Diatech cutting a path for Ford’s Model T

We love the things that our customers achieve with Diatech products. When faced with the challenge of installing bronze tracks for the Ford Model T project in Fort William, Iain Blyth, from Kinlocheil, designed a hand-built machine to cut the grooves needed for 32 metres of wheel tracks. His machine cut through granite blocks, using Diatech diamond granite cutting blades, to facilitate the installation of bronze wheel tracks in Cameron Square, Fort William.

The ‘Bronze Ford’ sculpture celebrates the nine-day ascent and descent of Ben Nevis in a Ford Model T car in May 1911, driven by Henry Alexander of Edinburgh. The fabulous sculpture was cast and constructed by Brian Caster and Kerry Hammond of Edinburgh based Powderhall Bronze. The full-size bronze replica was cast from the parts of a car carried up Ben Nevis in 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this remarkable feat, and later displayed in the adjacent West Highland Museum.

You can see original footage of the Ford Model T descending Ben Nevis in 1911 at the West Highland Museum. The Ben Nevis Model T Ford project was inspired by this event, and the carrying of a Model T to the top of Ben Nevis by 77 stalwarts on the 100th anniversary in 2011. The cast bronze sculpture, which sits proudly outside the Museum in Cameron Square in Fort William, was unveiled in 2018 by Mike Munro, great-grandson of Henry Alexander.

The final part of the project was completed in 2020 with the installation of bronze tyre tracks which lead from the entrance of the museum to the sculpture. However, the installation of these tyre tracks posed a significant challenge.

Using 30x230mm diameter Diatech diamond granite cutting blades, mounted side-by-side, with a narrow spacer between each, Iain’s machine produced a spinning diamond drum 120mm wide. It cut channels in the paved surface to mark the route taken by the Ford Model T’s tyres. This innovative solution was developed after the channel cutting for the tyre tracks threatened to de-rail the project. Iain’s hand built “granite mower” saved the day!

Jeremy Burgess, MD of Diatech, said: “We’re delighted our cutting blades have been used in such a unique way to commemorate an unforgettable occasion in history, when a Ford Model T attempted to ascend and descend one of Scotland’s most iconic mountains and the UK’s highest mountain! The durability and versatility of our cutting blades is demonstrated so well through this project, creating a much-needed solution to installing the Ford Model T sculpture in the heart of Fort William.”

Iain Blyth added: “This was an incredibly unique project, and we had been searching for an effective way to install bronze trye tracks, to complete the final part of the Ford Model T sculpture in Fort William’s Cameron Square. We researched how it could be done, but all the solutions available to us were way beyond our budget. So, we decided to build our own bespoke machine capable of cutting Granite paving. We got in touch with Diatech who were incredibly helpful and the only company that showed genuine interest in what we were trying to achieve. After being sent a sample, we purchased the Diatech blades and set about building the machine. We were delighted to be able to successfully install the tyre tracks, and subsequently the sculpture, at an affordable price.

“I’m delighted to say the sculpture has attracted thousands of tourists who visit Fort William every year. They enjoy sitting in the car for the obligatory holiday picture next to the sculpture of Henry Alexander who courageously originally drove the car up Ben Nevis.”

If you have the chance, the sculpture and museum are well worth a visit and celebrate, among other things, the very best of Scottish innovation and spirit of adventure!