Tomorrow marks almost 240 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Since 1776, Americans have accomplished wonders. Walking on the surface of the moon, splitting the atom, growing the world’s most powerful military, and maintaining an incredible democracy are all accomplishments to be proud of. Arguably one of the largest industrial contributions from the US to the world was the assembly line production of the Ford Model T, which brought vehicles to the masses. In celebration of the Fourth of July, AutoShack.com is here to look at the truly American vehicles that have defined the countries motoring prowess.
The Ford Model T
A number of Ford vehicles will top this list, given their rich heritage in the world of vehicles. While the Model T was not the first vehicle ever created, it was the first to make the car a common accessory to the everyday working individual. If it weren’t for Ford and the Model T, there wouldn’t be much to talk about here. In 1908 the Model T appeared, taking only 93 minutes to assemble one vehicle. This meant that more could be produced, which is why the initial cost of a Model T was $825, or roughly $21,000 in today’s money. Over the run of the Model T, the price would drop to $360 by 1927.
The Model T featured a 2.9L inline 4 cylinder engine, capable of producing 20hp. The Model T could run on a number of different fuels, from gasoline to kerosene and even ethanol (the latter of which was outlawed during prohibition).
The Model T was eventually replaced by the Model A in 1928. A fun fact about the Model T is that wood scraps from production were turned into charcoal, and sold as Ford Charcoal. Henry Ford’s brother in law would eventually take over this division, and would sell it as Kingsford Charcoal, which is still available today.
Known to most as the Willys Jeep, this workhorse vehicle helped win the Second World War and cement the United States as a military powerhouse. When the US military put out the contract for a 4 wheel drive vehicle during the Second World War, three companies submitted options and prototypes: Willys-Overland Motors, American Bantam Car Company, and Ford Motor Company. Through trials and soldier feedback it became apparent that the Willys design was best suited for use in warfare, and the contract was awarded to them. Having trouble keeping up with the skyrocketing demand, Ford was contracted out to help manufacture some of the Willys vehicles. MB refers to the final Willys model produced, M for Military and B for the second design iteration. Design elements were used from Ford’s prototype, such as the vehicles flat hood. Ford’s vehicle nomenclature was the Willys Government Passenger, or Willys GP. Many believe this is where the name Jeep came from, as a reading of GP.
Today, the Jeep remains a world leader in off-road performance. Companies like Land Rover or offerings like the Humvee have come close, but no other vehicle has the rich heritage and proven off-road performance of the Jeep.
Ford GT 40
Automotive racing has more than few good stories, but none may top the story of Fords GT 40. IF you aren’t already familiar with this story, then get ready for a true feat of American engineering.
Henry Ford II desired a vehicle to race at LeMans, but hadn’t yet produced their own. Enzo Ferrari himself expressed interest in selling his company to Ford. After some talks, Ford began auditing and preparing factories to produce Ferrari vehicles. As the deal began to close, Enzo Ferrari shut it down; stating a disagreement over control of Ferrari’s racing divisions. By this point, Ford had already spent millions in preparing to operate Ferrari. This last minute cancellation angered Ford, and the story goes he approached his engineers with a blank cheque and instructed them to deliver him a car that could be Ferrari at LeMans.
The resulting car was the Ford GT40. The vehicle is much like America itself, as it couldn’t have been built without the British. The GT40 first appeared at LeMans in 1966, where it not only beat Ferrari, but completely shut out the podium, with 3 GT40’s taking first, second, and third place victories (Ferrari did not finish the race this year) One of the drivers for the winning GT40, Bruce McLaren, would later becoming a driving factor in the founding of McLaren Motors.
The GT40 had a successor in the Ford GT released in 2005 and 2006. More of a refresh than a redesign, this vehicle did not compete at LeMans. Much to the delight of Ford fans, the new 2016 Ford GT has already confirmed its presence at an upcoming LeMans.
America may best be known for the Muscle Car. These vehicles were loud, fast, and weren’t concerned with frills like steering or fuel economy. While vehicles like the Ford Mustang or the Chevrolet Camaro are the household names in muscle cars, it all started with the Pontiac GTO.
Debuting in 1964, the GTO started as an option package on the Pontiac Tempest. This package included a 6L V8 engine capable of producing 325HP. The car fully came into its own with the second generation release in 1968. By this point muscle cars were in full swing, and the GTO was competing against vehicles like the Plymouth Road Runner and the Chevelle SS.
Muscle cars put America on the map in a time where small import vehicles were becoming the norm. Today, the big three all offer updated versions of their muscle car classics, the Mustang, the Camaro, and the Challenger all live on as modern updates to classic vehicles.
Wait what? The Toyota Camry is a popular option from Japan, so why is it on this list? Like America itself, the Camry is a cultural melting pot. The 2015 Toyota Camry is one of the most American made vehicles available today, with over 75% of the vehicles parts and manufacturing taking place in the United States. While this wasn’t always the case, Toyota’s investments in the US represent a post-war partnership that remains strong to this day. The United States still manufactures many of their own vehicles, but many people are unaware of just how American this popular Japanese car is.
The Redline, The Whitewalls, And the Big Blue
America is a world leader in vehicles, with an incredibly rich history to back it up. Germans are known for their precision, Italians for their design, Japanese for their reliability, but the US is known for combining all of that into a package that everyone can get behind. This Fourth of July, take pride in celebrating a great country that has forever changed the way people move.
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