The car that changed the world has been installed in the famous glass
'tank' outside front of London's Design Museum, within sight of the
famous Tower Bridge landmark.
This display of the Ford Model T
by the Design Museum in the centre of the British capital is
recognition of its significance as the first car to be assembled on a
moving production line, helping to turn America into an industrial
economy and mobile society.
This 1910 example of the Ford
Model T has been provided by the Ford of Britain Heritage Collection,
which is based further down the River Thames from the Design Museum at
Ford's Dagenham plant. The car will be on display until April 20.
Model T is 100 years old
The Model T, affectionately known as the "Tin Lizzie", was launched in
October 1908, and rapidly became the world’s best-selling car. Made in
Detroit in the US, at Ford’s first British factory at Trafford Park, in
Manchester, and other sites worldwide, it dominated the motoring scene
for almost 20 years. More than 15 million Model Ts were built in
Detroit alone, before the very last example of all – the 15,007, 033rd
car - was assembled on 27 May 1927.
The original design,
simple and robust, was based around a 2.9-litre four-cylinder engine
developing 22bhp, which was matched to a two-speed epicyclic
transmission. The 100in wheelbase frame ran on front and rear
transverse leaf spring suspension. Like many other cars of the period,
there was a drum brake on the transmission shaft and lever-operated
drum brakes on the rear wheels only.
The first cars were
assembled at Piquette Park in Detroit but Ford opened a new factory at
Highland Park in 1911, where there was space for expansion. Early
production Model Ts were open top Touring Cars, but optional body
styles, including Roadsters, Coupes and Town Cars were added to the
range and even commercial versions followed. Originally ticketed at
$850, the price of a Model T was driven down as Henry Ford proved that
simplicity and volume would make them less and less expensive to build.
world’s first moving assembly line for building cars was installed at
Highland Park in 1913. Before this, it had taken 12.5 man-hours to
assemble a Model T - this was reduced to not more than 1.5 man-hours.
For several years the car was only available with black paintwork
because the available black paint dried faster than any other known
shade. In this period, Ford also increased its wages – the new rate,
of $5 a day, was much higher than that offered by rival concerns. This
meant that workers could soon afford to buy their own Model Ts.
Prices reduced dramatically
By 1917, selling prices of the Runabout had been slashed to $345, while
the Touring Car cost $360. The list of featured equipment grew –
electric instead of oil-lit headlamps arrived in 1915, demountable
wheel rims and an electric starter motor became optional in 1919.
and production rose sharply. Nearly 250,000 cars were produced in 1914,
more than one million followed in 1920, and in 1925, when demand was at
its peak, almost two million Model Ts of all types left the assembly
lines. Prices reached an all-time record low in 1925, when a buyer
could purchase a Model T Runabout for just $260 (which was less than a
third of the original price in 1909).
The first Ford built in Britain
The London Design Museum display appropriately marks the Model T's
place in automotive history as the very first Ford vehicle to be built
in Britain. The first Model T was actually constructed at a factory in
Trafford Park, Manchester on 23 October 1911. It was Britain’s best
selling car for many years in the 1920s. More than 300,000 cars were
built at the Trafford Park facility before production closed in August
British-built Model Ts built up a fine reputation, in
peace and in war. During the First World War, Model Ts provided the
chassis for scout cars, machine gun carriers, and particularly for
ambulances, this type eventually being built at more than 100 vehicles
a day. Until the newly imposed "horsepower tax" hit the Model T hard,
it often commanded more than 40 per cent of the UK market. Many Model
Ts survive to this day both in the UK and all around Europe, and
specialised clubs cater for the brand all around the world ensuring
that many of the mechanical parts are available for rebuilds and