July 1, 2013

From the beginning of Mustang production in 1964, jacks were included as part of emergency equipment for changing tires in the event of a flat. Going back to the days of the Model T, a tire jack was standard equipment, especially since road conditions were so poor back then that fixing flat tires was common.

Of course, automobile jack design changed over the years. By 1964 all Fords were using bumper jacks. But for the Mustang, Ford needed a jack that was compact enough to fit into a smaller trunk area. This led to the scissor jack, which is still used in the Mustang today, although there have been numerous design changes over the years.

The "scissor" name comes from the diagonal metal pieces that expand or contract in a manner resembling a pair of scissors. This makes them handy because they are compact in their contracted position. The jack was stored in the trunk, either under or above the spare tire depending on the year or model. Cost control greatly influenced the design of scissor jacks, therefore they were not very robust. It was common for them to be replaced over the years with an aftermarket jack.

Starting with the first production cars in March 1964, scissor jacks were standard equipment in every Mustang. It was common to all models regardless of engine size or trim package. A base six-cylinder, Boss 429, or Shelby would all have the same jack as there was no distinction based on engine size. This contradicts some Ford Master Parts catalogs which claim there was a six-cylinder jack, as identified with the letter "A" stamping. The "A" was simply the manufacturer's ID stamp and had nothing to do with engine displacement.

Model-specific to Mustangs and Cougars (and in later years Pintos/Mavericks and Bobcats/Comets), the jack design was controlled by Ford but allowed for variations by the manufacturers. Ford wanted supplier competition, so they started with three vendors in the Detroit area. These Ford-specific scissor jacks were not sold in the aftermarket.

Manufacturers

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Ausco (Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company) in St. Joseph, Michigan, typically stamped their jacks with an "A" on the flip-top portion. They were the only manufacturer that used a coarse thread drive screw. Ausco supplied jacks to Ford until about mid 1970.

Ryerson & Haynes in Jackson, Michigan, stamped their jacks with different variations of an RH stamp on the flip-top or the jack base. The logo is typically an R or an RH with a circle around it. They supplied jacks through the entire '65-'78 period.

Jacks from Universal Tool and Stamping in Butler, Indiana, were stamped with what appears to be a letter "I," or number "1" on the base, or a "U" on the side of the base.

Dura Corp in Oak Park, Michigan, started supplying jacks in mid 1970. Used from 1970 to 1978, these jacks were typically stamped with an AD on the base or trunnion.

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All of the manufacturers supplied jacks and jack handles to Ford's three Mustang production facilities. None of them had an exclusive supply to any one assembly plant. The manufacturers were allowed to make basic design changes in the interest of reducing manufacturing costs, improving performance, and reducing delivery lead times. This accounts for many of the differences we see in the same style of jack (different drive screw threads, bases, saddles, rivets, trunnions, etc). A scissor jack manufactured during this time period typically cost about $5 to produce.

During the process of researching vendors, I had the opportunity to speak with Dennis Houseworth, currently president and owner of US Jack in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Dennis has been working in this industry for most of his life and actually worked at Ford in the late 1960s before moving to Ausco in 1970. Dennis was able to verify that Ford owned the tooling, which was provided to the vendors, and that Ford production was driven by cost reduction because they did not like to spend money on these items.

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During '65-'78 Mustang production, Ford issued several service part numbers. However, some Master Parts catalog listings appear to be in error. The service part number has little to do with identifying the jack assembly. To further confuse the issue, if an owner purchased a replacement jack from the dealer, he did not know which version of the jack was inside the box, so the actual service part number does not indicate what is correct for a car.

The jack assembly itself was manufactured from flat steel-sheet stock and fabricated, stamped, and bent to form the jack components. Rivets were spun or hammered. The various jack components—saddles, base, adjusting screw, thrust bearing, and trunnions—were then assembled and painted.

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In mid to late 1969, Ford started pushing for cost reductions. The result was the "pinch weld" jack, which was significantly cheaper to produce as it had less unique and individual pieces than previous jacks. The earliest date coded example we have found is October 1969. Introduced during '70 Mustang production, the new pinch weld jacks were included with mid to late '70 Mustangs as Ford was transitioning to the next generation of jacks. By the start of '71 production, all models received pinch weld jacks. At this point, with reduced production quantities and not wanting to deal with frivolous lawsuits, Ausco pulled out of scissor jack manufacturing, meaning no more jacks with Ausco's distinct coarse threads. It appears that Dura replaced Ausco as the third supplier.