Vintage Video Double Feature: How Ford Cars Are Born
Back in the day, nobody did hard-core industrial porn better than Ford.
Welcome to today's video double feature! Today we're looking at two films that share the same hokey title: "A Car is Born." Both were produced by Ford and both show the process of car creation, but in two very different—and strangely compelling—ways.
Ford's "A Car is Born" — 1968 edition
The 1968 version of "A Car Is Born" is good old-fashioned industrial porn from the automaker positioned to do it best. Henry Ford's dream was to bring raw materials into one end of the plant and send finished cars out the other, and this film shows it all: The fire and fury of the foundry, sand becoming glass, and goo becoming vinyl, stamping and assembly, more fire (engine casting), more assembly, and finally finished Fords being inspected and loaded onto trains.
We've seen lots of car factory videos, but this is one of our favorites. Why? While many plant videos are feel-good shorts with upbeat music, this is a 27-minute deep dive that pulls no punches about the grim and noisy world of the automotive assembly plant.
The color isn't great (purple and white?) but it's a must-see for car geeks (though possibly not OSHA inspectors—keep an eye out for cigar-smoking plant workers and painters working without respirators). Also, there are lots of good shots of '68 Falcons, Cougars, and suicide-door Thunderbirds in various states of assembly.
Ford's "A Car is Born" — 1972-ish Edition
We have to wonder if Ford brass was unhappy with the '68 version, because a few years later they remade it. (The YouTube descriptor says 1969, but the cars on the assembly line are '72s and '73s.) This iteration is a lot more polished and public-relations-y, but it's still a joy to watch. Shot with a distinctive 1970s aesthetic, complete with artsy camera angles and jazzy music, this film is—well, it's kind of all over the place.
Narrated by a voice that we're almost positive is Telly Savalas (he did do Ford commercials in the early 80s), this edition starts off with iron ore being blasted out of the ground and goes right to foundry shots interspersed with person-on-the-street customer testimonials. It covers design (when they flip through the sketches, keep an eye out for two that look like GM's 1973 "colonnade" mid-sizers with Pontiac details), executive review, and testing, including crash testing (spot the airbags!) and a '73 mule getting pounded mercilessly at the proving grounds. It even touches on Ford's green creds at a time when the word "ecology" was barreling into the American lexicon.
The car-assembly shots are done with 1940s-style music and men-are-men drama, covering much of the same ground as the 1968 version with better lighting and color. We've watched a lot of car-related industrial films, and this is like a Greatest Hits—and well worth watching just for the 1970s hairdos.