"I just want you to know that we have tremendous pride in the Ford name," he told the shareholders more than a decade ago. "We have a spirit of working together, and we have a passion for cars. And we also have a great desire to see the Ford name in the forefront of world transportation."
Ford was more comfortable watching his Lions than maneuvering in the corporate boardroom. By the time he became a Ford director, his brother, Henry Ford II, was firmly in control of the company.
The Lincoln Continental Mark II, his biggest project, was an early attempt by Ford to compete with General Motors' Cadillac brand, which at the time had cornered the market for luxury cars sold to a growing class of affluent Americans, according to Gerald Meyers, a University of Michigan business professor who worked at Ford in the 1950s.
But the car was killed off in 1957 after being on sale only two years, a victim of poor marketing and Henry Ford II's indifference toward his brother's pet project.
"He put his whole life into that car," Meyers said in an interview with the AP. "This was to be the beginning of the high-priced luxury vehicles for the Ford Motor Co. that they didn't have. It would lead the company into the broader market more like General Motors had become. It didn't turn out that way."
The car was a frustrating start to a series of efforts to make Lincoln a top luxury brand, efforts that continue today.
Although Ford personified the family's influence over the company for years, he seldom had a profound impact on it, Meyers said. He was often overshadowed by his brother, Henry Ford II, who fired flamboyant president and Mustang father Lee Iacocca in 1978. But Meyers said William Clay Ford would have had to approve such a bold move to get rid of Iacocca, who went on to lead rival Chrysler.