Scale Model of Henry Ford's First Engine

| August/September 1987

  • Henry Ford's first engine

  • Drawing of Henry's engine

  • Henry Ford's first engine
  • Drawing of Henry's engine

For several years I had wanted to build a scale model of Henry Ford's first engine. I had looked for information or pictures for some time but did not find any help. One day I was looking in an old Floyd Clymer book and there to my surprise was a drawing of Henry's 1894 engine. After calming down, work was started right away building the engine. Henry's engine was 32 inches long and uses a 13 inch diameter hand wheel. This was larger than what I wanted to build. There was a 9 inch diameter hand wheel in my junk box, so a six-tenth size was decided on. This made the base about 20 inches long. The cylinder is 1 inch pipe. The piston is 1-1/16 diameter using automatic transmission piston rings (2).

The first piston was smaller, but I goofed honing the cylinder and couldn't get the rings to seal, so a larger piston had to be made. The intake valve is a 1/4 inch brass air check valve with the spring shortened to weaken it. The exhaust valve is a 1/4 inch globe valve modified to make an exhaust valve the way Henry did it. The connecting rod is steel tubing with ends pressed in. The timing gears are Honda 50 CC transmission gears (from two different transmissions). The base and coil case is walnut. The details on Henry's ignition are not clear so a model airplane spark plug and Model T Ford coil were used.

The compression is about 2-1/2 to 1. The engine runs but has to be babied to keep it going. After about three minutes of running the piston heats up and expands enough to start knocking. When this happens it is time to shut the gas off and let the engine cool.

I have enjoyed displaying the Henry Ford engine at engine shows. There have been several suggestions on improving the engine, but I explain to folks this is the way Henry built the engine. I have built another engine using some of the suggestions about improving Henry's engine. This new engine does run much better.



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