M is for Model T (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)

ROARING TWENTIES - Model T - Technology advanced tremendously in the 1920s. The car was one of the most important innovation in people's life, and the very affordable Ford Model T was a true revolution

M“I’m going to democratize the automobile,” Henry Ford said in 1909. “When I’m through, everybody will be able to afford one, and about everybody will have one.”
Let me tell you that seldom was a prophecy so accurately fulfilled.
In fact, Henry Ford achieved more than he was aiming for, because he was certainly after profit, but his car – practical, affordable, durable, versatile and easy to maintain, if admittedly not very charming in terms of design – was going to change the way people lived in America forever.

Produced from 1908 to 1927, this car was offered in several body styles, including five-seat touring car, two-set runabout and seven-seat town car. There were also Model T pick-ups and Model T ambulances. All bodies were mounted on the same 100-inch-wheelbase chassis. Besides, rationalize components and assembling procedures was at the base of Ford’s business philosophy.
The engine was simple and efficient, generating 20 horsepower, which propelled the car to a modest speed of 40-45 miles per hour (65-70 Km/h). In most models, the engine was started by a hand crank, which activated a magneto connected to a flywheel, but after 1920 some models were equipped with a battery-power starter.

Ford T 1915A choice of colours was originally available, but from 1913 to 1925, the car was mass-produced in only one colour: black, the cheapest of all paints.
Over thirty different type of black paint were used to paint the various parts of the Model T, formulated to satisfy the different means of applying the paint to the different parts and the different drying times.

Ignoring conventional wisdom, Ford continually sacrificed profit in order to increase sales. This meant he earned less on the single car, but by slashing the price from $220 in 1909 to $ 99 in 1914, the sales skyrocketed. By the mid Twenties, really a majority of Americans owned a car and a majority of those cars where Model Ts.
It was a genuine revolution. Car owners could move faster and farther, they could afford to work away from where they lived, which means they could move out of the city centers and into new, more modern residential suburbs. They could also afford quick trip with all their family, especially on week-ends. Young people not only owned a car, they also owned a private place, away from the family, where they could indulge in new activities, like petting and necking.
This mass ownership and use of the car generated more jobs, petrol stations and motels sprung up alongside newly paved streets. Moving around became faster and more comfortable and life rhythms and expectations changed with it.

But by 1927, the Model T was so obsolete and out of fashion it could no longer compete with the newer, more modern cars. The production was finally terminated that same year.



History – The Model T
Model T – A short history of Ford’s innovationWiley – Henry Ford and the Model T
Degreed – 10 Facts about the Model T
YouTube – Henry Ford
YouTube – Mitch Taylor. My 1925 Ford Model T

Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002

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About the Author

I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

27 Comments on "M is for Model T (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)"

  1. Henry Ford was a visionary who had the smarts to bring his vision to fruition. I wish I had a mint working condition model T.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out
    Arlee Bird recently posted…Learning (Elements of Blogging) #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  2. Oh, Henry Ford. I always liked what he said about the colors the Model T came in, too: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” He was quite the character…among other things. Have you ever read “Fordlandia,” by Greg Gandin? It’s about how Ford tried to found his own factory/city in the middle of the Amazon in 1927 to produce raw materials for his cars. It’s kind of Heart of Darkness but with cars and mass exploitation… (Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Fordlandia-Henry-Fords-Forgotten-Jungle/dp/0312429622)

    • Ah! I didn’t include that quote because there’s doubts that he ever actually said it, but it’s a fun one for sure 🙂

      No, I’v never read that book. Sounds interesting. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. I love that old style of car. I like the simplicity, and it really is amazing what it meant for our way of life, all over the globe. I watched an interesting video recently called “Humans Need Not Apply” about how automation in everything is the new automobile. Fascinating, but a bit worrisome, too. As ever, an excellent series, Sarah!
    Alex Hurst recently posted…L is for 土地の人My Profile

  4. I love reading about all the history you’ve shared. The Model T is still a fine looking automobile and started such a revolution.

    –Mee (The Chinese Quest)
    Mee Magnum recently posted…“L” is for Lo Mein #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2ZMy Profile

    • That’s true. In the article, I mentioned as its production was discontinued also on the bases that new, more charming-looking cars were produces, but to me, all cars from the 1920s and 1930s are gorgeous 🙂

  5. “The nuts and bolts are falling, the old junk pile is calling, will you love me when my little Ford is through?” A song my mother used to sing to me. Her father owned the first Model T in their little SE Texas town. And became a mechanic at the oldest Ford dealership in this area, Bean Motor Company.
    Visit me at: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B of Tremps’ Troops
    with the A to Z Challenge
    Barbara In Caneyhead recently posted…Musical Memories – LoboMy Profile

  6. 30 different types of black paint?! That seems a lot. The mass market principle is amazing in action – I wonder if he had to cut a lot of corners to do that price drop in 1914.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)
    Tasha recently posted…AtoZChallenge2015 – M is for Muad’DibMy Profile

    • I know that he experimented with different kind of material and above all, his new assembly line methode cut the time of producing one single car from 12 to 3 hours. I suppose that was the big factor in the cutting of the price.

  7. Having an affordable car changed the game completely – economy and lifestyle. Imagine what things would be like if it hadn’t been invented.
    Nick Wilford recently posted…M is for Myrmidon, and Already Home Cover RevealMy Profile

  8. Can you imagine paying $99. for a car? Another fascinating post, Sarah. Keep up the good work!
    Sue Coletta recently posted…A Heartbreaking GoodbyeMy Profile

    • Hey, Sue, thatnks so much. I’m happy you’re enjoying my series 🙂

      $99 is pretty Amazing, isn’t it? Even translated into today currency, that would be about $1000.

  9. I have a lot of old family photos from the 1920s. With so much happening, it must have been an exciting time in which to live.
    ~Visiting from AtoZ
    Wendy recently posted…A to Z April Challenge: M is for ManspeakerMy Profile

    • I actually think it was a time very similar to ours: changing caming fast and turning old ways of doing and thinking things upside down, people that come in contact in new ways and have to learn to live together. An expanding world, where people can communicate faster and more effectively, new ways of creating arts.
      It doesn’t seem very different to our times. The difference is that as we live our times, it feels uncertain and frightening to us, because that’s how change always feel when you’re experiencing it, but I’m sure it felt the same to Twenties people.
      I’m pretty sure in 100 years, perople will think our times must have been quite exciting too 😉

  10. I think the design of the car is very charming!!
    Ford was such an inspiration, there’s a great quote by him: “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more wisely” 🙂
    Celine Jeanjean recently posted…M is for…. MouseMy Profile

  11. Like Tasha, I was amazed at the thirty different types of black paint. It makes me wonder how many types they use on a modern car.

    I’m loving this series, by the way – so informative! Unfortunately life has been busy, but I will be sure to catch up on all your posts as soon as I can. 🙂
    Sue Archer recently posted…Rogue Words from A to Z: The Merits of MoraleMy Profile

  12. My dream hobby is to collect, repair, drive, and show antique cars, esp. Brass Age. I’d probably have to start with a Model T, since they seem to be relatively affordable and easy to find in comparison to my dream cars, the Duesenberg and Rochet-Schneider.
    Carrie-Anne recently posted…Dorothea NeffMy Profile

  13. Model-Ts may be obsolete but they still look amazing. 🙂
    Lanise Brown recently posted…P is for Paris’ Sainte Geneviève LibraryMy Profile

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