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

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 undoubtedly 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 1915

A 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 types 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 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 were 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 centres and into new, more modern residential suburbs. They could also afford quick trips with all their family, especially on weekends. 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.


RESOURCES

History – The Model T
Model T – A short history of Ford’s innovation
Wiley – Henry Ford and the Model T
ListVerse – 10 Interesting Facts You Never Knew About The Ford Model T
YouTube – How Henry Ford’s Engineering Genius Drove an Industrial Revolution
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


ROARING TWENTIES AtoZ - 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

27 Comments

  • Alex Hurst
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 02:38

    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!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 14:49

      Yeah, I suppose the automation of today is another of those things that makes the Twenteis so similar to our times 🙂

  • Arlee Bird
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 01:45

    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

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 14:40

      I always joke with my friends that when I’m rich and famous, I’ll get one 😉

  • Lupachi1927
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 02:34

    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)

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 14:46

      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.

  • Mee Magnum
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 02:39

    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)

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 14:50

      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 🙂

  • Barbara In Caneyhead
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 04:27

    “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

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 14:53

      Hey, that’s a fun song! 🙂
      I’m a bit envious of you guys who all have family photos and stories from the Twenties

  • Tasha
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 07:33

    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
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 15:04

      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.

  • Nick Wilford
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 07:48

    Having an affordable car changed the game completely – economy and lifestyle. Imagine what things would be like if it hadn’t been invented.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 15:05

      Well, we may have something very different but just as effective. You never know 😉

  • Sue Coletta
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 12:00

    Can you imagine paying $99. for a car? Another fascinating post, Sarah. Keep up the good work!

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 15:14

      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.

  • Wendy
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 11:35

    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

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 15:12

      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 😉

  • Celine Jeanjean
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 12:59

    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” 🙂

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 15, 2015 at 15:15

      That’s a great quote.
      I too like the Model T a lot. Well I love all cars from that periode 😉

  • Sue Archer
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 01:08

    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. 🙂

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 16, 2015 at 06:12

      Sue, I’m so happy you’re enjoying it. And don’t worry, I can totally feel it. I didn’t expect this challange to be… well, such a challenge 😉
      But I’m enjoying every bit of it and you people is a big part of the reason why.

      • Sue Archer
        Posted April 17, 2015 at 01:00

        Same here! 🙂

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 03:05

    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.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted April 17, 2015 at 06:28

      When you do it, send a photo my way, so I can envy you over it 😉

  • Lanise Brown
    Posted April 18, 2015 at 10:31

    Model-Ts may be obsolete but they still look amazing. 🙂

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