Customer Review

20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - Too Negative - Too Many Major Accomplishments Overlooked, May 29, 2013
This review is from: American Experience: Henry Ford (DVD)
I had such high expectations for this DVD. After watching it in one sitting it was obvious that it concentrates only briefly on just a few of Henry Ford's accomplishments, and instead focuses on his idiosyncrasies (or eccentricities, if you prefer) and his failings. This DVD held so much promise and ended up producing so much disappointment.

As a GM/Chevy guy, I'm no devotee of all things Ford - not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just who I am. But as a writer of manufacturing-history articles and as a mechanical engineer, I'd've expected that some time would've been spent in this DVD on at least a few of Henry Ford's major accomplishments. Unfortunately, this DVD focuses on all the negatives aspects of Henry Ford's life which the writers and producers could find and, thus, exploit. That is so sad.

The people who wrote and produced this DVD could've produced a true historical document about Henry. Instead, all they ended up doing was airing their gripes & complaints about what they dislike about the man. Again, that's so sad. They should've known better, as should the so-called historians who appear in this DVD. I'm guessing that some of the people interviewed are disappointed that only their negative comments were extracted and put into this DVD.

Please remember that July 2013 marks 150 years since the birth of Henry Ford. As this DVD was produced in 2012 I had guessed (wrongly, obviously) that it would concentrate more on the positives of Henry's life, rather than the negatives. Further, I'm shocked that this DVD is for sale on the Henry Ford Museum website's Gift Shop. Are the museum directors so greedy that they'll even sell a negative DVD about Henry? That, too, is so sad.

I'd like to document some of the major accomplishments for which Henry Ford is responsible. Again, I make no claims to be any sort of Ford expert, but even this Chevy guy knows a little about Henry's great deeds. Maybe the next DVD ("Henry Ford - The Real Story" perhaps?) can actually be positive, and maybe focus on some of these feats.

Here's my list of some of Henry Ford's significant accomplishments (again mentioning that I'm no expert).

- Fordson Model F Tractor - this landmark farm machine outsold all other tractors... combined! When the Ford Motor Company (FMC) wouldn't produce it Henry formed his own company (Ford & Son Company - thus the name Fordson). The first Fordson featured a unitized design (that is, no separate frame) to save weight & lower cost. It was another example of Henry Ford producing what the market wanted - call it a Model T for the farm. Henry's goal was to give farmers what they needed to replace animal power, and he succeeded.

- Defeat of the Infamous Seldon Patent - Henry risked much to take on Big Business. The Seldon Patent ended up costing car makers a lot of money, and prevented affordable automobiles from reaching the marketplace. Henry won the court fight against those who took unfair advantage of the U.S. patent system, and he was named an "everyman's hero" for it. Further, the patent process was changed for the better because of this court fight.

- Ford-Ferguson Model 9N tractor - lightning struck twice with Henry knowing (once again) what farmers wanted when he formed an agreement with Henry Ferguson to incorporate the now-standard Three-Point Hitch into the 9N tractor. The 9N was affordable, easy-to-operate, and easy-to-repair, as were the Models 2N and 8N tractors that followed. Like the first Fordson tractor, it was truly a landmark design.

- Empathy For Farmers - having grown up on a farm Henry always wanted to improve the lot of farmers, who often relied on hard work and animal power for little or no profit. Henry even performed agricultural research to try to improve farming.

- Ford Tri-Motor Airplane - FMC entered the aviation business with a lightweight, three-engine design. The Ford Tri-Motor is almost instantly recognizable with one engine on each wing & a third on the nose, and the use of lightweight corrugated sheet metal. It was an airplane ahead of its time, and many years later three-engine jets would be very popular, such as the Boeing 727, the Lockheed L-1011, and the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10, each a landmark design in its time.

- Ford Flathead V-8 - if ever there was a right engine for its time it was the FMC Flathead V-8. While the factory horsepower figures seem low this engine was about torque (due to its long-stroke design), affordability, and ease-of-repair. It was also the affordable performance engine of choice for two decades, especially after World War II. This engine has been named to Ward's Top Ten Best Engines of the Twentieth Century, thanks to it's innovations such as: high-strength forged crankshaft; aluminum-alloy pistons; one-piece engine block; and elastomeric engine mounts. Nothing sounds like a Ford Flathead V-8, or ever will!

So, there you have my rather short list of Henry Ford's accomplishments which are sadly overlooked by this DVD. Let's all hope the sequel doesn't make the same mistakes as the original DVD. As always, thank you for reading my review!
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 13, 2013 10:10:20 PM PDT
JAG 2.0 says:
Thank you for writing a very frank and helpful review. I agree with you that it is sad that such a great American of brilliance is treated in such a fashion by the socialist PBS. I will not be purchasing this DVD. Thank you again.

