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History Henry Ford's car most people have never heard of

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by HOTRODPRIMER, May 4, 2020.

  1. The 1941 Hemp car.



    The hemp car was a prototype built with agricultural plastic. It is often called the soybean car, not because it was produced with soybeans, because it was researched in the Soybean Laboratory. The New York Times in 1941 states the car body and fenders were made from a strong material derived from hemp, wheat straw and corn. One article claims that they were made from a chemical formula that,many other ingredients, included wheat, hemp, flax and ramie; while the man who was instrumental in creating the car, Lowell E. Overly, claims it was "…hemp fiber in a phenolic resin with formaldehyde used in the impregnation" The body was lighter and therefore more fuel efficient than a normal metal body. It was made in Dearborn, Michigan through the work of scientist/botanist George Washington Carver and was introduced to public view on August 13, 1941. It was made, in part, as a hedge against the rationing of steel during World War II It was designed to run on hemp fuel.

    Henry Ford first put Eugene Turenne Gregorie of his design department in charge of manufacturing. Ultimately he was not satisfied with the proposed project, and gave the project to the Laboratory in Greenfield Village. The person in charge there was Lowell Overly, who had a background in tool & die design. The finished prototype was exhibited in 1941 at the Dearborn Days festival in Dearborn, Michigan It was also shown at the Michigan State Fair Grounds the same year.

    Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt. By the end of the war the plastic car idea went into oblivion. According to Lowell Overly, the prototype car was destroyed by Bob Gregorie.

    Others argue that Ford invested millions of dollars into research to develop the plastic car to no avail. He proclaimed he would "grow automobiles from the soil" — however it never happened, even though he had over 12,000 acres (4,900 ha) of hemp for experimentation. Some sources even say the Soybean Car wasn't made from soybeans at all — but of phenolic plastic, an extract of coal tar One newspaper even reports that all of Ford's research only provided whipped cream as a final product.

    The frame of this automobile was made of tubular steel, to which were attached some fourteen plastic panels, said to be "only a quarter of an inch (6 mm) thick." The windows were made of acrylic sheets. All of this led to a reduction in weight from 2,500 pounds for a typical car to 1,900 pounds, a reduction in weight of about 25 percent.



    The exact ingredients of the plastic are not known since there were no records kept of the plastic itself. Speculation is that it was a combination of wheat, hemp, flax and ramie, Lowell Overly, the person who had the most influence in creating the car, says it was "...hemp fiber in a phenolic resin with formaldehyde used in the impregnation.

  2. oldpl8s
    Joined: Apr 11, 2007
    Posts: 1,369


    What was he smoking?
  3. Flathead Dave
    Joined: Mar 21, 2014
    Posts: 2,875

    Flathead Dave
    from So. Cal.

    So, "Up In Smoke" was a true story...
  4. Kind of ironic that plastic didn’t go over very well back then and now we’re up to our necks with the stuff.
    “Recyclable” my ass.
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  5. Deuces
    Joined: Nov 3, 2009
    Posts: 18,538

    from Michigan

    Hey! Even George Washington grew hemp!.... To make rope I guess...:confused::D
  6. Flathead Dave
    Joined: Mar 21, 2014
    Posts: 2,875

    Flathead Dave
    from So. Cal.

    My mom told us stories about WWll. She told us that the public couldn't buy alot of plastic because it went to the war effort.
    HOTRODPRIMER and chryslerfan55 like this.
  7. Fortunateson
    Joined: Apr 30, 2012
    Posts: 3,110


    Interesting but hemp is a cousin of canabis so allusions to smoking are off target. It's kind of saying oranges and lemons are the same thing... Just a pet peeve of mine.
  8. So how would you chop it? Just crazy glue it back together?
  9. I also read where the car was powered by the 60 HP flathead V8. HRP
    Deuces likes this.
  10. Chrysler built one powered by a hemi......;)
    HOTRODPRIMER, Deuces and scotty t like this.
  11. catdad49
    Joined: Sep 25, 2005
    Posts: 4,158


    I Love off beat stuff like this, Thanks!
    Joined: Dec 14, 2009
    Posts: 2,368



    cool article.

    didn’t the Russians builds car out of a pressed card board type material ?

    a buddy of mine who grew up in communist Hungary was telling me about this one day. Complete shitbox, light weight with essentially a 2 stroke dirt bike engine and trans.?

