Threes And Sevens: 1943

Every f*cking day…yes, not a “real” problem, but another “paper cut.” My wonderful wife and I decided to go to McDonald’s for breakfast this morning. As we have done every time except one, we used the drive-thru line.

Our usual order is three egg and cheese biscuits, substituting a McGriddle for two of them, a large half-cut iced tea with light ice and a large iced coffee with cream and no sugar. The line went quickly today and when we received our food I counted three sandwiches so off we went to return home.

Even though the sandwiches were labeled correctly, they were all prepared incorrectly with sausage and no egg. I don’t eat sausage and we weren’t going to drive the five-ish miles back to the McDonald’s. We have been told that we could call to register our complaint and that we would get a comped meal the next time. We didn’t do that, either.

Once again, I know this was not a serious, life-altering issue. Still, I would like a month–hell, how about a week–where nothing goes wrong.

By the way, I still don’t have my Z06. The service advisor at the Chevy dealer called yesterday to tell me that after much testing, the only thing they can surmise is that the aftermarket tune I had done–nine months ago–is the cause of the issue. When I had the car towed there I told them they could replace the ECU or re-tune it and in either case they could tune it back to stock. I confirmed that again and they said they would tune to stock, but I was warned I would have a “permanent” error on the DIC since the ECU expects to get readings from two O2 sensors on the exhaust manifold, which no longer exist since I have aftermarket long-tube headers, instead.

Since I received the call at about 10:30 AM I had a reasonable expectation that the car would be fixed by close of business yesterday. Of course, I have not received any subsequent call to tell me I can pick up the car. No news is not good news in this case.

I can tell you that even the suspicion that the aftermarket tuning could be the cause of this situation–it has now been 11 days since I have driven my car–completely rules out any such tuning in the future. I guess I’ll just have to make do with 700+ HP/720+ LB-FT of torque.

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Passenger car production ceased in the US in early 1942. In January of 1943 the Office of Price Administration (OPA) banned “nonessential” driving in 17 eastern states and 25 million gasoline ration books were issued to motorists all over the country. What do you think the response would be today to a similar action?

Sadly, Edsel Ford–the only child of Henry and Clara–died on May 26, 1943. On June 1, the senile, anti-Semitic tyrant re-assumed the presidency of the company that bears his name. The following long passage largely comes from More Than They Promised: The Studebaker Story by Thomas Bonsall.

 

“By the time America was drawn into the war, Ford Motor Company was in dreadful shape. Indeed, it had been for many years. One is tempted to refer to this as an “open secret” in Detroit, except that there was nothing secret about it at all. Every intelligent industry observer knew that Ford was in a potentially fatal downward slide and also knew the reason: Henry Ford [my mark].

…In the opinion of most observers, the only thing that offered any hope for the company was the old man’s remarkable son, Edsel…Under the circumstances, Edsel’s premature death at the age of 49 in May, 1943, caused shock waves–and not just in Detroit.”

 

Remember that the US was fighting on two fronts in World War II with the largest manpower and industrial commitment in the nation’s history. Ford’s vast manufacturing capability was desperately needed to being the war to a successful conclusion. Back to the book:

 

Peter F. Drucker, one of the mid-century’s most highly regarded writers and theorists on corporate management, wrote this about what might have happened next:

 

“Reality was such that the survival of Ford seemed improbable–some people said impossible. The best indication of the seriousness with which these chances of survival were viewed was a scheme proposed in responsible circles during those days in Detroit. The US Government, it was said, should lend enough money to Studebaker–the fourth largest automobile producer but still less than one-sixth the size of Ford–to buy out the Ford family and to take over the company. In this way, and this way alone, Ford would have a chance to survive. Otherwise, it was agreed, the company might well have to be nationalized lest its collapse seriously endanger the country’s economy and its war effort.”

 

As More Than They Promised points out, Drucker had impeccable credentials and, at the time, was conducting detailed research in Detroit for his very significant study of General Motors. His efforts involved almost unprecedented access to top auto industry leaders such as Alfred Sloan, who certainly knew what was happening in Detroit.

In the end, of course, nothing came of this plan. For one thing, the Ford family would almost certainly have vehemently resisted the idea. Henry Ford II, Henry Ford’s grandson, was released from military duty in July of 1943 and appointed to Vice-President of Ford in December, although at that point he became the person in charge de facto.

In addition, by the end of 1943 almost everyone “in the know,” including the German High Command, knew the Allies were going to win the war. The sense of urgency in the US Government regarding Ford’s situation evaporated, especially since Henry Ford II was in charge by then.

 

In 1943, about 1.3 million people were working in 1,038 automobile plants producing war materiel. The combined value of production was $13 billion in 1943 dollars. That translates to about $216 billion today, an amount which sounds large but is actually less than a third of annual US government expenses on “defense.” Of course, much of that is not actual production of war hardware.

Want to see some car “photos?” From Richard Langworth’s book on Studebaker during the post-World War II years are two photos of styling proposals for 1943-44 models.

 

 

Once again, what actually happens/happened is not the only thing that could have happened and is almost certainly not always the event with the highest a priori probability. Life is a Monte Carlo simulation and has just one event with a 100% probability, although the timing of that event is usually unknown.

 

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#EveryF*ckingDay!

#1943

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4 thoughts on “Threes And Sevens: 1943

  1. Interesting detail on the Ford troubles prior to WWII. I really find these tidbits of history fascinating since they are missing in what I have learned in my history classes.

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  2. The war was indeed fortuitous for Ford Motor Company. Aside from the obvious – huge contracts which kept money flowing in – the war ended up producing a group of well-educated, smart young men who gained experience quickly in their wartime service. Henry Ford II was able to access and hire these guys (The Whiz Kids), replacing the elder Ford’s antiquated ideas and stubborn refusal to modernize his cars. As you say, we can ‘what if…’ until the cows come home… I mean, the old man didn’t live many more years, who knows if he would have managed to install a like-minded crony as his successor, or if HFII would eventually have assumed control anyway. But, ‘right place right time’ probably applies here. The Deuce was installed at probably the right time to hire the young talent and get the company in position for post-war production. And we know the 1949 Fords and Mercurys were very popular cars, bringing Ford in line with GM as a styling leader.
    Had Studebaker assumed control of Ford, who knows what may have occurred. Studebaker/Ford may well have survived and been a strong company, as Studebaker’s issues always seemed to stem largely from lack of adequate resources with which to combat ‘the Big 3’. And Studebaker’s management were not afraid to challenge/set styling trends. Imagine a Ford of the 1950s with a GM-like lineup… the entry-level small car Studebaker, low priced Ford, mid-range Mercury, executive Lincoln and top of the range Packard (had Studebaker-Ford gone on to rescue it).

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    1. Thanks, Mark, for your very insightful comment. While no one can change the past, I absolutely believe that whatever happens/happened is not the only thing that could have happened. Of course, I have written that before. The notions of destiny, of outcomes being ordained just make me fume. My (i)ncomparable niece was under the World Trade Center in a subway train five minutes before the first plane hit on 9/11. We are all extraordinarily grateful for that timing, but that didn’t have to be and I am not so naive to think it did.

      One of the ironies Bonsall wrote about in his book on Studebaker is that part of the reason the whole idea of a Studebaker purchase of Ford seemed to make sense is that the former’s managerial leadership was thought of most highly while Ford’s, under the tyrant, was not. (If I had included all of the “color” and all of the exposition about that “what-if” the blog post would have exceeded 2,000 words, which I will not do.) Fast forward 10-12 years and those perceptions could not have been more different.

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