Posted on Sep 24, 2013 5:01:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2013 6:33:37 PM PDT
Steve Kohn says:
Szafranski --

I watched the program last night. Found it fascinating. Not just about Mr Ford, but for the historical video of many years ago.

The additional accomplishments you cite are, for me, interesting but in the end unimportant in the telling of Mr Ford's life. They also have to be balanced with the need to keep the documentary a manageable length.

I felt the director showed commendable balance. The bad things Ford did -- mental cruelty to his only child, virulent hatred of Jews spread across America for eight years through his newspaper, his workers kept in line by thugs and the threat of physical violence, maybe even the despoiling of farm and field to build a monstrous factory at the Rouge River -- could have been given even more attention.

For the first half of Ford's life, he was a truly great man, an admirable one. Then something happened. Maybe, as one historian said, he got so rich that he lost a sense of right and wrong, a sense even that he could not be wrong about anything.

Again, I thought it was a balanced film. Certainly one that gave me a better understanding of Henry Ford the man. Thanks for your additional insights.

(My second car, a 1953 Ford that I bought in 1965, had a flathead 8. Nothing special about that engine. Can't begin to compare to diesels, rotary engines, or boxer engines for innovation. It was a good car, though, and quickly sold when I got drafted in 1967.)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2013 6:30:26 PM PDT
Thank you for your comments. Just FYI... the model year 1953 was the last year of production of the Ford Flathead V8. In 1954 it was replaced by a more modern overhead valve V8, but by then it had made its mark in automotive history. Please realize that when the Ford Flathead V8 was first developed, gasoline was still quite low in quality, so the engine's compression ratio was held fairly low. By 1954 gasoline was higher in quality and octane, so engine compression was slowly rising in production engines. That's one factor in the killing off of mass-produced automotive flathead engines.

Because of the side-valve design (specifically, an L-head design) the Ford Flathead V8 was limited to the amount of compression possible. The valves being on the side result in additional dead space (well, sort of, it's a bit more of a complex issue than that but I don't want to bore folks even more). And dead space equals lower compression ratios (again, sort of).

But, just like diesel engines go hand-in-hand with turbochargers, flathead engines work well with superchargers. If you see a high-performance Deuce Coupe today (or Rat Rod, etc.) and the owner decides to stay true to the era and installs a Ford Flathead V8, then you may see a blower (supercharger) sitting on top of the flathead. The supercharger helps offset the low-compression-ratio limitation of a flathead engine.

For the era in which they were used, side-valve flathead engines were a good choice. While their horsepower numbers were low, they produced gobs of torque thanks to their long-stroke design (which helps reduce the dead space found in side-valve engines). Early engines often turned slowly, compared to today's engines, and so the high torque they produced was perfect for the times.

Watch an old World War II movie and you'll likely see an old Army Jeep or truck (e.g., Deuce and a half) equipped with a flathead engine of some sort. Those old flatheads got the job done, were easy to work on, would run on just about any low-quality gasoline (important in foreign combat zones) and, quite frankly, helped win the war. While WWII aviation engines were more complex (because of their need for a high power-to-weight ratio) the basic ground-based engines were often flatheads. Sure, there was a few more modern engines here and there, like the Cadillac tank engines. The truth is that the flathead engine (with a varying number of cylinders) did the yeoman's work of ground transport in WWII. And no, I didn't serve in WWII as I was born long after it.

Flathead engines may still have a place in today's marketplace. For example, push lawnmowers require a small, high-torque engine with plenty of exposed surface area for air-cooling fins. Those engines need to be cheap to build, dependable, and easy to work on. For many years basic push lawnmowers have had a Briggs & Stratton flathead engine. EPA regulations were to have killed off this small engine by now, so it may be out of production (I'm just not sure what's happened in that market).

One more thing, you may notice a common theme here about flathead and diesel engines: they have similarities. Both require minimized dead space (for diesels it's because of their compression ignition); they both work well with compressed incoming air charges (turbo charging for diesels and supercharging for flatheads); and both produce high torque values. Both are also well suited for heavy duty use, such as trucking.

Again, thank you for your comments and thank you for reading my review and comments.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 25, 2013 6:35:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2013 6:35:44 PM PDT
Steve Kohn says:
Not much to do with Henry Ford, but very interesting and informative. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 28, 2013 2:01:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 28, 2013 2:04:32 PM PDT
I'm sorry... my Empathy App was turned off!

I was addressing your comment on owning a 1953 Ford with a Flathead V8 (the final production year) in 1965, long after the Ford Flathead V8 was replaced by much more modern engines.

Posted on May 4, 2014 1:15:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2014 1:48:54 PM PDT
jbkmd says:
Thank you for taking the time to write such an informative and detailed review that was prophetic as this program is now free on amazon prime.
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