This month we are celebrating the anniversary of the Model T. Known for its influence on both the automotive industry and American life, the Model T debuted in October 1908* by the Ford Motor Company.
“The Model T was very different from its day, when most cars were for very rich people,” said Nancy Darga, the executive director of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, the birthplace of the Model T. “[Most cars] were very fancy, ornate and really large. The Model T went the whole other way.”
The Model T was a simple, durable and powerful vehicle for its time. Running 25 miles on a gallon, it was equipped with a 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that could reach speeds up to 45 mph. It had a 100-inch wheelbase with 30-inch wheels to help navigate and withstand the precarious landscape at the time. Model Ts also featured several trademark inventions that contributed to its legacy, such as a flywheel magneto, planetary transmission and flexible chassis.
One of the most impressive features was the Model T’s frame according to Steve Shotwell, member of the Piquette Avenue Plant’s Board of Directors and president of the Piquette Ts, a chapter dedicated to the preservation of Model T automobiles and the legacy of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. “The frame was designed to come over hills and valleys and depressions so it had the ability to be twisted and turned in all kinds of oblique ways.”
Five years later, the Model T was brought to the assembly line and mass production began. “The Model T revolutionized manufacturing by standardizing production in a way that made it affordable to the person who actually built it. It was [also] easy to fix and durable,” which contributed to its success and popularity said Darga. Mass production also “brought down costs significantly and standardized the quality of the product,” as less time was spent assembling the vehicles and processes were streamlined. As a result, Model T prices dropped from a debut price of $825 to $260 in October 1924 for the Runabout model.
Between 1913 and 1927, more than 15 million Model Ts were built before the assembly line stopped in May.
“The Model T gave the masses mobility … It gave them a chance to expand on where they could go,” said Darga.
*According to the Piquette Avenue Plant, the first Model T was completed for sale on September 27, 1908.
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