Did Henry Ford once design a car made almost entirely of hemp?

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The automaker and visionary reportedly built a cannabis car that was 10 times stronger than steel

Henry Ford is the father of the vehicle assembly line and built an empire that still lives strong today. He was also a visionary who saw what was possible well ahead of its time. Evidence of this can be found in one of his vehicle concepts – a car made from hemp that was also powered by hemp fuel.

In the 1930s, Ford believed that it wouldn’t be possible to continue to make fuel-consuming steel vehicles for a long time. He began toying with the idea of a hemp-based vehicle and, in 1941, actually showcased the fruits of his labor. He presented a car that was made completely out of hemp and that was able to run off of hemp fuel or vegetable oil.

The panels of the vehicle were molded using hydraulics and contained 70% of cellulose fibers from sisal, wheat straw and hemp. The other 30% was a resin binder. The only steel found in the vehicle was its tubular welded frame. According to Ford, the vehicle was ten times stronger than steel and he demonstrated this by attacking the car with an ax – the ax just bounced off the car’s surface.

Over the years, there have been a number of studies that have tried to dismiss the reports of Ford’s hemp car. The Ford company itself has said that there is no conclusive evidence to support or refute the possibility. The company recognizes that its founder was involved heavily in hemp and even had a hemp farm and verified that he successfully made plastics using hemp resin. This lends some credibility to the story.

It’s no secret that big business is good at swaying political policies. In the early half of the 20th century, steel and fuel ruled the world (and, to some degree, still do). We may never know if Ford actually created a working prototype – perhaps it’s time for some entrepreneur to get his or her hands dirty.