Today, Ford achieved a milestone rarely matched in the realm of vehicle production, or even biological production: it has built 350 million vehicles—over the course of 109 years, encompassing 149 nameplates, across 38 plants and 166,000 employees today—with Ol’ Henry’s signature on the front.
That’s a staggering figure. If you took every single Ford car ever built and stacked them, it would stretch far into space somewhere. If you weighed all the Fords in the world, the figure would be astronomical. The number of Fords that ever roamed this planet is equivalent to the number of electrons in 350 million atoms. End-to-end, these Blue Ovals would wrap around the Earth a couple dozen times, generating enough clutter in synchronous orbit to pose a hazard to our DirecTV channels.
That’s a lot of Fords.
Helpfully, Ford states that building 350 million vehicles over 109 years is equivalent to 8,797 cars a day, 367 per hour, 6 a minute, one new car every 10 seconds—akin to the vehicular equivalent of “grey goo.” Along the way saw such luminaries as the Pinto, the EXP, the four-door Thunderbird, the supercharged Thunderbird, the jellybean Thunderbird, the LTD, the Probe, the Fiso, the fabulous 1955 Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner in Coral Mist metallic, a melancholy Clint Eastwood movie (seeing as he’s in the news quite a lot this week), and a sports car named after a horse that’s also named after a snake that was created by a man who once farmed chickens.
Ford started building cars in the year 1903, when its first mass-produced product was the Ford Model A—not the Model T, a fact worth remembering in case a sneaky pub quiz tries to trip your team up. The 350 millionth Ford was a Focus hatchback in Ruby Red, built not on Bagley Street in Detroit but in Rayong, Thailand. On paper, the Focus trumps the Model A in a few aspects: for one, the Model A was never available with SYNC, voice-activated navigation, an automatic transmission or a windshield. The Focus also has the Model A beaten in terms of crash protection, climate controls, in-car entertainment, and a top speed greater than 30 miles per hour—the Model A lost steam at 28mph, and it was right around then when womens’ bonnets would flutter in a violently uncouth manner, thus denigrating their societal status in Noël Coward plays. But the Model A does have leather-wrapped, buttoned Barcaloungers for seats. And the Model A’s , Gottfried-like aoogah horn can, said Henry Ford, “get the dames hoppin’ out of their petticoats in no time.” (Note: he may not have said this. Ever.)
Here’s to another 350 million cars, Ford—but let’s get rid of some of the old ones first.