Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, after his initial venture, the Henry Ford Company, became the Cadillac Motor Company in 1902. Under his new company, Ford began producing cars in small numbers with special attention paid to experimentation and the development of new automotive technologies. In 1906 Ford introduced the Model N, which replaced the primitive Model A and Model F. The Model N set up many features of the Model T, including a front engine/rear-wheel drive configuration and an inline-four cylinder engine. Variants of the Model N known as the Model R and Model S were developed to be as inexpensive as possible.
The Model T Arrives
Despite being able to produce the Model R and Model S at a low cost, Ford cars were still few in number and painstaking to build. The Model T was first constructed in Detroit in 1908 as a 1909 model. It had been designed by Ford's chief designer, Childe Harold Wills, along with two designers new to the company, Eugene Farkas and Joseph Galamb. The Model T sat on a 99 inch wheelbase, which was significantly longer than the one used by the Model S. It weighed about 1,200 pounds and was powered by a 2.9 liter inline-4 cylinder engine that produced 20 horsepower.
The Assembly Line
With the Mode T, Ford began applying the principle of the moving assembly line, in which cars were built by a series of workers each performing a specific task rather than the previous method of hand assembly, in which each worker was required to perform many tasks. Not only did this reduce the amount of training that was required to work in auto assembly, but it sped up the entire process significantly. Assembly line methods had been used before, notably in the slaughterhouse where Ford was famously inspired to bring the method to his factory. Ford patented his assembly line method and established the way in which cars would be built for the foreseeable future.
By applying the assembly line to the Model T, Ford was able to produce cars in sufficient numbers, and at a low enough cost, to make them affordable and available to millions of Americans. The Model T became famous as a car for the masses, destroying the elite status that automobile ownership had carried with it until that point. More cars led to more paved roadways, more service stations, and more car dealerships, thus changing the American landscape. Ford also paid his workers well, turning them into participants in the middle class. Many Ford assembly line workers became Model T owners as the relationship between the American automotive industry and the labor force was established.
End of the Line
Over the years of its production run, the Model T remained largely unchanged. Not wishing to upset the successful formula, Ford was content to continue production of his best-selling car. The Model T was available in many different body styles, including two- and four-door models. Model T roadsters, coupes, wagons, sedans, and even trucks were all part of the Model T line at different points between 1908 and 1927. Ford continued to experiment with new types of cars, and by the mid-1920s his new model, known as the Model A, was ready for mass production. The last Model Ts were 1927 models. At the time it was discontinued, more than 15 million Model Ts had been produced. While the vast majority no longer exist, they are popular among collectors and are a must-have for any historical collection of early automobiles.
The Model T was a car produced by the Ford Motor Company from 1908 until 1927. It was the first mass-produced, affordable car and ushered in the age of widespread car ownership in America. The Model T was available in many variations over the years, partially accounting for its long-term success.