When Henry Ford decided to democratize the automobile and make it affordable for the average American family, he introduced the Tin Lizzie, otherwise known as the Model T or flivver. The Model T was produced from 1908 through 1927, and it proved Henry Ford correct in his belief that affordability would make his automobiles more popular.
Model T Production Run Numbers
Over the course of the 19 years the Tin Lizzie was in production, 15.5 million were sold in the United States, one million went to Canada and another 250,000 were sold in Great Britain. While the Model T wasn’t the first car built, it was the first-ever built on a grand scale. The mass production of the Model T brought automotive technology to new heights of specialization.
Changes Inspired by Automotive Technology
Before the advance of the flivver, roads were mainly designed for use by horses, buggies, pedestrians and bicyclists. The Model T was designed with tall tires that provided extra clearance for driving on these rutted, uneven byways. The need for better-built roads developed along with the increasing numbers of cars competing for space on roadways. Other industries, such as oil drilling and gas stations, also sprang up in correlation to the rise of the Model T.
Model T Body Styles
One of the early innovations that pushed the Model T into faster production was the introduction of interchangeable parts. Developing parts that fit on any car rolling off the production line meant each worker was able to specialize in creating one piece of the car. Specialization made it easier for workers to produce larger quantities of Model T components, which led to the production of greater numbers of finished automobiles.
Any Color You Want?
When other automotive brands began to release cars in other colors, legend has it that Henry Ford was asked if the Ford Motor Car Company would follow suit. One quote commonly attributed to Ford was a response to the query stating that people could have a car in any color they wanted — as long as they wanted it in black. During the last seven years of flivver production, however, a number of other colors were available, including:
- Bright red
- Dark blue
Model T Specifications
Henry Ford had produced eight other cars before hitting on the successful Model T. There were a total of nine Model T body styles, including the popular four-door touring model and the Tudor, offered over the course of its production run. All of these styles were built on the same chassis. The Model T’s four-cylinder engine delivered 20 hp and could roll down the road at a top speed of 45 mph. The Tin Lizzy weighed just over half a ton, or approximately 1,200 pounds, and it could travel between 13 and 21 miles on a gallon of gas.
Getting the Public’s Attention
Henry Ford had a showman’s flair and a unique understanding of how to create publicity for the Model T. One of his famous publicity stunts dating from May, 1911 was having the Model T driven to the top of the highest peak in the UK, Ben Nevis. Images of the stunt showing the ruggedness of the Model T were featured in newspapers around the world, so readers could see and read about how well the flivver performed.
Kits to Transform the Model T
With the Model T, a car could be more than a car by installing one of the kits the Ford Motor Company offered. With one called the Snowflier, a Model T could be transformed into a type of oversized snowmobile. The kit contained a second set of rear drive wheels and deeply treaded tracks that fit around them. The front wheels were then replaced with included skis that carried the car over the snow as the drive tracks pushed it along.
Model T Clubs
As an antique car and a treasured part of automotive history, the Model T has a following that remains strong today. There are International and American Model T clubs, like the Model T Ford Club of America, where owners get together to share their passion for these classic rides. These clubs are a source of entertainment and information for members. There are also events such as car shows where Model Ts are featured or included as part of a larger group of classic cars.
Model T Experiences
A variety of venues are built around honoring and celebrating the Ford Model T. These include:
- The Model T Museum in Richmond, Indiana
- The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, Michigan
- The Model T Driving Experience in Hershey, Pennsylvania
- Ford’s Garage with numerous locations in Florida
- The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan
The introduction of the Model T was the dawn of a new paradigm for Americans and people all over the world. The Model T led the charge as a new automotive culture developed and changed the way people and things moved across the country. It created industries and job opportunities for workers at the Ford plant and people producing a wide range of related items.