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Ford Model T

The Model T led an industrial and social revolution, introducing mass-production techniques to car manufacturing and motorizing the United States. Thanks to Henry Ford’s 1913 introduction of a moving assembly line, production hit 1,000 per day in 1914, and U.S. output peaked in 1923, when two million “Tin Lizzies” were made. More than 15 million Model Ts were made from 1908 until 1927, a record-breaking figure that was overtaken only by Volkswagen’s Beetle in 1972.

THE MODEL T introduced several innovations to car manufacturing. It had a monobloc engine, and the transmission was directly attached to the power unit. With an unusual epicyclic (or “planetary”) transmission, it also offered near-automatic driving with no clashing of gears. Affectionately called the “Tin Lizzie,” the car was known for its extreme robustness.

Its ruggedness was due to Henry Ford’s insistence on using strong materials; he pioneered the use of light-but-tough vanadium steel. Costs were controlled by keeping the specifications simple and squeezing dealer margins. From 1914 to 1926, black was the only color offered—black enamel dried more quickly, enabling production-line speeds to be sustained. As sales went up, ever-increasing numbers of the Model T were made at ever-decreasing prices. Reliable and affordable, by 1918 the Model T accounted for half of all cars in the United States.



ModelFord Model T, 1908-27
AssemblyDetroit, USA, and worldwide
ConstructionSeparate chassis, steel body
Engine2,896 cc, straight-four
Power output20-22 hp at 1,800 rpm
TransmissionTwo-speed epicyclic
SuspensionRigid axles; transverse leaf springs
BrakesDrum rear and drum on transmission
Maximum speed40-45 mph (64-72 km/h)

Built for American roads

With high ground clearance and simple transverse-leaf suspension, the Model T was tailor-made for the poor quality, often unsurfaced, U.S. roads of the time. The absence of front brakes and of any dampers might be regarded as faults, but the engine’s easy pulling power and the need for minimal gearchanging were virtues, as was its 25-30 mpg (11-13 km/I) fuel consumption.

Famous Ford script

The iconic Ford script was created by Childe Harold Wills-Henry Ford’s chief engineering assistant-in 1903. Wills had trained as a commercial artist, and the script was based on one he had previously used on visiting cards. The script is still in use today.


The Model T underwent three fundamental styling changes. The brass radiator shell, as on this 1911 model, was replaced in 1917 with a painted shell, and the mudguards became domed rather than flat. Then in 1923 a revised, more curvaceous hood-line gave the car a modern look. Finally, in 1926 the chassis height was reduced and new lower bodies brought in, with the option of wire wheels.

“Ford” script

Boyce Motometer water-temperature gauge on top of radiator grille

Acetylene-powered headlamps

Starting handle needed to be cranked to get the Model T going

Additional lights mounted on the scuttle

Cogged drive on wheel hub operates speedometer

Wooden artillery wheels standard until 1926

Elaborate, scuttle-mounted bulb horn

Brass door handle

Cylinder stores acetylene to power lights

Branded footplate on running board

Tail and side lights are kerosene-powered


The “T” has the simplest of interiors, but an odd pedal layout. Pressing the left-hand pedal fully engages first gear, releasing it halfway selects neutral, and fully releasing it gives top gear. The center pedal operates reverse, the right-hand pedal works the transmission brake. The hand lever works the rear-wheel brakes.

Dashboard partly shields occupants from splashes of rain or road dirt

0-50 mph speedometer reflects modest performance

Eccentric pedal layout

Spare wheel behind driver’s seat

Buttoned leather upholstery

Brass “threshold” plate


The 2,896 cc, side-valve, four-cylinder engine of the “T” was advanced in its day. It has four cylinders cast as one block. Lubricating oil is propelled around the engine by gravity rather than being circulated by a pump. The pistons are cast-iron. With small valves and a very low compression ratio, output is only 20-22 bhp, and maximum crankshaft speed a mere 1,800 rpm.

Trembler coils for ignition housed in box on dashboard

Transmission housing under the floor

Hood clip

Hood handle

Four-cylinder engine has a capacity of nearly 3 liters


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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