Why the Model T Ford was so Historically Significant

To say the Model T Ford was in influential and unique automobile would be an understatement. No other vehicle left such a lasting impact on the automotive world. This car not only made the automobile affordable to the masses, it put America on wheels and helped to define the modern, industrial and mobile American society.

Let’s take a look at some of the unique features of the Model T

  • First mass produced car on an assembly line; many production features that sped up and streamlined production, like only having one type of paint on the car, fast drying and easy to match black lacquer.
  • The model T was the first production car with a removable Cylinder head.
  • There was no water pump on the Model T. The cooling system relied on thermal cycling to achieve cooling. Ford opted for a cheaper and more reliable thermo-siphon system. Hot water, being less dense, would rise to the top of the engine and up into the top of the radiator, descending to the bottom as it cooled, and back into the engine.
  • There was no fuel pump on the Model T. The carburetor was located relatively low on the engine, and the fuel delivery was gravity fed- the down side? people often had to back up steep hills due to fuel starvation.
  • There was no distributor on the model T. There were four individual coil boxes, switched by a low voltage “commutator“ or timer. Power came either from the six volt DC battery, or the engine magneto that produced AC current. The car was usually started on battery power, then switched to the Magneto with the key on the dashboard.
  • There was no Speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge or gas gauge on the Model T. The only instrumentation was an amp meter on the dashboard.
  • The Model T had an unconventional, planetary two speed transmission. First gear was engaged by depressing the left pedal on the floor. Releasing this pedal disengaged first gear. Second gear was engaged by sliding the parking brake lever (just to the left of the driver) forward while depressing the low gear pedal. With the parking brake lever in it forward most position, releasing the first gear pedal engaged second gear.
  • Reverse was engaged by depressing a pedal on the floor.
  • The Model T had no gas pedal. The throttle was a pencil sized lever on the right side of the steering column. This unique driving arrangement puzzled many unfamiliar motorists, and the transition from a Model T to other cars could be confusing at times, resulting in many fatalities and many more spectacular vehicle crashes.

With the exception of the original Volkswagen Beetle, no car has had a higher production number than the Model T Ford. The car was produced from 1908 through 1927, with a total production volume of more than 15 million cars. At its peak of production in 1925 , the Ford Motor Company was producing more than 10,000 Model T Fords a day! The Model T was the world’s first “global car” The Ford Model T was the first automobile built by various countries simultaneously since they were being produced in Canada , England Germany, Argentina, France, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan.. Ford made use of the knock-down kit concept almost from the beginning of the company. Ford was so efficient, that the shipping crate for the knock down Model T was made of components that became wooden members on the assembled car.
The Model T Ford had many non-automotive effects on our society as well. Henry Ford pioneered the “typical” work week, with a Monday through Friday forty hour week consisting of five 8 hour shifts. This set up the concept of a “weekend” with Saturday and Sunday off. “Kingsford” charcoal was made from waste at the Ford assembly plant.

“Firestone” tires were the tire of choice on the Model T, giving Henry Ford’s friend Harvey Firestone business that built up the Fire-stone Rubber company. Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford developed a life long friendship and became industrial tycoons together. Harvey Firestone’s granddaughter ended up marrying Henry Ford’s Grandson. Ford and Firestone had a lasting business relation-ship that lasted 95 years. This relationship was severed with the Ford Explorer roll over problem, made worse by defective Firestone tires that would suddenly suffer severe structural failure resulting in sudden blow outs or tread separation. Ford had a defective product, the Explorer which had poor handling characteristics resulting in a tendency to roll over, and Firestone had a defective product, the Fire-stone Wilderness AT tire, a tire that was built to specifications by Ford for the Explorer. Ford and Firestone each publicly pointed the finger toward each other, and the business relationship was dissolved. Ford Motor Company ceased to buy tires from Firestone. While this very public feud was happening, the CEO of the Ford Motor Company was William Clay Ford, great grandson to both Harvey Fire-stone and Henry Ford.

I greatly enjoyed giving people the opportunity to experience a hand on test drive in a Model T at the April VAE meet. If anyone missed the opportunity, ask me and I would be happy to offer it again.
I received a nice type written note from founding member Lloyd Davis a few weeks ago. It was refreshing to read a letter written on a typewriter. Thank you Lloyd.

In closing, I want to tell you about a license plate that caught my eye on a Toyota Prius a few days ago. It was a New York plate that read “NVMYMPG.” It took me a minute, then it hit me, “envy my MPG.” With gas over $4.00 a gallon, I do.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477


One response to “Why the Model T Ford was so Historically Significant”

  1. John Roberts

    I don’t envy a Prius when they braked over bumpy ground and the computer that decided on regenerative or normal braking defaulted to no braking! I envy my neck more.

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Mark your calendars! The Vermont Antique and Classic Car Meet is August 9-11, 2024!