A brief history of the Ford Model T - everything you need to know (2023)

The beginnings of the Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford's Model T was the visionary breakthrough that brought motor vehicle ownership to millions of middle-class citizens and ushered in a new era of mobility for people and goods. At a time when horse and rail were the primary means of land transportation, the Model T had to overcome a number of obstacles to achieve the success it enjoyed.

The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was a time when roads were mostly dirt roads traveled by horses pulling wagons, wagons, stagecoaches and the occasional "fringed Surrey". The cars had been around for a few decades, but they were rare, expensive, and much more spirited than the average horse.

The technological knowledge for the maintenance of a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine was not widespread, nor was the supply of fuel and oil. If we think about the environment in which Henry Ford decided to market his cars, we can see that he took a great risk. The gamble paid off and the Model T proved much more successful than most, evenHenry FordI could have waited or waited.

Image above courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

Henry Ford worked in automotive design before designing the Model T, his first known design being his 1896 ATV. In 1899 he resigned from his job at Edison and worked briefly for the Detroit Automobile Company, but left the company when it closed in 1900. Ford founded a company called the Henry Ford Company until 1902, from which he left, and managed to do so while retaining his naming rights. This company later reformed and became Cadillac.

Henry Ford worked on various automobile projects and produced an 80-hp race car that he built in collaboration with a cyclist named Tom Cooper. This car was driven by Barney Oldfield in 1902, a race which he won. Barney named the car "999" after the famous New York Central and Hudson River Railroad locomotive of the time: a locomotive that was said to be able to reach 100 mph and which spearheaded the prestigious "Empire State Express" that ran between the United States New York City and Buffalo.

This gave Ford some welcome publicity, and an old friend named Alexander Y. Malcomson, who was in the coal business, arranged with Ford to form a company called Ford & Malcomson, Ltd. with the intention of making cars.

The new company contracted with a repair shop owned by John and Horace E. Dodge to supply parts for Ford & Malcomson automobiles. Unfortunately, sales were too slow to maintain sufficient cash flow to be financially viable.

This led to the involvement of other investors, including the Dodge brothers, and the company was reorganized as the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903.

Ford Motor Company's first car was the 1903 Model A. The Ford Motor Company was formed and work began to develop a car that ordinary people could afford, was reliable, and could withstand the harsh conditions of dirt roads. from United States.

Project Ford Model T

Henry Ford named his first model the "Model A" (a name he later revived for the model that followed the "Model T") and then worked his way through the alphabet until he arrived at the Harold Wills "Model T" design. , Joseph A. Galamb, Eugene Farkas, Henry Love, C.J. Smith, Gus Degner, and Peter E. Martin. So Henry Ford was no longer working alone on the project. The design team worked on prototypes until they had a viable production model in 1908.

(Video) History of the Model T | The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation

Henry Ford and his team of engineers were aware of the pitfalls that made cars of the day unreliable and worked to eliminate as many potential sources of failure as possible. The engine was a simple 20 hp 177 cu in four cylinder gasoline engine. (2.9 liters) capacity, mounted at the front of the vehicle. This engine is designed to burn gasoline (gasoline), kerosene or ethanol and is easy to maintain. It featured a removable stock and water cooling. Early 2447 engines used a mechanical water pump to circulate cooling water: thereafter a simpler thermosiphon system was used. The engine has been designed to run on fuels commonly used in rural areas.

Kerosene was a common fuel for farm tractors and stationary engines, ethanol was a homegrown alcohol that was moderately popular until it became unavailable with the advent of Prohibition in 1919. The Model T's fuel tank held 10 gallons fuel Americans and was located under the front seat.

Fuel was fed to the engine by gravity, and as a result, owners found that the car could run out of fuel while going up a steep hill. The solution to this problem was to back up a steep hill, which was also better because the reverse gear was the lowest. The downside to this was wheel slippage on loose or slippery surfaces.

Mindful of the need to protect the potentially sensitive ignition system from water, Ford engineers opted to use a low-voltage magneto mounted on the flywheel, and thus covered by the flywheel housing. This magneto powered the voice coils (vibration coils) to provide the spark plugs with the necessary electrical voltage. This was a common system for stationary engines, and therefore probably familiar to mechanics in rural America. The engine was started by turning the crank at the front of the car. With its low compression ratio, the engine was relatively easy to start, and the low-voltage magneto provided sufficient spark at low revs.

In 1908, not many people were familiar with driving cars. These were the days before Syncromesh was invented and therefore a straight cut slider gear system was sometimes used, but it's hard to learn how to use a "shock" gear well. Ford engineers understood this and decided to use an epicyclic (planetary) gearbox with belt drives that would eliminate this difficulty when changing gears. The transmission used a wet clutch and offered two forward and one reverse gears, although it was advertised as a "three-speed" transmission.

drive the model tit was very different from the controls we are used to today. The vast majority of people who would buy a Model T would have no experience driving a car, so the controls were designed with that in mind. The accelerator pedal was a lever on the steering wheel and there was also a spark advance/retard control. On the floor were three pedals; the right pedal for the brake, the middle one for shifting between reverse and forward, and the left pedal, used in conjunction with a gear lever, was the clutch and was used to shift between low, neutral, and high gear.

