ATC Blog

About Henry Ford’s Plastic Car Body Idea in 1941

Plastic Car BodyIf you want to look into the auto industry’s crystal ball—a personal pastime of many Automotive Training Center students and instructors—tune into the concepts introduced during annual auto shows.

At this year’s New York Auto Show, Ford unveiled several ways to incorporate renewable materials into models like the Ford Escape. But this wasn’t the first time Ford has experimented with plant-based materials in their vehicles. This gave us the opportunity to look back while also looking ahead.

Did you know that Henry Ford was dabbling in sustainable build materials more than 75 years ago? Keep reading to find out more about Ford’s plastic car body idea that came to life in 1941.

Ford’s Forward-Thinking Founder

In the 1930s, Henry Ford dedicated nearly 10 years to taking on an auto experiment that he hoped would unite agriculture and industry.

The project’s result was a 2,000-pound vehicle with a tubular steel framework surrounded by 14 plastic panels that were made from soybean and hemp. The Soybean Car, as it became known, was first showcased at a community festival in Dearborn, MI, in August 1941.

The test car was an average of 1,000 pounds lighter than the majority of vehicles on the market at the time, and according to The Henry Ford, the organization dedicated to Ford’s life and innovations, Ford cited that it would provide better protection for its passengers than steel cars and could even “roll over without being crushed.”

What Happened to Ford’s Soybean Car?

Though far ahead of its time, Henry Ford’s pioneering idea didn’t arrive at the most opportune one. As the country readied itself for World War II, further production of Ford’s soybean-plastic vehicles was put on hold and ultimately faded out of view.

Today’s Cutting-Edge Composite Materials

Most traditional plastics are made from petroleum sources. In swapping oil-based materials for renewable composites—ultimately what Ford’s founder had figured out way back when—automakers can get closer to building cars that work with the environment rather than against it.

The New York Auto Show last March unveiled many of the Ford brand’s advanced material innovations in action and even some already in production, including fiber composites that make up plastic inner door panels on the Escape. Ford is looking ahead to transforming out-of-circulation paper money grated by the government into plastic cup holders and enlisting retired blue jeans to insulate the Focus’ engine compartment.

Get More on Auto Advancements Like These

Cars play a huge role in our lives, give insight into a culture, and can even be used to pinpoint a specific era in time.

Teaching and inspiring our students to understand, repair, and improve the equipment that rules today’s modern rides, those enrolled in one of ATC’s five programs have the opportunity to work with advancements in industry systems firsthand. How far auto innovation has come is a fascinating, ongoing story that we enjoy being a part of every day.

To hear more about auto advancements like these, stay tuned to the ATC blog! You may also want to check out the opportunities available to you when you pursue a career in the automotive technology field. Download our free Automotive Technology Career Guide to get the latest on today’s positions that will allow you to supercharge your passion for vehicles as you work toward a rewarding career.

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