Give Now  »

wfiu logo
WFIU Public Radio

wtiu logo
WTIU Public Television

Choose which station to support!

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

Noon Edition

Henry Ford And His Soybean Car

Is it true that Henry Ford built a car made out of soybeans? If so, where is it now? The answer is yes: Henry Ford did in fact make a car from soybeans in 1941.

The Soybean Car

Just to be clear, the car's body was made from plastic panels made from soybeans. The frame and engine and other parts were made from metal.

But I guess the other question is, why did Ford use soybeans in the first place?

Helping The American Farmer

Ford was trying to help American farmers. He grew up on a farm, and was always thinking of ways to help farmers make more money.

Showing that soybeans could be used to make cars might create a lucrative new market for soybean farmers. Plus, metal was scarce during the early 1940s. So Ford was looking for new materials, like plastic, to build car parts.

Loving Soybeans

And finally, Ford was just really into soybeans. At the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago he invited reporters to a lunch and dinner featuring dozens of soy foods.

He served soybean cheese, soybean crackers, soy bread and butter, soy milk, and soy ice cream. Ford was probably one of the first Americans to regularly drink soy milk.

Where Is The Soy Car Now?

The only reason Ford didn't build more was because the Second World War shut down car manufacturing. And after the war, the initiative just sort of faded out.

As for the soy car that was built, it was eventually torn apart for parts.

Learn More: Soybean Car (Benson Ford Research Center)

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science