The transmission sent its power to the rear wheels through a torque tube. The torque tube is an outer tube around a thin driveshaft and was used to properly position the rear axle. This was necessary because the Model T used transverse leaf springs that did not provide longitudinal support: therefore the torque tube fulfilled that role. The justification for using transverse leaf springs was to allow more wheel travel, allowing the Model T to competently traverse rough trails.

The Model T did not come with brakes on the wheels, only on the transmission. Later production models were eventually fitted with rear brakes as an option. Initially, aftermarket rear brakes became available through third-party manufacturers, which eventually lobbied Ford to supply them. The transmission brake was operated by the right pedal and there was also a parking brake lever on the floor of the car. The car could reach speeds of around 40-45 mph (65-70 km/h) and with its very minimalist braking system, it looks like it was made for driving, not stopping.

The lights on the original Model T were not electric. The usual bulbs used on horse-drawn vehicles were the bulbs used on the Model T, which meant acetylene carbide headlamps and oil parking lights were used. Electric lighting and electric starting became available on the Model T towards the end of production in the 1920s.

The Model T was designed to be very useful in agricultural settings. It can be used as a stationary power source by removing one of its drive wheels and using a belt and pulley to power, for example, an electric generator, thresher, saw, conveyor belt, or water pump. It was a predecessor to the Land Rover and Jeep SUVs.

(Video) How The Ford Model T Took Over The World

during its productionIn life, the Model T has been adapted for all sorts of uses, including conversion to a rail car. Many aftermarket manufacturers have offered ways to personalize and personalize your Model T to meet your specific needs. There were even half-track conversions so that a Model T could drive through the snow.

Mass production of the Ford Model T

The Model T went into small series production in the fall/fall of 1908. When first introduced, the Model T was built using much the same method as other automobiles of the time. It was made by hand piece by piece. Only eleven cars were built in the first month. These early hand-built cars came in a variety of colors and lasted until 1912.

The Model T was also produced in different body styles; Six-seat town cars were painted gray, five-seat touring cars were red, and green was available on touring cars, town cars, two-seat coupes/stripes, and landaulets. All models were built on the same chassis with a 100″ wheelbase. In 1912 all Model Ts were painted midnight blue with black fenders and in 1914 Henry Ford decided that customers could have any color they wanted as long as it was black, so cars produced after that period were black.

Paint technology was an evolving science and black paint is said to have dried faster and therefore more convenient for use on Ford's production line at the time. We should also keep in mind that the price of the Model T continued to drop as mass production became more efficient.

By 1910, 12,000 Model T cars were being produced, but Ford was struggling to keep up with demand. New methods were needed to build the cars, so Ford moved to a new manufacturing plant, the Highland Park Complex. For this new facility, a production team consisting of Childe Harold Wills, Clarence Avery, Peter E. Martin, and Charles E. Sorensen began building a production line that would dramatically increase production.

Henry Ford and his team understood the principle that "practice makes perfect" and therefore a worker given a simple set of tasks to perform would become highly skilled and expert at what they were doing. So Ford and his team looked at the process of building a Model T and broke it down so that each worker had a limited range of skills to learn and apply, so they could become highly skilled at his job.

With these new assembly line methods, the time to build a Model T dropped from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes in 1914. The price of the Model T also fell rapidly from its original hand-built cost of $825 in 1908 to a mass production cost of $360 in 1916.

Ford Model T goes to war

Henry Ford was a staunch pacifist and was not at all inclined to see his Model T used in World War I, despite the fact that it was known as "The War to End All Wars". Henry Ford would not involve himself or his company in building specialized versions of the Model T for military use, but he was willing to sell the Model T chassis and parts to the military and emergency services of nations involved in the conflict to convert, as they wanted

Perhaps the best known conversion to World War I service was as an ambulance. Some of these ambulances were driven by people who would become famous in postwar America, including Walt Disney and Ernest Hemmingway. A Model T ambulance could go places many other vehicles couldn't, and if it got stuck, a group of soldiers could usually pick it up and bounce it enough to free it. A typical Model T tipped the scales at about 1,300 pounds, so it wasn't much of a heavy vehicle.

There have been a large number of innovative conversions of the Model T for military service. They are all interesting and the Polish use of a Model T to create one of the first armored vehicles is one of them. The Poles designated their armored car asFord FT-B. This Model T conversion was completed in two weeks and served the Polish Army well in their battles with the Russian Bolsheviks.

