Henry Ford vs. Elon Musk

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Henry Ford was the antithesis of Elon Musk. The latter uses government to force people into cars that are more expensive and less practical, thereby diminishing personal mobility. The former designed and built a car that cost less (each successive model year) and was far more versatile and practical than a horse and buggy, that freed people from being largely stuck where they were.

Ford did not use the power of the government to compel his rivals to subsidize his operations, as Musk has done (via the selling of what are styled “carbon credits” to other car companies, who are under regulatory duress to either build a certain number of EeeeeeeeeVeeeeees or buy “credit” – from Elon – for having built them).

The Model T was the antithesis of Tesla’s cars. The latter are designed to be very high-performance and for that reason very consumptive, of both power and raw materials. They are not designed for longevity or owner-serviceability. They are operationally fragile in that extreme conditions – as of high heat and extreme cold – greatly diminish their functionality.

The Model T was specifically designed to be as simple and practical as possible. It had no fuel or water pump. It did not even need a small starter battery in order to run as the engine was designed to be turned over by hand and – once running – magnetos kept it running.

It was not “ludicrously” fast or even moderately quick. But – unlike a Tesla – it could and did go almost anywhere, anytime. Ford built it with more ground clearance than a modern SUV and fitted it with skinny rather than steamroller tires; the latter are perfect for getting stuck in snow and mud; the latter for fording through them. The Model T was built specifically for the terrible (and usually unpaved) roads of early 20th century America.

A Tesla is designed for the “perfect” roads of urban hipster 21st century America. It is terrible for the conditions that obtain outside the urban perimeter, because there are few-to-none of the “fast” chargers on which Teslas and other EeeeeeeeeVeeeees depend to get going again in anything less than several hours.

Teslas – and all other EeeeeeeeVeeeeees – use just one fuel, in limited supply. This limits the EeeeeeeeVeeeeeee owner’s options, tethers him to a centralized power generation and distribution grid. There is no other way to power an EeeeeeeVeeee, which means if the power is turned off or rationed, an EeeeeeeeeVeeeee goes nowhere.

The Model T’s engine could easily be modified to operate on a variety of fuels, such as home-brew alcohol and even kerosene (Fordson tractors, closely related to the Model T were “dual fuel” from the factory). Henry Ford, who grew up on a farm, understood that being dependent on a single type of fuel controlled by a centralized distribution system would limit rather than increase mobility.

Almost anyone could fix – not just service – a Model T. There wasn’t much to go wrong but if it did, a very basic tool set could usually deal with it. When a Tesla needs service, a Tesla Authorized Service Center may be able to deal with it. And you – if you’re the owner – will pay dearly for it.

Even more so for its battery – without which it does not move.

Ford and Musk. The Model T – and the EeeeeeeeeeeVeeeee. Two oppositional archetypes, each embodying the differences between the America that was and the America that’s replacing it.

And not because Americans want it to be replaced.

Ford’s America was organic and voluntary. No one was forced to buy his cars, nor to subsidize his building them. But people – more than 15 million of them – clamorously bought his car and not one of them had to be paid to buy it, either. The Model T dramatically improved the lives of ordinary Americans who – for the first time in history – were free to travel on their own, in their own vehicle and on no one else’s schedule.

Ford raised the standard of living for average Americans, tens of thousands of whom worked at the Ford plants where Ford cars were made. He paid them more and charged them less for the cars they helped to make. Ford became very rich. But Americans got richer, too.

Elon Musk is richer than Ford ever was, by several orders of magnitude. But his riches have come at the expense of average Americans, who have been impoverished by the push to force simple, affordable cars off the market so that government-mandated EeeeeeeeeVeeeeees can own the market.

Ford said:

“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one-and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

Elon says that vision must be replaced by a Great Reset, after which the “great multitude” will own nothing and be happy about being tethered to where they are by dint of being unable to afford to go very far from there.

One of the great and terrible ironies of this tale is that Ford reversed the situation that existed before the Model T did, when cars were the expensive toys of the affluent. Tesla – and “electrification,” generally – are reversing that, returning cars to what they were before the introduction of the Model T.

