With the new V-8 engines almost ready, Henry Ford's factories had to begin preparing to produce the 1932 Ford Model B and Model 18 cars -- after some last-minute tweaking.
While Henry gave many directives for the mechanical design of his automobiles, he paid scant attention to styling, leaving that side of things to his son Edsel. He did, however, take notice of the public criticism of the A's cowl-mounted gas tank. As a result, Ford decided it would be moved to the back and that a pump would deliver fuel. Edsel was more than happy about that move because it gave him and designer Eugene T. "Bob" Gregorie more freedom to work on the overall styling. Gregorie would create styling sketches that were checked by Joe Galamb and Edsel before being put up as full-size clay models.
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The most desirable 1932 Ford Model B or Model 18 is probably the roadster, but only 15,115 were built worldwide, 9268 of them with the V-8. Compared to the cabriolet, a true convertible, the roadster sported a jauntier look.
Toward the end of 1931, Ford and many of its suppliers were already producing parts for what was to be called the Model B, but Mr. Ford wasn't happy. By the first week of December, he had made up his mind. On the morning of the seventh, after just one hour in consultation with Edsel, he decided to temporarily abort production of the B and come out with the world's first low-priced V-8 in 1932.
The production lines (which hadn't really gotten started) were stopped, and cessation orders went out to suppliers. In the following days, most of the 50,000 workers became engaged in ripping out the old equipment and installing hastily designed and manufactured machinery for building the V-8.
At this point, the press was buzzing with speculation about Ford's plans. When letters poured in urging Ford not to discontinue the four, Henry responded by saying, "We shall continue to make the four-cylinder model. The eight is only two fours, you know."
Meanwhile, Henry and many others concentrated on changing the plant over to production of the V-8. The automotive world's best-kept secret was out, and Ford was to about to produce the product that he hoped would be the key to free the company and America from the gridlock of the Depression. Henry had indeed started something: By the second week of February 1932, he announced the reemployment of 30,000 men, confidence was gaining, and America was beginning a gradual journey back to work.
By the end of the month, Ford announced his intention to spend more than $300 million in Michigan alone in 1932. Unfortunately, he could expect little return during the forthcoming year, when he planned to "risk all" to produce 1.5 million vehicles.
Charles Sorensen, Ford's untitled chief engineer, remembered Henry's reaction after being told that to revamp the plant was going to cost $50 million: "We have too much money in the bank. That doesn't do that bunch in the front office any good. When they look at it they become self-satisfied, and I know they are getting lazy. Let's you and me pull that down. You do that until it hurts. I know this new car will bring in more money than ever. We have too much money, Charlie, let's you and me get it working."
To learn more about the reaction to the 1932 Ford Model B and Model 18, continue on to the next page.
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