    Told me stories if the car stayed wet to long it would get a smell to it and the pigs would try n eat them !!
    Had a lot of strange stories about growing up “Over there” in that era.
  13. East Germany...Trabant 2 stroke.
  14. KRB52
    Joined: Jul 9, 2011
    Posts: 1,018

    from Conneticut

    OP's piece says (supposedly), Ford was looking to run it on hemp oil "if" a war broke out, since he figured gas would be in short supply. Makes me wonder if it was some sort of diesel variant he had in mind.
    HOTRODPRIMER, Deuces and VANDENPLAS like this.
  15. The Ford can saw out a piece of the tubular structure and smoke a piece of the fender. The Dearborn Doobie , available at your local Ford dealer or head shop.
  16. There is a good reason why most people have never heard of it.
    Montana1, HOTRODPRIMER and Deuces like this.
  17. AVater
    Joined: Dec 9, 2008
    Posts: 2,221

    1. Connecticut HAMB'ers

    Maybe it became a Saturn? o_O
  18. jaracer
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 323


    I read years ago that Henry had his engineers working on a 5 cylinder engine to power the plastic car. I'm guessing this is similar to the plastic used in the dash of the 46-48 Fords. It's the stuff that disintegrated by the late 50's.
    HOTRODPRIMER likes this.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 3,037


    I find it hard to believe that a 1/4" thick resin impregnated anything supported by a tubular metal cage would yield any weight savings over sheet metal.

    I've seen early 5-cylinder Ford engines at the Dearborn R&E center, but do not know if one was intended for the hemp car.
    HOTRODPRIMER and Deuces like this.
  20. chriscarp1950
    Joined: Jul 16, 2014
    Posts: 25


    never knew heard of it. Thanks for the education
    HOTRODPRIMER and Deuces like this.
  21. gatz
    Joined: Jun 2, 2011
    Posts: 1,458


    and Chrysler used some of that "wonder plastic" on some of its cars' dashes, knobs, and trim pieces.
    It disintegrated also.
    circlejerks83 and HOTRODPRIMER like this.
  22. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 4,056

    from Ioway

    I think it was East Germany, that made the Trabant. Yeah it was (the body) made of compressed wool and cardboard, and what have you. 3 cylinder two-stroke. Yes, you had to mix gas & oil like a LawnBoy. Maybe it was injected, still.

    You couldn't just go buy one whenever you wanted, by the way. That isn't how it worked. There was a waiting list and it took a long time. I was told it was customary to sign children up when they were born.
  23. Back in the late 50s or early 60s, I read about the car in a Popular Mechanics or Popular Science, and never forgot about it because it was such an outlandish concept back then.
    At the time, I didn't know anything about hemp, and it made me curious enough to do some reading. As a result, I found out that hemp fibre is extremely strong, and was commonly used to make rope. A friend of mine from Ontario, showed me the rope making machine that they used until they were no longer allowed to grow hemp.
    Now, because of serious, substantial, health issues, I use CBD oil for pain and muscle spasms. It is a life saver, because it works, and has kept me from having to go to the heavy duty narcotic pain relievers, which just suck your life away.
    Who knew that plant was so versatile, and yet so reviled by some uninformed idiots.
    Thanks for posting about the car. A few years later, and it might have had a place in the market.
  24. killbilly
    Joined: Mar 29, 2009
    Posts: 247


    My Dad grew 10 acres of it before WWII broke Ky...for rope....
    HOTRODPRIMER and Deuces like this.
  25. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 4,056

    from Ioway

    Hemp isn't really "weed". It's the same plant, but it doesn't have any psychoactive properties. It used to (maybe still does) grow wild in the ditches in Ioway. It is very distinctive looking. The birds love the stuff. Seeds galore. Could smoke a whole plant and probably not even cop a good headache. Before the advent of Nylon, hemp rope (and manila) was about it.

    When I was stationed in Hawaii, the DEA guys borrowed our helicopters for a time to look for dope growers on the Big Island. They were really sharp. We'd be a couple thousand feet up, everything is fricking green, and somebody would say "There's one!" and sure enough, they were right. They could spot a few plants against a sea of green stuff.

    ProTip: Don't have a trail leading from your house directly to your weed patch, garden hoses, fertilizer etc. Can you say "probable cause" boys and girls? I knew you could.
    HOTRODPRIMER and catdad49 like this.
  26. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 15,490


    I used to have some Iowa Ditch Weed plants that would grow wild out back behind the garage. Maybe some of the other rusty old Fords back there had "gone to seed".
    HOTRODPRIMER, catdad49 and Deuces like this.
  27. Flathead Dave
    Joined: Mar 21, 2014
    Posts: 2,875

    Flathead Dave
    from So. Cal.

    People have been smoking the hemp flower for centuries around the world.
    It's now used in hemp oil for aches and pains and medicinal purposes.
    HOTRODPRIMER, catdad49 and Deuces like this.
  28. rusty valley
    Joined: Oct 25, 2014
    Posts: 1,494

    rusty valley

    i have 47 acres here and the stuff grew wild everywhere when i bought the place in 77. story was they grew it for rope during the war. oddly it has slowly disappeared over the years. never was sprayed by the cops or anything, just slowly died off.
    j-jock and HOTRODPRIMER like this.

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