That is to say, making them once again the expensive toys of the affluent. With the one difference being that this time, ordinary Americans are paying for it.

. . .

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37 COMMENTS

  1. One hundred years ago Henry Ford had written “My Life and Work”. I think this is the book everyone should read.
    Thank you Eric for another great article!

  2. Elon Musk, per se, is not the problem. There is a near unlimited number of “Elons”
    waiting to rip off taxpayers. Whether it’s Covid, debilitating taxes, lack of a
    free market, and near totalitarianism, the Big Problem is Big Brother.

    • That’s pretty good! As good as any in my off road circle of friends.

      Eric, Love the old ads like that! reminds me of a can-do attitude Americans use to have.

      • Thanks, Manse!

        I do my best to find good (usually, old) images to accompany these pieces; I think it helps provide additional context – plus, it’s fun to look back.

    • Wasn’t that inserted in the infrastructure bill earlier this year? I seem to remember that it requires cars from the 2026 model year onward to have them.

  3. Just saw an article stating Eloon Muskrat is moving his battery factory to the USSA to take advantage of the tax credits provided (at our expense of course) by FJB and his “build back better” BS. Tesla would be nowhere without all the subsidies showered on him by govco.

  4. Another simple reliable car from 1913 that is daily driven, the EV’s from 2012 are headed for the scrap yard already…lol

    A 1913 bugatti type 22 had no cooling fan, no generator, no starter motor, no fuel pump, it had a magneto, the lights ran off dry cell batteries you had to replace, no charging system, very simple, far less things to maintain or that could break.

    It was the first light weight sports car 1140 lb. the 1957 Lotus Super 7 looks almost like a copy of it.

    All we have done is go backwards since then, today’s cars are the most complicated, vastly overweight, cheap plastic crap, very expensive, over computerized, defective, impossible to fix properly abortions.

    This 1913 Bugatti is like a work of art all copper, brass and bronze, (modern cars are just cheap plastic crap filled with computers), it is 109 years old and is daily driven. Maybe this is the last good, real, beautifully made, properly engineered car, everything just got worse since then.

    The dollar in 1913 was worth 100 cents, today’s dollar is worth 4 cents, maybe there is a connection.

    Today’s EV’s last ten years and are scrapped because it costs a fortune to replace the fire bomb lithium batteries.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVl3cEkSSo0

      • “…on July 7, at the Grand Prix de la Marne held at Rheims, Wimille again won in our 57G at an average of 140.245 km/h. In June 1937 with Benoist, he won the 24 hours of Le Mans, the first time a Bugatti had ever prevailed in a major sports car race…”

  5. A wonderful piece of work!

    Let’s not forget the many others, like Walter Chrysler, John and Horace Dodge, Ransom E. Olds, David Dunbar Buick, Alfred Sloan, Henry Leland, and even Henry J. Kaiser, who brought motoring to the masses, and made even luxury cars plentiful and affordable.

    They envisioned a world where everyone would have higher standards of living than even the kings and queens of old couldn’t even dream of—and made it a reality.

    Today’s counterparts to these greats envision a word in which everyone except for themselves and a very few special people own nothing, eat bugs, and are happy to do so.

    They push their EeeeeVeeees not to control the weather/climate…but to control YOU. Once you realize that, EeeeeVeeees make perfect sense.

  6. A model A (or some other simple basic ice vehicle) converted to run on wood or coal would be great

    Wood powered cars have advantages over gas, diesel or electric vehicles.

    An ice engine cvonverted to run on wood connected to a generator would be a great off grid power source.

    The worst choice is electric vehicles with huge lithium batteries. When the grid goes down they are useless.

    There is lots of free wood someplaces, you can drive around the world with a saw and an axe.

    In a very remote location this would be good, if there is lots of trees.
    When/if they cut off our gas or diesel we can use these.

