Ten Ways The Model T Changed The World

Illustration for article titled Ten Ways The Model T Changed The World

For the 100th anniversary of the Model T, Ford thought it would rip off Jalopnik’s patented top 10 list with one of their own. While there’s no denying the importance of the Model T in creating the consumer/industrial complex, some of Ford’s claims seem a bit rose-tinted. So let’s take a look at ten ways Ford thinks the Model T changed the world, along with a little bit of third-party perspective.
1. King of the assembly line - Ford: The Model T brought mobility and prosperity on an undreamed of scale through manufacturing efficiencies at a price that anyone could afford. The mass production process perfected the moving assembly line, creating and defining the industrial age and enabling Ford to steadily decrease the price of the Model T. In 1908, the first Model Ts sold for $825. By 1925, it sold for only $260. Jalopnik: The Model T is largely responsible for the introduction of assembly lines to the manufacturing process, bringing cheap cars to everyone. This fundamentally altered the American manufacturing and employment landscape, but ultimately created the tools with which offshore manufacturing was able to compete with domestic industry. Besides, was giving absolutely everyone in the entire country the ability to own a car a good thing? Only time and melted polar ice caps will tell. 2. Friend of the factory worker – Ford: The Model T is responsible for establishing a minimum wage and the eight-hour work day. The $5 a day minimum wage brought the best workers to the Ford factories and is often cited as having helped establish the middle-class. The factory work also gave jobs to people who usually could not find work such as immigrants, women, minorities and people with disabilities. Jalopnik: Anyone but the Jews! The minimum wage is a complicated issue; the American standard of living makes its workers more expensive and less efficient to use for manufacturing jobs, resulting in the sending of those jobs overseas. Would workers rather earn $5 an hour or be unemployed? 3. Personalize it – Ford: Over the years, thousands of Model T accessories have been sold. Because of this, the car spurred the aftermarket supplier industry, which is now a $38 billion industry annually. Anytime you see a car with anything from a bumper sticker to chrome wheels, know that the Model T started the customization trend. Jalopnik: So we have the Model T to blame for SEMA and its ilk? Gee, thanks. 4. The Universal Car – Ford: Model T stands out as the industry's truly the first global car. By 1921, it accounted for almost 57 percent of the world's automobile production. It also was manufactured in several countries and had dealerships in six continents. Jalopnik: So bring us all your world beating Euro models already! We don't want to wait till 2010 or only get six models. 5. The American Way – Ford: Before the Model T, early cars might have a steering wheel on the right, left, or in the center of the front seat. The Model T standardized the left-hand steering wheel. Jalopnik: We actually think the center-mounted steering wheel is a really cool idea and would have reduced manufacturing costs for global cars. Ford also neglects to mention the bizarre pedal arrangement on the Model T and steering-wheel-mounted throttle controls, none of which are still in use. 6. Any Color As Long As It's Black – Ford: The myth that the Model T only came in black probably comes from the reality that almost 12 million of the 15 million total Model Ts were black. But, in the early and late years of Model T production, the car was produced in many different colors, including blue, red, green and grey. Oddly, many these hues were so dark they were hardly discernable from black, another reason the myth lives on. Jalopnik: If only it was so easy to impose your will on consumers these days. 7. Built Ford Tough – Ford: By 1925, Ford was building its first factory-produced domestic pickup truck - the Ford Model T Runabout - with a pickup body. Ford also offered a heavier-duty, one-ton-rated Model TT pickup - akin to today's F-Series Super Duty. The Model T chassis was simple, strong and lightweight, with a unique three-point suspension that isolated the frame and powertrain from road shock that would cause other less sophisticated chassis designs to flex under heavy loads. Jalopnik: So what happened? Where are our simple, strong, lightweight trucks now? Or simple, strong, lightweight cars for that matter. Instead we get the F-150, a nice luxury truck, but does the working man really need acres of leather, a 4.6-liter V8 and the ability to tow planet earth? 8. Look at that thing go! – Ford: Tin Lizzie's original engines offered flexibility and boasted 20 hp, with a top speed of 40-45 mph. The front-mounted, 2.9-liter, four-cylinder, flex-fuel engine was the first single block motor with removable cylinder head and today remains the basis for most modern engines. The engine could be matched to one of nine T body styles, all built on the same chassis. Jalopnik: Ford: early innovators in badge engineering and revisionist history. We seriously doubt Henry ever called anything “flex-fuel," preferring instead the period-appropriate "huge manufacturing tolerances which have the upshot of enabling the use of whatever combustible liquid you happen to come across." 9. Tin Lizzie, a Pop Culture Icon – Ford: Soon after the Model T appeared in dealer showrooms, it started appearing in movies, songs, and became part of modern language and culture. The Model T was featured in 1920s black-and-white comedies and became the subject of hundreds of jokes and cartoons that captured the experience about life with the Model T, the personality of the car and its creator, Henry Ford. Hundreds of songs and even whole music albums were created as the Model T became part of pop culture, later generating dozens of nicknames for the car. The most common - "Tin Lizzie" - was the moniker that had several possible origins ranging from the popularity of the female name "Lizzie" during that period to a famous Model T racecar named "Old Liz." Jalopnik: So where’s the resonance of your current models in pop culture? Toby Keith doesn’t count. Does anyone that you don't pay still sing about Fords? 10. The Car of the Century – Ford: The Model T was the best-selling vehicle ever, until 1972 when the VW bug finally surpassed it. During 19 years of production, more than 15 Million Model Ts had been sold by May 26, 1927, when a ceremony marked the formal end of Model T production. More than 20 years later in 1999, a panel of 126 automotive experts from 32 countries still chose the Model T as the most influential car of the 20th century. Jalopnik: But which Ford will be the car of the 21st century? The Fusion? No, we know, it’s gotta be the Taurus. Check back with us in 92 years, you’ll see that we were right. But seriously, where's the game-changing, world beating Ford? We don't mean something that's 10% more or 10% less, we mean a vehicle that fundamentally alters people's perceptions of the automobile. Come on Ford, doing that is what made you great; please do it again. [Ford]

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In addition to these world-shaking achievements, the Model T also ushered in a new-found sexual freedom, effectively ending the puritanical Victorian era.

Providing even the most salacious of workers with newfound freedoms. The Model T liberated prostitutes from the confines of brothels and allowed them to ply their wares on street corners and back alleys - made possible by the T's narrow track.

It was also a Model T that was first driven to "the submarine races" in middle America, its spacious and well-padded back seat opening up a new world of sexual positions for our nation's teens.

Due to the Model T, America became a nation of auto-vacationers, and the number of motels that sprung up to serve these burgeoning recreative endeavors, also served as perfect meeting places for sexual trysts and affairs.

The Model T was not just popular with mainstream America, but with the until-then somewhat underground gay community. Long before Subaru became the de facto car of the lesbian community, the T was loved for its durability and neutral black color, which provided excellent contrast for the rainbow triangle and blue and yellow equals sign stickers which adorned them. It even was affectionately known as the "Tin Lezzy" in some communities.

So, as you can see, the Model T didn't just put America on wheels, it also put the "drive" in our nation's sex drive, and added some RPMs to the sexual revolution.