Throwback Monday: Famous Factories

Welcome to Throwback Monday where we take a look at how things once were, or at least how certain famous cars were once built. This week we’re looking at the car that put America on the road.
Introduced with an $850 price tag on October 1, 1908, Ford’s Model T became one of history’s most successful automobiles. By the 1920s production efficiencies allowed Ford to drop the base price to just $260, which helped the Model T to become the largest selling car on the planet, and making up more than half the cars on the world’s roads at that time. Let’s have a look at how it all came together.
Initially featuring a 20-horsepower 177-cid four cylinder engine which gave the Model T a 45 mile per hour top speed, Ford’s “Tin Lizzie” was the world’s first practical mass-produced car that shared interchangeable parts. Like the Volkswagen Beetle, Austin Mini, and others that would follow it, the T was conceived as a car for the everyman. To make it cheaply enough, and to fulfill demand, Ford innovated the construction of the car by utilizing a staged assembly line that brought together the separate parts at the right time and at a steady pace. That eventually allowed for the company’s Highland Park plant and others to spit a T out every minute of the work day.
The concept of an of an assembly line for automotive production is generally credited to Ransom E. Olds, who built the Curved Dash Olds out of standardized parts, and once demonstrated the value of this method by interchanging parts between two completed cars. Stunts like that may have proved the concept, but it was Henry Ford’s company that put it into practice.
The assembly line wasn’t the only impressive feature of Ford’s Factory. It possessed it’s own power plant with seven gas-stream engines that produced a combined 45,000 horsepower and generated enough electricity to light all of Detroit. The factory also used over 1,200 gallons of lubricating and cutting fluids every day in its milling machinery. The scope and speed of the Model T assembly line at its full optimization was remarkable.
The car itself was adapted over the course of its 19-year production run to improve the speed and efficiency of its assembly. You’ve no doubt heard Ford’s famous quip that the Model T “could be had in any color as long as it was black.” That was due to the increased efficiency that a single color brought to the production process. In its earliest years – 1908—1913 the T wasn’t even available in black. When that became its only color option, the car was in fact made up of about 30 different paint formulations depending on the application and required drying time.
By that time Ford had started paying their line workers an unheard of $5 a day, not because the company was hugely altruistic but because by doing so they could generate even more sales by putting the T in reach of even factory workers.
This film, by CarDataVideo, contains some minor inaccuracies, but it does have a great overview of the building and use of Ford’s Model T, including great footage of the cars being built on the Highland Park assembly line. Let’s take a step back in time and see how the famous “Flivver” came together.
Image: WorldScienceFestival

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  1. Vairship Avatar

    This is a very nice series. Kinda surprised I’m the first one to comment!