Henry Ford’s First Car

Throughout 2017, we explore Detroit’s history with 12 artifacts — starting with an invention that forever changed the city


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While it wasn’t the first car to be built in Detroit, Henry Ford’s Quadricycle is arguably the start of the Motor City. Between 1894 and 1896, Ford built this automobile prototype in a shed behind a house he rented on Bagley Avenue while working as an engineer at Edison Illuminating Company. (It would be 12 years before Ford found commercial success in the automobile industry with his Model T.)

As its name implies, the Quadricycle utilizes bicycle parts, including bike tires and a chain drive (the seat came from a horse buggy). The ethanol-powered, two-cylinder engine could produce 4 horsepower. 

Clearly, Ford must have known that there would be no stopping his automotive ambitions: the original, which probably only achieved top speeds of around 20 mph, was built without brakes. 


To see more American innovations, visit The Henry Ford Museum; thehenryford.org.
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