On October 1, 1908, Henry Ford’s Model T began production. This wasn’t Hank’s first automobile, and he didn’t invent the assembly line either. And did you know that you could get a color other than black? Despite the popular culture hiccups, there’s no denying that the Ford Model T put America on wheels.
The Truth About Cars has a nice history on the beginnings of the Model T and Henry Ford, filling in the gaps that most of us don’t get to hear. After several models, Ford Motor Company hit paydirt with the Model N, a low-cost entry that complemented the Ford Model F for a short time. From 1906-08, Ford sold over 7,000 Model Ns plus several thousand of the more upscale Model R and S variants. Ol’ Henry clearly used his experience with these (and those that preceded) to develop the Model T.
All this began at the Ford Piquette Avenue factory in Detroit, but he couldn’t do it without some key team members. As the story goes, “While Henry Ford was no mechanical genius, he had a small number of very good ideas and, more importantly, he was indomitable. I believe that if Ford had genius, that genius was in his ability to identify and hire genuine mechanical and business geniuses with an even rarer talent, the ability to get a megalomaniac to agree with you.” One partner developed the Model T’s magneto while another developed the steel that made the Model T possible − Henry’s genius was that he knew how to pull it all together.
The Model T wasn’t the runaway success that one normally assumes, but by 1910, after 12,000 being built, Ford moved production to a new Highland Park factory and implemented mass production principles. At that point, there was no looking back, and Detroit (and the world) changed forever.