Cheerfully dubbed ‘Tin Lizzie’ or ‘Flivver’, the foundation of the Ford Motor Company’s mighty automotive empire was the Model T, introduced in 1908. The world’s first affordable automobile changed the face of America, kick-starting an industry that generated rapid economic growth in the USA (and beyond, for the Model T was manufactured in 11 other countries).
This phenomenal machine continued in production for nearly two decades, with each new car assembled in just 93 minutes. Over time the Model T did evolve, though Henry Ford was so fond of his soar-away success that he was reluctant to sanction too much development and allowed relatively few innovations. He had reason to believe in his baby – by 1918 half the cars in America were Model Ts and, though they were unsophisticated, with a throttle hand lever for acceleration and hand crank starting, the low prices achieved as a result of Ford’s advanced production-line manufacturing techniques undercut the competition and ensured enduring success.
But when other companies started matching Ford on price, whilst offering better comfort and styling, Henry stubbornly refused to abandon the Model T and it lingered stoutly on through the 1920s, now with electric starter and coming in an assortment of body styles that included two-door tourers, roadsters, convertibles, coupes, pickups, trucks and wagons. Henry Ford may have famously said that customers could have any color ‘as long as it’s black’, but actually the Model T came in various colors before 1914 and again in 1926 and 1927.
Production ended on 26 May 1927, after 15,007,034 had been built (yes, someone was counting). The last innovation was to make wire wheels’ standard, with wooden wheels finally being discontinued. To service existing Model Ts the trusty engine was still manufactured until 1941, during which time another 170,000 were made.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1908 (until 1927)
2.9 I (177 cid) Straight Four
Top speed was a stately 45 mph (72 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
‘Must drivers’ should know that the throttle is the lever on the steering wheel, the left foot pedal engages two forward gears, the middle pedal engages reverse and the right-hand pedal is the brake, whilst the lever beside the driver’s seat is the parking and emergency brake, also being used to put the car into neutral. Simple!