100th anniversary of an iconic model

Ford Motor’s Model T

Ford Motor’s Model T  

‘Tin Lizzie’ had an enormous impact on

U.S. lifestyle

RICHMOND (Indiana): Ford Motor Co. is marking the 100th anniversary of the Model T, the first low-priced car that introduced motoring to the masses, at a time when Americans are cringing at the cost of filling their gas tanks and the auto industry is struggling with plant closings and lay-offs.

“It is certainly one of the most historically significant cars of the 20th century and maybe the single most important American car,” said John Heitmann, a History professor at the University of Dayton, who has taught classes on automobile history and its impact on American life.

Henry Ford realised there was a big market for cars and that people would keep buying them, said Mr. Heitmann. “It was kind of the common car for the common person.”

The first production Model T Ford was assembled in Detroit on October 1, 1908. With the development of the sturdy, low-priced car, Henry Ford made his company the biggest in the industry, according to the Henry Ford Museum. In a span of 19 years, Ford built 15 million cars with the Model T engine. Nicknamed the “Tin Lizzie,” Model T was probably the most important vehicle in causing social change in the U.S., said Mr. Heitmann. It helped transform the nation’s cities, enabling residents to move farther away from the trolly lines and creating the first ring of suburbs, he said. Mr. Heitmann said the Model T also was embraced by farmers and rural Americans.

“It had a very high ground clearance. It was easy to repair. It was so inexpensive that isolation on the American farm came to an end,” he said.

Once rural Americans used the Model T to come to the cities to shop, crossroads stores in the country went out of business and centralised school systems replaced one-room schoolhouses, said Mr. Heitmann. Henry Ford and the Model T also changed the face of the U.S. labour force.

Mr. Heitmann said Ford raised wages to attract and keep workers at his factories and employed immigrants and minorities. “That was really important in kind of creating a class of well-to-do workers,” he said. The popularity of the Model T also found its way into poems, songs and movies. — AP

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