Upton Sinclair’s novel ‘The Flivver King’ extols lighter, stronger, and cheaper Fords

Among the dozens of books written by Upton Sinclair, we find a surprise in the little-known 1937 novel, “The Flivver King: A Story of Ford-America.” This work takes the reader behind the legend of Henry Ford. A deeper analysis is forthcoming, but please consider this insightful passage:

Henry Ford went to Florida to attend an auto race in which one of his cars was entered; there was an accident, and a French car was shattered, and he picked up a piece of it, and found it lighter and tougher than anything he had ever had in his hands before. He carried it home and had it examined; it was vanadium steel, a new alloy, having more than three times the tensile strength of the steel being used in America. It was the thing for motor-cars, at any rate for Fords; Henry brought on a man from England who understood about it, and after some difficulties succeeded in getting it made.

It was the beginning of an epoch; cars would be lighter, stronger, cheaper. Let anybody make fun of the Ford car, saying it was made of tin; Henry would not worry. The people were finding out that it ran; they were buying it, paying cash–and Henry was collecting the cash. “Seest thou a man diligent in his business,” said Solomon. “He shall stand before kings.” Henry did not often quote scripture, but many of his customers knew it by hears.”

Here’s the link to my 2011 story “On Route 66, Ford Four-Bangers Go for a Hill Climb,” with my photos, for The New York Times.

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