Henry Ford (1863-1947) began the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A., in 1903 when he began producing Ford Model A cars. Ford used the first 19 letters of the alphabet to designate his automobiles, some of which were experimental, but the most successful of the early production cars was the Model N. A number of models appeared before 1908, when the famous Model T was produced. It was released on 1 October 1908 and replaced all previous models. Five body styles were eventually offered: a 2-seater runabout, 5-seater tourer, 2-seater coupe, 7-seater landaulet and a 7-seater town car. As well as Henry Ford, several others played vital roles in the Model T’s development including Childe Harold Wills, an engineer and metallurgist, Joseph Galamb, a draughtsman, and Charles Sorensen, a pattern maker.
An essential component of the Model T was Ford’s use of vanadium steel, a light yet strong material resistant to shock and fatigue, which had previously only been used in expensive French cars. By 1910 a huge new factory was built at Highland Park, outside Detroit, which enabled Ford to establish assembly line techniques (but Ford was not the first to use these) with moving production lines from 1913 which were continually refined and made more efficient.
Early Model Ts came in green, red, blue and grey but from 1914 the only colour available was black. This was because japan black enamel was the only colour which could be applied with primitive spray painting techniques and could dry quickly enough on the production line; this changed in 1926 when quick-drying Duco lacquer was introduced.
As production grew, the price of the cars was drastically reduced. By the time this 1916 Model T Ford was made, the firm was producing five times as many cars as its nearest rival. The Model T virtually sold itself, and all advertising was suspended from 1917 to 1923, with the exception of advertising by local dealers.
For almost 20 years the car remained almost identical, with no money spent on research and development despite the rapid changes in automotive technology. By the early 1920s the tide had turned, the Model T was terribly out of date, and Henry Ford stubbornly refused to make any improvements such as introducing six cylinders, conventional transmission and front-wheel brakes. Model T production ended on 26 May 1927. A total of over 15 million were built in the United States and Canada as well as numerous others in assembly plants in England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Japan. It was even said that some enthusiasts purchased six or seven Model Ts to last them the rest of their lives.
The Model T was introduced to Australia in 1908, and in 1909 some 348 were sold. Australia became Ford’s best overseas outlet for Canadian-built Model Ts. Apparently the drought here in 1914 turned Australian buyers from high-priced English cars to lower-priced Fords. After the Ford Motor Company of Australia was formed in 1925, an assembly operation for the Model T was established in a disused wool store in Geelong, Victoria, where vehicles that arrived in chassis form had a locally built body added. Others arrived from Ford’s Canadian factory ready built. No fewer than 250, 000 Model Ts were sold in Australia. Ford assembly plants were subsequently built and opened in Brisbane, Fremantle, and Adelaide.
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