The Model T Ford – The Car that Changed America and the World

The Car of the Century (COTC) was an international award given to the world's most influential car of the twentieth century. The election process was overseen by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation. The winner - the Ford Model T - was announced at an awards gala on December 18, 1999 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

  • From 1906, Henry Ford and his team in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, spent nearly two years designing the Model T, which followed the Fords N, R, and     S. When he brought the prototype out of the factory for its first test, he was too excited to drive. An assistant had to take the wheel.
  • The T used a 4 cylinder engine producing 15 kW, with a top speed of 72 km/h. It had a novel 2-speed transmission (plus reverse) that shared the same lubricating oil. Displacement was 2896 cc.
  • The T engine was produced continuously for 33 years (September 27, 1908 through August 4, 1941), making it one of the longest running series production for an engine, especially considering that its specifications remained virtually unchanged. It has been rated (by Ward’s Autoworld) as one of the ten best engines of the 20th century.
  • The transmission operated with pedal actuated bands rather than a clutch and sliding gear system -- for easier driving than using the conventional clutch and stick operated sliding-cogs: No gears to crash. Reliability was good too. There were no water pumps, oil pumps, starters or generators to fail.
  • Henry Ford was first to put the steering wheel on the left hand side, which other manufacturers soon copied (previously left, middle, or right was arbitrary).
  • In 1909, Alaskan gold mining magnate Robert Guggenheim sponsored a motor car race from New York to Seattle (some 7,000 km) in which the only survivors were two Model T Fords. "I believe Mr. Ford has the solution of the popular automobile," Guggenheim concluded.
  • When it was introduced in 1908 for $825, the T wasn't that inexpensive: A teacher's annual salary was $850.
  • Over 10 000 Ts were sold in its first year of production, a record for any single car.
  • Ford didn't offer credit because Henry thought it to be immoral.
  • "I'm going to democratise the automobile," Henry Ford declared in 1909. "When I'm through, everybody will be able to afford one, and about everybody will have one." The means to this end was a continuous reduction in price. By 1912, when it sold for $575, the Model T for the first time cost less than the prevailing average annual wage in the United States. Ignoring conventional wisdom, Ford continually sacrificed profit margins to increase sales: Profits per car fell as he slashed prices from $220 in 1909 to an incredible $99 in 1914. But sales exploded. Ford demonstrated that a strategic, systematic lowering of prices could boost total profits, as net income rose from $3 million in 1909 to $25 million in 1914.

Model A Ford History

The Model A Ford was the successor to the Model T Ford.

For some time Henry Ford had been reluctant to develop a new model. He regarded the Model T as the ideal car for the masses and did not see any need to replace it. However by the mid-1920s the Model T had been in production for over 15 years and was showing its age when compared to other cars of the period. The Ford Motor Company was losing market share as consumers opted for the products of Ford's competitors which offered more features and modern styling and engineering. Finally Henry was convinced of the need to develop a new model.

In May of 1927 it was officially announced that the Model T was to be replaced.

The development and production of the new model Ford was a major undertaking for the company. When the decision to develop the new model was finally made the creation of the model A occurred with remarkable speed. This haste was necessary to minimise the downtime for the company as it retooled and prepared the plants to manufacture the Model A. Many workers were idle during this period and Ford dealers had no new cars for many months and were forced to survive by providing parts and servicing to Model T owners. Some of the plant layout and new machine tools were designed simultaneously with the specific parts for the Model A.

There was some disagreement and debate about the design and engineering of this new model. Henry's son Edsel advocated for a modern, well appointed car that offered similar features to those found in the cars of Ford's competitors, particularly the Chevrolet. Henry did not want to be seen as imitating others and favoured the development of a car that would be clearly identified as a Ford car. This debate was apparent in the discussion of the type of transmission to be used. Edsel wanted a sliding gear transmission while Henry favoured the planetary transmission that had been used on the Model T. Henry even had some discussions about the potential application of a form of automatic planetary transmission. However, when it was pointed out that there would be an enormous amount of work required to develop such a transmission Henry finally conceded to using a sliding gear transmission. The type finally used was a smaller version of that used in the Lincoln.

Launch of the Model A Ford

With the considerable reputation and trust that the Ford Motor Company had developed with the venerable Model T, the new Ford Car was eagerly awaited by the general public. The company worked hard to retain a cloak of secrecy about the new car. This strategy served to enhance the sense of anticipation and curiosity. In late November of 1927, Ford ran a series of five daily advertisements in thousands of newspapers across the USA. On the fifth day the Model A was shown.

At the public launch of the new car held at Madison Square Garden in New York there was a huge turnout with mounted police called out to control the crowd of 200,000. There were mass demonstrations of the first showings of the Model A held all over the USA. These carefully planned simultaneous demonstrations and carefully crafted publicity campaign resulted in one of the most successful product launches in the history of the car industry.

Features of the Model A Ford

The Model A differed from the Model T in almost all aspects. The styling was far more modern and well received by the general public - reflected in the common nick name used at the time "the baby Lincoln".

Ford Model B, Model 18, & Model 40 (1932)

The Model B, Model 18, and Model 40 are Ford cars and light trucks produced between 1932 and 1934. They succeeded the Model A. The Model B continued to offer Ford's proven four cylinder engine and was available from 1932 to 1934. The V8 (Model 18 in 1932, Model 40 in 1933 & 1934) was succeeded by the Model 48. In Europe, it was built for a few more years. The same bodies were available on both 4 cylinder Model Bs and V8 Model 18/40s.


