A.P. Brush and Henry Ford

Henry Ford

A. P. Brush and Henry Ford met in the early days of the development of the automobile.  As mentioned before, each shared the common goal of delivering the $500 car to the public. Each was successful in meeting their goals but the path was difficult at best.

Henry’s early ventures into car production were not successful but led to Mr. Brush’s success. Likewise, Ford’s success would be the harbinger of Brush’s downfall. On to the details...

Most of us can recite the Cliff Notes version of Henry Ford’s life. The alphabet succession of models up to the Model T, huge production numbers, “any color as long as it is black”, the modern assembly line, etc. Fewer know of the days before the Model T. This is where A. P. Brush enters. In Henry Ford’s earliest ventures (Henry Ford Company), he was at logger heads with the management team. The financiers had their idea of what an automobile should be and Chief Engineer Henry harbored a different vision. 

The money people brought in a consultant, one Henry M. Leland, to sort things out. The Chief Engineer left his own company and the firm was renamed the Cadillac Automobile Company.

Picking up the slack in Mr. Ford’s absence was our A. P. Brush, an employee of Leland Faulconer. LeLand and Faulconer were providers of the one cylinder Oldsmobile engine.


With an improved design, it became the first Cadillac engine and A. P. became Cadillac’s chief engineer. In 1905 Brush left the position to cofound the Oakland Car Company and in 1907 founded Brush Runabout Company.

In the meantime, Henry Ford starts Ford Motorcar Company in 1903 with a $28,000 capitalization and the rest is history. Partners and investors included C. Harold Wills, John and Horace Dodge.

When in Gallery 1, take a closer look at those two red cars across from each other. One the root stock for Cadillac, the other the basis of Ford Motor Company. The similarities are striking! Thank Henry Ford.

The Brush Runabout was a successful design with over 20,000 being produced before 1911. So successful in fact it was folded into United States Motor Company, a creation of Brush’s financiers, the  Briscoe brothers. Benjamin Briscoe funded David Buick’s first car. Seizing on the opportunities the emerging transportation market offered, Benjamin attempted to merge four major manufacturers, Ford, Buick, Reo and Maxwell. Henry Ford and David Buick were no peach orchard ponies and rebuffed the deal leaving the Briscoes to devise another plan. U. S. Motors was founded with the merger of Maxwell, Reo, Brush, Columbia Motor Car Company and Stoddard-Dayton. $6,000,000 in financing was secured but the venture proved under funded and ultimately failed in 1912.

The loose ends - A. P. Brush goes to work for General Motor’s Billy Durant as a consulting engineer. Henry Leland founds Lincoln which was later acquired by Henry Ford.  Oakland forms the basis of Pontiac. Dodge Brothers start building their own cars in 1915. C. Harold Wills, Ford’s engineer and investor also starts a car company, Wills St. Clair. The Briscoes go on to crude oil refining, gold mining and agricultural experimentation.

The $500 car? Both A.P. Brush and later Henry Ford bested the challenge by producing vehicles that replaced the horse at a competitive price point. “Everyman’s Car” become a reality that changed the lives of us all.

By Guest Blogger: Flat Tire Jack