Perhaps the most iconic product created by automotive icon, Henry Ford, was the Model T. Ford’s standardized product from 1908 – 1927, the fundamental success of the Model T resulted from Ford’s determination to build a car that would be simple, practical and economical. Ford therefore built not for luxury, but for practicality. The model T was a capable tool. Something that was not a mere luxury, but of multiple uses and accessible by the greatest number of users.
Henry Ford created the Ford Motor Company in 1903. The fledgling company would quickly become a fixture of North American automobile manufacturing. While Ford would develop the modern assembly line, new manufacturing techniques, and labor reform, it would be Ford’s 1908 Model T, that would be its most significant achievement. For the Model T is credited with bringing the automobile to the masses.
The Company devoted all its time and facilities to manufacturing the Model T chassis. Several different bodies were available, however only the one chassis, or platform, was manufactured for the T. This platform would form the basis for all models available through Ford’s extensive agent and dealer network.
By all reports, the Model T cost less to operate than any other car. The Ford Motor Company reported that owners could drive their cars at a cost of less than a cent a mile. Something modern drivers can only wish for. It should be noted however, that like today, individual T experiences varied according to the temperament of the driver, and the conditions under which the car was maintained.
A distinctive feature of the Model T was that it was built of Vanadium steel. This steel was recognized the world over as one of the toughest, strongest, best, but most expensive steels known to the world of steel making at the time. Vanadium is a mineral alloy that gives the steel a tremendous resistance to the action of vibration. As many T owners can attest, this quality was to one of the reasons so many T’s survive today.
The Model T engines are all alike, powerful, and simple. The Ford four cylinder engine is rated to produce twenty horsepower. While this seems like a tiny amount of power compared to modern cars, power per pound, the Model T was one of the more powerful cars for its time.
Ford believed that the left-hand driving position added to the comfort and ease of Ford operation. Many modern, first time T owners find that aspect familiar. But there familiarity ends. The modern driver is faced with the challenge of mastering the operation of the brakes and transmission.
The Model T employs a planetary transmission operated by pedals. As a result the drivers of the T are confronted by three pedals. While the left pedal controls the clutch, as it does on the modern car, there the similarity ends. The other pedals control braking, as well as forward and reverse gears. Throttle and spark are controlled by hand controls on the steering column. New owners are wise to get a tutorial, as well as some private practice before venturing out into modern traffic.
Built from 1908 until 1927, the Model T is one of the most recognizable automobiles in the antique auto world. With an output of one hundred eighty-five thousand cars in 1913 alone, it also remains one of the most available and affordable. With excellent club support and parts availability, the simply constructed Ford remains on of the most popular antique cars.
Although thousands of restored examples exist around the world, it is likely many more still wait in fields and sheds for a willing restorer to bring them back to life.