Legacy of the Ford Model T 100 Years After
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Apart from all the obvious benefits of the Model T, the system that produced the car is also responsible for having introduced the basic principles of mass production to America and then the rest of the world. Also, the cars we drive today have a lot of things in common with the Model T, despite the fact that at first glance they only share the same round wheels.
Vanadium steel is an invention that helped the Model T triumph on the market. Three times cheaper yet stronger than regular steel, this type was first used on expensive European racer cars, but when Ford introduced it, it was used to lower costs in the car and make it more durable.
Because the road system wasn't up to a car's needs at the time, and because Ford knew the car would have to endure a lot of off-roading, the Model T was fitted with a innovational 3-point suspension system that later became a standard on many cars. His arrangement gave the car an ample axle movement over rough terrain while allowing the chassis to twist without twisting the engine.
Another big invention that can still be seen on every car today is the separation of the engine block and the engine head in two pieces. Up to the Model T all engines were cast integrally, but Ford decided to use removable cylinder heads which made it easier to produce, service and took some of the weight off the car too.
As any car automaker in the world today knows, the easier a car is to service, the more customers it will attract. Ford managed this feat by keeping things very simple, almost rudimentary. The advantage was that you could repair the car with just a few tools and virtually no know-how. A real bonus when the next servicing station is 800 miles away.
Modifying and customizing your car is all the rage these days but back in the days of the Model T Ford, this was essential in order to suit the car to your needs. Factory-made models were soon transformed into anything from a camper or a portable sawmill to a tractor-trailer and even a grain thresher. One more bonus point for the T. Some would even go as far as to credit the T Ford with giving birth to the aftermarket industry because back in the day, a number of companies were born with the single purpose of modifying the stock Model T.
In this age where dwindling oil stocks have us thinking up alternative ways of fueling our cars and coming up with fuel-saving tips, it’s worth mentioning that the first Fords ran on alcohol (ethanol) instead of petrol, and later on an alcohol and petrol mix. Of course, the Prohibition soon put and end to that, but it’s still a bonus point for the versatile Model T.
All these things make the Model T one of the most influential cars of the 20th century, a title which it recently won, and quite understandably too. But let’s not end this article on such a formal note. Let’s take a look at the things that made the T an odd model, and not just by today’s standard.
It only came in black at first (Henry Ford was famously quoted as saying that "You can have any color you want, as long as it is black") because this was the fastest drying color which allowed things to speed up, but the use of a single color also helped keep the production simple. Later, red was used on the touring car and pearl grey on the roadster.
The fuel system on the T had a front-mounted tank, right under the driver’s feet and it was gravitationally-driven. This means that on particular steep hills, it wasn’t an uncommon sight to drive your car in reverse in order to keep fuel from flowing to the engine. That being said, the T still gets better gas mileage (21 mpg) than most cars today (the average is roughly about 23 mpg).
Despite all its oddities and all its quirks, the Model T, or the Tin Lizzie as it has been affectionately dubbed by enthusiasts, can still be driven legally on the streets today. That is if you have the guts because one look at the Spartan passenger compartment is liable to turn the mind of even the most avid of fans. Still, the mark the Model T left on the market is undeniable.
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