(Video) How Henry Ford Invented the Model T | The Men Who Built America (S1, E8) | Full Episode

Before the war, the Model T was available with many aftermarket conversions, including a half-track conversion. A complete version was even created and tested for use in World War I.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Model T Fords were part of the action. These Model Ts were purchased by allied and associated organizations from Ford dealers in Britain and France, and the first American Field Service ambulances appeared on the front lines to transport French wounded in 1915.

The French Army sent around 11,000 Model Ts for the war effort. Between 20,000 and 30,000 British and Imperial forces and Tin Lizzy were used in campaigns in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Although the Great War began in 1914, it wasonly in 1917that the United States entered the war. Henry Ford was a key supporter of the Keep America Out of War movement, but when the United States pledged to enter the fray, he realized that he had to comply with what his nation demanded. 390,000 Model Ts were built and sold to the US Army, 15,000 of which served with the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) in the war in Europe, no doubt helping to ensure their impending demise.

Overall, the Model T Ford performed remarkably well during World War I and was generally highly regarded by those who crewed it and those who were rescued by them. One could be a soldier poet who wrote this tongue-in-cheek play based on Psalm 23:

The Ford is my car;
I do not want anyone else.
leaves me in damp places;
contaminates my soul;
Take me to deep waters;
He takes me down paths of derision for his namesake;
It prepares me for a collapse in the presence of my enemies.
Yes, though I walk through the valleys, I am carried uphill;
I fear great evil when he is with me.
Their poles and motors annoy me;
anoint my face with oil;
Your tank is overflowing.
Surely if this thing follows me every day of my life
I will live in the crazy house forever.

Reborn: like a racing car

Production of the Ford Model T ended in 1927 and it was replaced by the Ford Model A. Henry Ford told people he wanted to start over with letter designations for models, so that would be the Model A. This left a large numbers of Tin Lizzies around the world, which were gradually retired, eventually gathering rust in backyards and barns. In the 1950s, the dilapidated Model T was unexpectedly given new life.

The firstHot Rod "T-hub"it was developed by Norm Grabowski in the early 1950s. Although hot rods were already somewhat popular, Grabowski is credited with building the first T-hub, using parts from a Model A and Model T with some extensive modifications. The engine used was a V8 from his parents' Cadillac: according to legend, he convinced his parents that his Caddy needed a new engine and ensured that the "worn out" engine did not go to waste.

Norm Grabowski's hot rod mods included an inverted rear spring, suicide front axle combined with 6-inch spacers at the rear to give the car a sleek stance. Painted blue with flames on the sides, his car instantly created a look that was widely imitated and appeared in several movies, most notably from "Kookie" in "77 Sunset Strip" until it was wrecked by an actor on a movie set. shooting. After that, Norm did his own stunt driving his cars in the movies.

So the Model T didn't die, it just got a lot faster: and it proved its worth in drag racing. It even had front and rear brakes - some even parachuted to slow down at the end of the quarter mile.

(Video) FORD MODEL T 🔧 History: Henry Ford's Automobile (Historical Documentary: Early American Automotive)


Production of the Ford Model T ended on May 26, 1927. Henry Ford and his son Edsel ceremonially took the last Model T out of the factory and into the history books. By this time, no fewer than fifteen million Model Ts had been produced, a number probably far greater than Henry Ford could have predicted in 1908 when they were producing eleven cars a month.

The Model T was a pioneer automobile. It pioneered mass production and affordable cars for everyday people. More importantly, this was the car that started the automotive revolution not just in the US and Canada, but all over the world.

Not only that, he also served his country in wartime and saved many lives, especially in his role as an ambulance. The Ford Model T has earned its place as an American icon, arguably the most important automobile of the 20th century.

Author of the photo:Ford Motor Company, Kongressbibliothek, RM Sotheby's, Pullford.

A brief history of the Ford Model T - everything you need to know (13)

Jon rama

Jon Branch has written numerous official car buying guides for eBay Motors over the years, has also written for Hagerty, is a long-time contributor to Silodrome and SSAA Official Magazine, and is the founder and editor-in-chief of revive.

(Video) Ford Model T (Mass Produced Car)

Jon has given radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews on a wide range of topics and has traveled extensively, having lived in the UK, Australia, China and Hong Kong. The fastest he drove was a Bolwell Nagari, the slowest was a Caterpillar D9 and the most challenging was a 1950 MAN trailer with unexpected brake failure.


1. Ford T vs New Car 🤯 3D Animation// What changed in engines in 100 years?
2. Ford Model T - 100 Years Later
3. The Fifteen Millionth Ford Model T - Full Documentary
(Hagerty Drivers Foundation)
4. Driving a Ford Model T Is a Lot Harder Than You'd Think! We Tried It
(Bloomberg Originals)
5. Henry Ford: Creator of First American Car | Full Documentary | Biography
6. Five Reasons the Model T was Revolutionary
(Ford Piquette Avenue Plant)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated: 12/02/2022

Views: 6045

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.