Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Model T

Henry Ford introduced his “everyman’s car,” the Model T, on Oct. 1, 1908. It was built at Ford’s Piquette Avenue plant and assembled by hand, resulting in small production numbers - only 11 cars were made during the first month. The Piquette plant could not keep up with demand for the new car, however, and a new plant built in Highland Park, opened on January 1, 1910. In 1913 the plant began using the moving assembly line to build the chassis, and automobile production was never the same. Ford’s new Highland Park assembly plant began producing cars with an efficiency that was unheard of at that time. Initially the chassis was assembled in 12 hours 8 minutes, but by 1914 it only took 93 minutes to assemble a new Model T.

The famous quote about the Model T of “You could have any color as long as it’s black” was true only after 1913. The car at first had paint colors corresponding with body style. For example, touring cars were red, and roadsters were gray. When it was discovered that black paint dried significantly faster than other colors, paint color was no longer optional.

The Model T was the first mass-produced car that was affordable enough for a wide audience. In 1909 a new Model T cost $850, but by 1924 the price had gone down to only $260. The average assembly line worker could purchase one with four months’ pay in 1914. Henry Ford made very few changes to the Model T over the years and only in the late 1920s did he consent to make some modifications to the car. This was in stark contrast to his competitors, who continuously redeveloped both the comfort and styles of their vehicles.

In May of 1927 the Ford Motor Company ceased production of the Model T, after producing more than 15 million. In 1999 the Model T was named the “Car of the Century” due to its impact on both the industry and society. Henry Ford recounted his vision of the Model T in his 1922 book My Life and Work: "I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one-and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces.”



1911 Ford Model T Touring Car - 1982.094.001

Assembly of Model T parts, 1919 - 2013.047.063

View all items related to the Model T