These days, it would be pretty rare to see a Ford Model T driving around, but this wouldn't have been the case a hundred years ago. The Model T was once one of the most ubiquitous cars in the world when it was new, and in 1914, just a few years after the Model T entered production, it was estimated that 90% of all cars in the world were Fords.
So, how many Model Ts did Ford actually make? The exact number is a little hard to pin down as it depends on what sources you're going by, but during the 20 years that the Model T was in production, somewhere between 15 million and 16.5 million examples of this car were produced.
Today, we'll be talking about the history of the Ford Model T's production run and sharing with you some of the more interesting facts about this iconic car.
Overview of the Ford Model T
The Model T is the car that really brought the Ford Motor Company into the spotlight, but it wasn't the first car that Ford ever made. Ford had actually made several other models before that point, which included the Models A, B, C, F, K, N, R, and S.
These cars differed from the Model T in that they weren't mass-produced, nor were they built on an assembly line. At the most, Ford produced no more than a few thousand of each of these cars per year; in contrast, Ford produced 9,000 to 10,000 Model Ts every day during most of its production run.
It's worth noting that while the Model T was the first car to really popularize the use of the assembly line as a production method, it wasn't the first car to be actually made on an assembly line. That honor goes to the Oldsmobile Model R, although the Model R's production numbers didn't even come close to touching the Model T's; only about 19,000 Model Rs were ever produced.
In the decades since, other cars have been produced in much greater numbers than the Model T, including some of Ford's own cars like the F-series pickup and the European Ford Escort. Nonetheless, the Model T is still in the top 10 best selling cars of all time (if you were wondering, the #1 spot on the list is held by the Toyota Corolla, with 37.5 million units sold).
In fact, the Model T was the most produced car in the world for nearly 50 years after its production run ended, only being surpassed in 1972 by the Volkswagen Beetle.
Production of the Ford Model T
Production of the Model T began in 1908, at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. At the time, all Fords were still being built by hand, including the Model T. At the time, the Model T was priced at $850, which is about $25,750 in today's money when adjusted for inflation.
This made the Model T fairly reasonably priced overall, although it was still a bit more expensive than some of its contemporaries. In addition, because the cars were being built by hand, it took a relatively long time to complete a single car; about 12 and a half hours in most cases.
There was a lot of demand for the Model T when it was new, and Henry Ford, the founder of the company, realized they needed to seriously change their production methods if they wanted to be more efficient. Thus, in 1910, Ford opened the Highland Park Ford Plant.
This new plant contained the assembly line and all-new machinery intended to speed up production of the Model T. With this, Ford was able to go from making one car every 12.5 hours to one car every 93 minutes.
The efficiency of the new assembly line meant that Ford could reduce the price of their cars considerably. By 1925, the cost of a new Model T had gone all the way down to $260, which is about $4,100 in today's money after inflation.
The Model T initially saw a huge success thanks to its affordability, but in the years following, its popularity began to wane because competitors began offering cars with increased comfort and more attractive styling at similar prices to the Model T. 1928 was the last year of production for the Model T.
What Made the Model T So Special?
Obviously, the Model T is important to the car industry as a whole because it popularized the use of the assembly line. However, that's far from the only reason why the Model T was such a significant car.
For one, the Model T was the first global car, as it was both made and sold in various locations around the world. For a long time, over half of all the cars in the world were Model Ts.
In addition, the Model T was surprisingly capable of travelling over rough terrain, which was a pretty important asset at the time as paved roads basically didn't exist except in the largest cities. Because of this, many rural Model T owners ended up converting their cars into homemade tractors.
The Model T was also largely responsible for standardizing the practice of putting the steering wheel on the left-hand side of the vehicle (at least in North America). Previously, auto manufacturers just put the steering wheel wherever they wanted; sometimes it would be on the left, other times on the right, and sometimes it would even be in the middle.
The Model T also introduced the concept of platform sharing to the car market. While all Model Ts were built on the same platform and were therefore the same mechanically, there were multiple body styles available for the Model T that effectively made it several different vehicles at once.
The Model T could be bought as a touring car with four seats or a runabout with two. It was also possible to buy a Model T with an enclosed cargo area for use as a delivery vehicle, or a Model T with a flat bed in the back for hauling large items.