Fred Jones' Influence on the Automotive Industry and OKC - 405 Magazine

Fred Jones’ Influence on the Automotive Industry and OKC

Fred Jones left his mark on the automotive industry and OKC

Vintage photo of the Fred Jones Manufacturing Company building in OKC

Fred Jones Manufacturing Company building | Photo courtesy of The Oklahoma Historical Society

Fred Jones already had a sales job waiting for him when he arrived in Oklahoma City from Georgia on March 9, 1916. While he might have been a successful cutlery salesman, he soon became interested in a different path.

Jones saw a city poised for growth with possibilities not even imagined a decade earlier. He was intrigued. A month after stepping off the train, while having a toothache treated, his conversation with the dentist about the new Model T assembly plant led to a meeting with the manager, who was also a patient.

Jones started his new job at the Ford Motor Company assembly plant on April 10, as a timekeeper making 35 cents an hour. When World War I temporarily halted work at the plant, Jones enlisted. When he returned in 1919, ownership piqued his interest.

He invested in dealerships in Blackwell, Oklahoma, where sales quickly tripled, and Tonkawa, but he soon sold his interests and opened his own Ford dealership in Oklahoma City in 1922. He increased patronage by offering a used car program, low payment plans and all-night service. 

Vintage photo of automotive visionary Fred Jones
Automotive visionary Fred Jones | Photo courtesy of The Oklahoma Historical Society

A growing highway system in the state and across the nation spurred car sales. By 1926, Jones was the largest Ford dealer in the Southwest, and by 1955 was the nation’s No. 1 seller of Ford cars and trucks, operating over 10 Ford dealerships. During his 46-year career, he sold more than 300,000 cars.

Jones was quick to recognize and take advantage of business opportunities. In 1938, a few employees started reconditioning engines and parts in a small corner in the service department. It was a prelude to the Fred Jones Manufacturing Co., which would become the country’s largest Ford-authorized reconditioner of automotive parts.

By 1966, the company occupied nine buildings spread across six blocks in downtown Oklahoma City. Two years later, Jones bought and remodeled the recently closed Ford assembly plant — where he had once worked — to house his remanufacturing business. His office was in the same location as the office where he first applied for a job.

Outside the office, Jones also served on the boards of Oklahoma City Public Schools and First National Bank of Oklahoma City, and as chairman of what is now the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. While on the National Defense Advisory Commission, he was instrumental in securing for Oklahoma City what would become Tinker Air Force Base. He also had a farm in El Reno and a cattle operation in southeastern Oklahoma.

In 1971, the Fred Jones Manufacturing Company rebuilt more than 35,000 engines and 1.5 million component parts, selling to more than 2,500 dealers. But in 1999, Ford didn’t renew its engine and transmission contract with the plant, and then Ford bought the dealerships in 2000. The renamed Fred Jones Enterprises continued to receive new and remanufactured Ford parts and became the nation’s largest Ford Motor Co. authorized parts distribution center.

The former assembly plant was converted into a luxury hotel in 2016. A statue of Jones was unveiled in 2021 on Fred Jones Ave. across from what was once the Ford assembly plant at 900 W. Main St.

Today, Fred Jones Companies and Fred Jones Enterprises are under the umbrella of family-owned Hall Capital, which focuses on automotive parts distribution, real estate and private investment. The company is spearheaded by Jones’ grandsons: Fred, Boots and Kirk Hall.

Jones was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1965 and the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1994. Henry Ford II named him “Ford Citizen of the Year” in 1966. He and his wife Mary Eddy Jones were also known for their philanthropy, community involvement and support of the arts until Jones died at 79 in 1971.

Interested in learning more about OKC’s history? Check out Looking Back: The History of a Ghostly Oklahoma Town