    There might be a business opportunity building and selling these.

    https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2010/01/wood-gas-cars.html

  7. Very good, Eric.
    “Henry Ford was the antithesis of Elon Musk.”
    I’ll say! Henry Ford was an honest White man. Elon Musk is a lying jew pretending to be White.
    Henry Ford published a huge book of truth: “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.” Elon Musk is a child-raping jew, as reported by victim Maria Farmer, who escaped from the clutches of jews Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

  8. Nice work Eric…..Some of your best!….and I didn’t feel like going for the .357 magnum after reading it…..most everything about new cars is DEPRESSING.

  9. ‘after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise’ — eric

    THIS ^.

    Simple is elegant; simple is beautiful.

    EeeVees may have fewer moving parts than a combustion-engined vehicle. But they have heavy, fire-prone batteries. And they are dependent on the grid, an opaquely complex monopoly that’s aggressively seeking to outlaw competing modes of transport and back us all into a dark corner.

    EeeVee pushers mean us harm. Our job is punch back, hard.

    • If you have enough time lying about to charge an EeeV, you certainly have time to get steam up on your Stanley. Steam external combustion engines have similar power curves to EVs with massive torque from zero. The loss of efficiency in generation and transmission of EV power is negated with a good boiler design in your SV (steam vehicle). What’s more is that the SV can run on your collected rubbish that clogs every garage that a female has access to.
      I don’t know that wood and coal powered ICE is that great an idea as the logs get caught in the induction system and will likely bend the valves.
      External combustion is the wave of the Future!!!

  10. You could add a belt drive pulley to a rear wheel, voila, a belt drive, Ford could solve problems.

    Then you could mill your grain, many uses for machines, saves time and energy.

    Ford Model A autos are for sale for 10,000 to 14,000 to 30,000 dollars. They’re out there looking for buyers.

  11. Thanks for articulating what I’ve said for years, Eric, viz. that Elon is the anti-Henry Ford. Both Elon and Henry were the premier men of their times in that both represented what is/was true of the state of America and the middle class.

    Ford symbolized the burgeoning middle class and did everything to help raise their standard. Elon represents the shrinking middle class and corresponding rise of a new economy designed to cater mainly to the “elite.” Virtually everything Ford made was practical and affordable for middle America. Everything Elon makes, by contrast, is mainly discretionary and basically playthings for the wealthy.

    And unlike Ford’s positive economic contributions, Elon is a continual drain on the U.S. economy (subsidized cars, subsidized tunnels for high-speed transport no one asked for, subsidized rockets and satellites, etc.). Is there any bigger tax parasite in America than Elon?

  12. And the Model T was dirt CHEAP. List price dropped from about $800 in 1908 to $300-ish by the late 1920s.

    According to the inflation calculator I used, $300 in 1925 dollars is about $5000 in 2022 dollars.

    That’s insanely affordable…

    • In the late 20’s a double-eagle was worth 20 dollars, you needed 15 of them to buy a Model T, a Troy ounce of gold is about 1600 dollars in 2022 dollars, 15 x 1600 = 24,000.

      300 one dollar US minted silver coins equals 6000 dollars at 20 dollars per Troy ounce for silver.

      What was once a 20 to 1 value between gold and silver is now 80 to 1. To equal the amount of gold coin, you would have to have four times more silver or 1200 US minted one dollar silver coins.

      80 pieces of silver equals one piece of gold. You’ve been robbed big time.

      1200 times 20 is 24,000 dollars here in the now.

      Apples to Apples

  13. Elon Musk is richer than Ford ever was, by several orders of magnitude.

    I don’t think that’s quite right. Not just due to adjusting for inflation, but also because the only reason Ford took the company public was as a tax dodge. Musk plays the shareholders like a fiddle in his pump-and-dump schemes. As long as he keeps the hype machine running he’ll find buyers. But the whole market is seeing a “correction” as the 10,000 boomers/day turn 65 and retire. Even if those retirees aren’t withdrawing their 401(k) egg, they aren’t contributing any new money, which means they aren’t buying stock. No buyers? The price goes down until the market clears.

    https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/01/16/63-years-later-what-can-investors-learn-from-fords.aspx

    • That was what I was going to say. All those at the top of the Fortune and the life’s richest lists are nouveau riche at best, more likely hypothetical.

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