History in the Shaking: Driving Henry Ford’s First Car Ever
In 1896, while Henry Ford was still working for Thomas Edison, he created the Quadracycle, his first car, which makes it one of the most important vehicles ever built. But as the Jalopnik video below shows us, that doesn’t make it any less terrifying.
On the latest edition of Jason Drives, Jason Torchinsky, who is not wearing a turtleneck, takes a spin on a Quadracycle replica built to the exact specs of the one that came out of ‘Ol Hank’s garage. The inspiration for which came from an article in an 1895 issue of American Machinist, about a man named Pennington’s questionable designs for an internal combustion engine.
The engine designs were simple, if somewhat flawed for their lack of carb and cooling. But simplicity is what Ford liked. After reading the article, Ford decided he could build the thing. And then he did.
But what’s an engine without something to put it in? In Torchinsky’s words:
“The rest of the quadracyle is about as basic as it gets: four bike wheels, a simple, wagon-like frame, some wood panels that look like they were stolen from furniture, and a little seat on top. Steering is by tiller, there’s a 2-speed transmission that barely works (the engine doesn’t really have the torque to do anything with the second gear), and the whole thing vibrates so much from the crude engine (which is ethanol-powered, making an alleged 4 HP, but I’m skeptical it was that much) that the most amazing technical achievement of the car is that it doesn’t shake itself into a pile of parts every time it’s run.”
Still, Torchinsky pays credit where credit is due, by noting that though the Quadracycle is a “spindly pile of vibrating crap,” building three of them gave Henry Ford the experience and confidence he would need to build many more cars in the future.
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