The year 2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the production of the first Model T Ford. All around the world enthusiasts are hosting events to mark the introduction of a modest little car that transformed the automobile industry.
The historic importance of the Model T Ford stems from Henry Ford’s ambition to build an affordable automobile for the masses. In 1903 when Henry launched his company the automobile was typically built by hand. They were produced in small numbers and sold for a substantial price that only the wealthy could afford. These vehicles were typically fragile and unreliable and difficult to maintain and keep on the road. These early automobiles were generally considered to be the frivolous toys of the rich, not a viable form of transportation. Henry set out to build an automobile that was affordable and simple to maintain and repair. With the development and production of the Model T he achieved this remarkable feat. It was the first automobile to be produced in large numbers and sold at a modest price that most people could afford. It was also a simple design – light but sturdy and generally reliable and easy to keep running.
After 2 years working on the design of the Model T, the first production model was produced in Detroit in October 1908. Ford introduced the moving assembly line in 1913 and was able to produce the vehicle in large numbers. This was an important innovation and had enormous implications for the company and the automobile industry. Within five years of the introduction of the Model T, Ford was producing over 300,000 vehicles per year – a massive increase in production for the company which had built less than 9000 vehicles in 1906. Within a short period the Ford Motor Company became the dominant manufacturer of automobiles and as other manufacturers adopted these methods of mass production this industry became the dominant manufacturing industry in the USA. The contribution to the American economy was substantial and large numbers of working men flocked to the automobile factories to obtain work in this burgeoning industry.
The Model T was exported to a large number of countries around the world and Ford factories were established in many countries including Canada, England and Australia. The Model T Ford continued in production until 1927 and over 15 million were built. It is long been a favourite among vintage car enthusiasts and it has been estimated that there over 500,000 are still in existence around the world. The centennial celebrations for this famous car are being held throughout the year and include rallies, displays and special museum exhibitions.