analyzer. A light on the instrument panel lets the driver know the condition of the engine oil. 1999: Future fuel. Ford is the first domestic automaker to build a hydrogen fuel filling station. Ford's station is at its research headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. 2000: Composite truck bed. The Ford Explorer Sport Trac is the first to use a plastic cargo bed. 2000: Adaptive cruise control. Cruise control that automatically maintains a preset distance from the car ahead debuts in the European version of the Jaguar XKR. 2003: SUV safety. Roll stability control, a system that prevents rollovers by using each individual brake, debuts in the Volvo XC90. 2004: High-tech fuel system. The Ford GT sports car has a capless fuel filler system that eliminates overflow and loss of vapors and prevents leaks.
You can reach Richard Truett at email@example.com.