Most people thought the circular Ford Building, at the south axis of the Plaza de America, was the Exposition’s architectural wonder. Often described as a giant washing machine, Walter Dorwin Teague designed the 90-ft tower on the front of the building to look like a gearwheel laid on its side. Teague was a designer of cameras, flat irons and radios. A fountain inside the patio of the Ford Building’s circular exhibit hall behind the rotunda was designed to look like the Ford V-8 emblem.
In the first section of the main hall, technicians inspected piston pins with a radio machine and tested parts. In the second section, machinists, using gages they kept accurate to within two-millionths of an inch, made iron and steel castings, rolled and shaped steel, and tore down and built up a V-8 engine. Operators demonstrated the motions of assembly-line workers. An exhibit showed the conversion of soy beans into finishing oils and plastic products. In the third section, the Ford Motor Company displayed a Quadricycle Runabout, the first Ford car built in 1896, the first Model T built in 1908, and the first Model A built in 1927. The San Diego Exposition Company estimated that Henry Ford spent $1,500,000 to advertise his Company’s automobiles.
At the south end of the building, overlooking downtown San Diego and the harbor, a 220-ft terrace and flights of stairs led to the 2,800-ft. “Roads of the Pacific,” where new Ford V-8 cars took visitors over a continuous route along the sides of a canyon landscaped into fourteen different sections, including the Summer Palace Road in China, the Tokaido in Japan, the Ballarat Road in Australia, the Inca Highway in Peru, the Oregon Trail, the old Yuma Road, and El Camino Real.
During the second year of the Exposition, the Ford Building became the Palace of Transportation.