Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Better Idea

One-hundred and twelve years ago, an engineer for the Detroit Edison Company, built a horseless carriage and, in the driver’s seat, he won a car race—the only one he ever entered.

In front of thousands of onlookers, Henry Ford beat Alexander Winton at the Detroit Driving Club in Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the fall of 1901.  While Winton’s car overheated, Ford crossed the finish line averaging a heady 44 miles per hour.  He not only won the $1,000 purse, but also the interest of various investors who thought they should cash in on this mechanical marvel.  So with $28,000 in ready money, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903.  Ten workers earning $1.50 per day built the first two-cylinder Model A in what was once a Detroit wagon factory.  When Ford sold the vehicle to a local physician for $850, it became a hit.
But Henry Ford had an even better idea!

The four-cylinder Model B did not live up to the company’s expectations, but the Model C certainly did.  By 1907, the Ford Motor Company reaped a whopping $1,100 profit.  Ford continued identifying his automobiles alphabetically.  Some of the models were never mass produced, but considered only concept cars.  The Model N represented a total redesign.  Instead of a two-cylinder engine under the seat, the Model N boasted a four-cylinder engine under the hood.  By the time Ford was ready to build his most famous vehicle, he had exhausted the alphabet from A through S.  His next car represented the most modern automobile to date and he simply called it the Model T.
Ford formally introduced his Model T to the general public on October 1, 1908.  Known for its dependability, the car was soon nicknamed the ‘Tin Lizzie’ (‘Lizzie’ being a contemporary slang word used to describe a reliable servant).  The stripped down version minus a top, windshield and gas lamps went for $850.  After the first 500 cars were made, Ford enhanced the vehicle by adding a new starting crank.  In 1909, more options were featured:  robe rails, footrests, auto chimes and the tops (if you preferred one) could be ordered in either gray or black.

By 1910, Ford was producing 100 Model Ts per day.  The cars remained stationary while workers scurried all over the factory retrieving parts.  In order to meet the increasing demand, however, Ford had to improve production so he experimented with a crude assembly line at his new factory in Highland Park, Michigan.  Eventually production time was reduced to one hour and 33 minutes.  This in turn dropped the car’s price down to $360 making it available to middle class families.  In 1924, the price hit an all-time low of $290.  Over 15 million Tin Lizzies were sold in the United Sates alone with almost one million more going to Canada and another 250,000 shipped to England.  Up until 1927, the Model T represented one half of all cars built and as a result motoring evolved from an idle pastime of the rich into a way of life.
Will Rogers once commented:  “It will take a hundred years to tell whether, he {Ford} helped us or hurt us, but he certainly didn’t leave us where he found us.”  Well, 100 years have come and gone and it is clear that Henry Ford and his Model T revolutionized not only the way we work, but also the way we get there.  And life on the farm has never been the same.


  1. I'd always heard how the assembly line was an amazing invention, but you've really illustrated it by showing how much it reduced the price of car manufacturing.

    Love Will Rogers' quote - so true!

    1. The assembly line definitely revolutionized manufacturing! Thanks for stopping by! Always glad to hear from you!