Rather than provide a much updated version of the Model A, Ford launched a completely new model for 1932:

The V-8 was marketed as the Model 18 in its initial year, and became known as the Ford V8. It had the new flathead V8 engine. The Model 18 was the first low-priced, mass-marketed car to have a V8 engine - an important milestone in American automotive history.

The 221 cu in (3.6 l) V8 engine was rated at 65 hp (48 kW) when introduced, but power increased significantly with improvements to the carburettor and ignition in later years. This engine choice was more popular than the four-cylinder, which was a variant of the Model A engine with improvements to balancing and lubrication.

The Model B was derived with as few technical changes as possible to keep cost low. Other than the engine, and badging on headlamp support bar (later, on the grille) and hub caps, it was virtually indistinguishable from the V-8. Its intention was to be a price leader, and as it offered more than the popular Model A, this should have been a winning formula. However, the new and only slightly more expensive V-8 stole the show, and finally made it obsolete.

Although there is a certain optical relationship with the predecessor Model A, the car was new. While the Model A has a simple chassis with two straight longitudinal members, the new car got a longer wheelbase, and an outward curved, double dropped chassis. In both models the fuel tank was relocated from the cowl as in the Model A and late Model T, where its back had formed the dash) to the lower rear of the car, as is typical in modern cars; thus requiring Ford to include an engine-driven fuel pump rather than rely on gravity feed. While the V-8 was developed from scratch, the B just had an improved four-cylinder Model A engine of 201 cu in (3.29 l) displacement producing 50 horsepower (37 kW; 51 PS).


When Ford introduced the Model A in late 1927, there were several competitors also offering four cylinder cars, among them Chevrolet, Dodge, Durant, or Willys.

Although sharing a common platform, Model Bs and Model 18s came not only in Standard and Deluxe trim, they were available in a large variety of body styles. Some of them, like the commercial cars described below, were only available as Standards, and a few others came only in Deluxe trim. There were two-door Roadster, two-door Cabriolet, four-door Phaeton, two-door and four-door sedans, four-door 'woodie" station wagon, two-door Victoria, two-door convertible sedan, panel and sedan deliveries, five-window coupe, a Sport Coupé (stationary soft top), the three-window Deluxe Coupé, and Pickup.

Prices ranged from US$495 for the Roadster, $490 for the Coupés, and $650 for the convertible sedan. Production totals numbered from 12,597 for the Roadster to 124,101 for the two-door sedan. Ford sold 298,647 V8-powered 18s in 1932, and except for the fact Ford could not keep up with demand, the identical four-cylinder B would have been a sales disaster: dealers switched customers to them from the V8, and even then sold only 133,539, in part because the V8 cost just US$10 more.

The B was discontinued because buyers disliked four cylinder models in general, and because of the huge success of the V-8, not for being an inferior car. In fact, it persisted a little longer in Europe, where in many countries the tax system heavily favoured smaller-displacement engines.

Today, the 1932 Model B, although always a little bit in the shadow of the V-8, is a highly collectible car and people will pay thousands of Rands to restore one to original specification.

All 1932 Fords—V8-8s and Model Bs—came with black fenders, wire wheels, and a rear-mounted spare wheel (side mount on cars equipped with a tail gate). Options included single or twin sidemounts, luggage rack, clock, in- and outside mirrors, and choice of leather or Broadcloth (closed cars) interior material.


The B shared frame, bodies, and even most of the trim with the eight cylinder car. The only technical difference was the use of the slightly reworked Model A engine, thus the designation B. Most body styles were available as Standard or Deluxe variants with either engine offered as an option. Customers could get a deluxe version of the 1932 Model B in three-window coupe (which only came in deluxe model), roadster, phaeton, Tudor and Fordor as well.

Standard trim meant black front window frame, black wire wheels (colour optional), black hooter (chrome-plated optional), single tail light (2nd optional), painted dash, position lights integrated in the head lamps (Deluxe cowl lamps optional), and less expensive interiors.


When the Model 40 and the new B were introduced February 9, 1933, revisions of the car were substantial, especially considering how important the 1932 change had been. For its second year, the wheelbase was stretched, from 106 in (2692 mm) to 112 in (2845 mm) on a new crossmember frame. The grille was revised, gaining a pointed forward slope at the bottom which resembled either a shovel or the 1932 Packard Light Eight. Both the grille and hood louvres curved down and forward. The overall design and grille were inspired by the English Ford Model Y. Streamlining was further accentuated by the new hood which now covered the cowl, giving an impression of more length. In addition, there were more rounded and skirted fenders and new, elegantly bowed bumpers. Headlamp support barswere no longer in use, and there were new wire wheels. The cars got a new dashboard with instruments set in an oval insert in front of the driver. There was a glove box on the passenger side. Closed Deluxe models received heavy DiNoc woodgraining on dash and window frames, and there were deeper seat cushions.

There were 10 body styles (14 if standard and Deluxe trim levels are counted separately). All were available for V-8s and the Model B, which thus got Deluxe models, too. Convertible Coupes and Victoria came in Deluxe trim only, and the most expensive car in the line, the "woody", as a Standard only. It cost US$590 with the four cylinder engine.

The cars gained about 3% in weight, compensated for with more powerful engines, as on the V-8 with its 15% increase in power.

Total sales for the model year were up to 311,113 and 334,969 for calendar year.

Please download the document below for a short summary of the 2016 Ford Heritage Day.