University researchers argue that Henry didn't start it all with the Model T
5 April 2007

Contrary to what we’ve been told, Henry Ford wasn’t the father of modern mass car production, according to two researchers from Cardiff University.A new paper by Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis and Dr Pete Wells of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, suggests that the little-known Edward G Budd of Philadelphia was responsible for the development of the pressed steel car body and mass production.Ford did develop mass production of key mechanical components and sub assemblies, as well as the moving assembly line. But Ford’s cars were built around a wooden framework clad with steel, aluminium or plywood, then painted. The paint could take days to dry, and attempts to speed this up often ended in fire. The answer was to remove wood from the bodies, and by 1914 Budd held a number of patents for a pressed steel car body. Dodge Brothers trialled the technology, though the next major step - using the body to replace the chassis and carry all the mechanical components - was jointly developed by Budd with Citroen in 1934. Nieuwenhuis and Wells argue that the history of the origins of mass car production was largely written in the 1930s, at a time when Budd's innovations were still embryonic. Historical accounts, they say, have drawn heavily on Ford's own perspective and his focus on assembly line labour, while Budd's input has remained hidden from view."Edward Budd was a true innovator. Without him, today's highly automated mass production of cars would not be possible,” said Nieuwenhuis. “Also, the introduction of the all-steel body resulted in cars which were stiffer, safer, stronger, more durable and easier to paint and repair."

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer
  • Citroën C3
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Is the third gen Citroën C3 ‘fresh and different’ enough to take on its supermini rivals? We spend six months with one to find out
  • BMW X3
    First Drive
    15 October 2017
    A satisfying rework of the X3 that usefully improves its handling, cabin finish, space and connectivity to make this BMW a class front-runner again
  • Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer
    First Drive
    13 October 2017
    Off-road estate is now bigger, more spacious and available with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, but is it enough to make its German rivals anxious?