Galamb, Joseph

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Joseph Galamb

Joseph Galamb (1881–1955), born in Hungary, became a draftsman and designer at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan, in 1905. He designed many of the components of the Model T including the planetary gearbox, and he continued design work at Ford until the mid-1940s.

Educated in Hungary

Galamb was born on February 3, 1881, in Mako, Hungary. He graduated from the Budapest Technical University (now Donat Banki Technical College) in 1899 with a diploma in mechanical engineering.

Galamb became a draftsman at the Steel Engineering Factory in Diosgyor, then joined Hungary's largest automobile factory, the Hungarian Automobile Company, in Arad, Transylvania, where he won a scholarship to do postgraduate work in Germany. By 1903 he had worked in several German cities and at the German Adler car factory.

Met Henry Ford

Galamb sailed to the United States to attend the 1903–04 World's Fair in St. Louis, then joined the Westinghouse Corporation as a toolmaker. He traveled to Detroit on December 10, 1905, for a short visit, and he met Henry Ford, who convinced Galamb to work for Ford at the two-year-old Ford Motor Company as a draftsman.

Galamb's ability earned him a quick promotion to the company's experimental factory, where he designed components for the Model M. Soon he was reassigned again to develop a new racing prototype that Ford felt would help publicize and popularize the automobile. Galamb's six-cylinder racer reportedly performed well.

Design on Model T

One day in early 1907, Galamb recalled, as quoted in the Piquette Story website, Ford came to him and said, "'Joe, I've got an idea to design a new car.… At that time we didn't know that it was to be the Model T. It was just a new model."

The Model T, whose production continued until 1927, was wildly popular in the United States and is considered the first mass-produced automobile. Working on it, Galamb made drawings on paper and on a blackboard that were photographed next to a calendar every day to avert patent problems later. The planning was a secret. The Model T was developed over a two-year period. Prototypes were tested in a fence-enclosed lot. Galamb is credited with designing the Model T's clutch, transmission, drive shaft, and differential. He also designed much of the chassis. The Model T's design was well-suited to assembly line production. Improvements were ongoing. In March 1919 Galamb made the lives of most Model T Mechanics much more pleasant by changing the design of the pin from a straight pin to a rivet with a cotter pin hole.

Designed Tractors, Trucks

With the Model T under production, Galamb was asked by Ford to design a light tractor for farmers. Galamb used the engine from a Model B coupled with the power-train from the Model T to create Ford's first gas-powered tractor. Beginning in 1915, Galamb worked on plans for the Fordson tractor and ignition plug. During World War I he worked on Liberty aircraft engines and designed ambulance vans and light trucks. Then in 1927 he began work on the Model A Ford.

Ended Career at Ford

In 1937 Galamb received a formal title, chief of design. He worked with Henry Ford's son, Edsel, and during World War II he designed a small six-cylinder car, completing it in 1942. He retired because of health problems in April 1944. He died on December 4, 1955.

Ford did not consume all Galamb's productive years. He visited Hungary many times, and in 1921 he established a scholarship for poor students in Mako to enable them to pursue higher education. He also lectured at the Association of Hungarian Engineers and Architects. On February 3, 1981, Mako honored Galamb with a plaque memorializing the hundredth anniversary of his birth and describing him as "a mechanical engineer who did pioneering work on the Model T Ford and Fordson tractor."


Lacey, Robert, Ford: The Men and the Machine, Little, Brown, 1986.


"Changing Faces of Other Vehicles,", (January 10, 2004).

"Henry Ford's Chief Designer," Ford's Chief Designer-Joseph Galamb/Haris Bros. Auto Museum, (December 19, 2003).

"Joseph Galamb—(1881–1955) Ford Chief," The Hungary Page-More Famous Hungarians, (January 10, 2004).

"Jozsef Galamb (1881–1955)," Jozsef Galamb (1881–1955), (January 10, 2004).

"The Model T Crank Ratchet and How It Changed," (January 10, 2004).

"Piquette Personalities: Joseph A. Galamb," The Piquette Story, (December 19, 2003).

"Reminiscences of Joseph Galamb," The Piquette Story: The Experimental Room, (December 19, 2003).