In June, Ford Motor Company released images so rare and popular for public viewing that its website crashed.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the iconic pickup, a collection of coveted vintage photos of the best-selling F-Series trucks has just been posted online.
By doubling the computer server capacity of the Ford Heritage Vault site, the company hopes to avoid drama this time. The online archival site, which is less than a year old, has elicited an unexpected response.
Hundreds of thousands of car collectors and gearheads have viewed and downloaded 9,000 images of classic Ford, Lincoln, and Edsel vehicles and vintage sales brochures (including Mustang, Bronco, and F-150) since they were made available for free, according to Ford archivist Ted Ryan.
“We expected heavy, heavy usage followed by a decline,” Ryan explained. “Instead, we average 3,000 downloads and 3,500 users per day.”
Ford’s history is now available online.
It’s a who’s who of the automotive industry. The website features brochures and advertising campaigns that show how car design and language have evolved over time.
“I have this mental image of a car club in Finland or Croatia discovering the site and disseminating the URL to its members as they dive in,” Ryan explained. “This is the epitome of word-of-mouth marketing, with consistent traffic to the site. If you build it, they will come… and bring their friends with them.”
During Thanksgiving week, the No. 1 country accessing the site was Finland.
“I was taken aback. Finland?” Ryan stated. “We had 3,000 downloads on average that week. America was sitting around eating turkey and doing nothing.”
Ford has begun to roll out access and new content to various countries, with the United States being the first to do so in June 2022. According to Ryan, the company saw 500,000 searches and 125,000 downloads after the site launched in the United Kingdom.
Top Gear, the UK’s best-selling car magazine, issued a warning on December 8: “Don’t blame us if you end up wasting your day trawling through a trove of classic Fords.”
According to Ryan, due to privacy laws in California and other countries, Ford cannot track who visits the site or which images they download. The project was initially stalled due to Ford lawyers’ concerns about privacy protection. According to Ryan, the company discovered a way to make content accessible while also protecting user privacy.
What has changed on the Ford Heritage Vault website?
In honour of the F-Series’ 75th anniversary, the site has revamped its homepage and added historic truck images dating back to 1947, as well as hundreds of product brochures.
“With product photos and brochures, we’ve had a great run,” Ryan said. “We filled a void that previously existed. And we know there was a lot of interest in this.”
Ford will add more international products to the site in the coming months. Before going online, the team must have the images digitised, scanned, and catalogued into the archive system. Currently, historical Ford photos and brochures and letters are kept in a temperature-and-humidity-controlled building in Dearborn.
“The number of man hours required would astound you,” Ryan said. “Look for concept cars later this year, followed by different content, such as press releases and publications.”
Basically, he said, everything a kid wants or needs for a high school paper on Ford Motor Company is available. “I have them covered. We’ve got you covered.”