BBC Autos

The Roundabout Blog

Today in history: 'T' time

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.


Ford Model T Assembly

Trafford Park in Greater Manchester, UK. (Ford)

One hundred and five years ago today, car-buyers in the US got a look at something new as Henry Ford's ninth production vehicle, the Model T, goes on sale.

At a time when a typical unskilled US worker earned less than $400 per year (company founder Henry Ford didn’t institute his celebrated $5 workday until 1914), a two-seat Model T Runabout stickered for a stout $825, and the grander Town Car cost $1,000. But as production efficiency increased, the price dropped, and by 1925, a Model T could be had for as little as $260. Some 15m examples, in more than a dozen body styles, had rolled off the line before the car’s 19-year production run finally ended in 1927 – a feat that would not be topped until Volkswagen’s Beetle did it in 1972.

Ford called the Model T a “universal car” – all the vehicle a buyer could possibly need or want. The T of 1908 (pictured left) tipped the scales at 1,200lbs and featured a four-cylinder engine with 20 horsepower, giving the car a top speed of 45mph (making it notably quicker than a horse).

But the Model T was more than just the first truly accessible car, it was the first truly global car. From the original Model T factory on Piquette Avenue in Detroit, Ford quickly expanded production to Canada and the UK (pictured above is the Ford line at Trafford Park in Greater Manchester), and later opened Tin Lizzy factories in a half dozen European countries, Mexico, Argentina and Japan.