Ford Model T car, 5-passenger, 4-door tourer, No. C55005, metal / rubber / glass, designed by Henry Ford with Joseph Galamb and C.H. Wills, 1906-1908, Detroit, Michigan, USA, made by Ford Motor Co., Walkerville, Ontario, Canada, 1916
It was Henry Ford's dream to "democratise the automobile", and this began to become a reality when the Ford Motor Company launched the Model T in Detroit, Michigan on 1 October, 1908. Over 15 million Model Ts were produced between 1908 and 1927 and sold world wide. This Model T, with a touring car body, was built in 1916 at Ford's Canadian factory. It would have cost around 195 pounds (the equivalent of $15, 645 in 2008) to purchase in Australia. It is particularly significant in that it is an example of a right-hand drive Canadian export model in quite complete and original condition. Whereas many similar Model Ts in the wider community have gone through several restoration projects, this one has spent many years in the Museum's collection.
The Model T proved ideal for Australian conditions, being dubbed the "Squatter's Joy" because of its high clearance, ability to ride over bumps and stumps and trouble-free progress through water. The car was devoid of all the fancy adornments that were common in luxury cars, such as brass carriage lamps, plush upholstery and flower vases. It had a windscreen and side curtains, which could be clipped onto the hood for protection in bad weather.
As the price of the Model T was slashed, due to improved production line techniques and Henry Ford's determination to sacrifice profit margins to increase sales, it became affordable not only to farmers but also to tradesmen, doctors and clergymen, who took it up with enthusiasm, finding a car more convenient than a horse and sulky. It was many families' first car and took car ownership from the rich and privileged to the general public. The car was easy to maintain, simple, sturdy, versatile, had interchangeable parts, and was virtually unchanged throughout its long 19-year production run.
Known affectionately as "Tin Lizzies", Model Ts are one of the few cars that have been celebrated in song, legend and folklore. In the words of Ford's advertising of the day, it was "truly the car for the multitudes - The Universal Car". In 2001 the Model T was voted the Car of the Century by an international jury of 126 automotive journalists from 32 countries.
Davis, Pedr, "The Australian Dictionary of Motoring", Pedr Davis Pty Ltd, Sydney, 2001.
Georgano, Nick (edit), "The Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile", The Stationary Office, London, 2000.
Simpson, Margaret, "On the Move: a History of Transport in Australia", Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 2004
Assistant Curator, Science & Industry
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.
This Model T was built at Ford's Walkerville factory (now part of the city of Windsor), Ontario, Canada, in February 1916. Ford production began in Canada in the former Walkerville Wagon Co. works in 1904. The Ford Motor Co. of Canada was set up to manufacture Fords for Canada and the rest of the British Empire, although not for Britain itself. Cars were initially shipped to Canada in pieces from Detroit. A full-scale assembly line was eventually set up for the production of Model Ts. Before 1 May, 1913, engines sent from the Detroit factory were used, with the serial numbers being a subset of the United States ones and the "Made in the U.S.A." lettering ground off the engine blocks. Production of Canadian-made engines commenced in 1913 with serial numbers commencing with the letter "C".
In 1938 this Model T was donated to the Museum by Hunt Bros. (Sydney) Motors Pty Ltd, Ford Metropolitan dealers, whose office and showroom was at 29 Church Street, Parramatta. It had been used by them from time to time for sales promotions and advertising purposes and was in running order at least up to 1936.
The car was put into storage by the Museum and in the early 1980s was chosen as one of the chief objects in a recreation of a 1930s garage, an exhibition planned to be included in Stage 2 of the Powerhouse Museum when it opened in 1988. The car was cleaned and partly restored in 1982 by Ossie's Antique Restorations Pty Ltd of Smithfield to reflect a well cared-for car of the 1930s. New tyres were fitted and wheels replaced, paintwork and bodywork undertaken, the upholstery was cleaned and preserved, the hood was treated, the back panel with celluloid window was replaced with matching material and the radiator was cleaned and polished. The 1930s garage exhibition did not eventuate, but the car did go on display at the Ford Discovery Centre at Geelong, Victoria, from 1999 until 2002. In 2008 it was exhibited in the Display Store of the Powerhouse Discovery Centre to commemorate the centenary of the first Model T.