Why the Ford Model T Was So Revolutionary


By JOHN LLOYD from Concrete, Washington, United States – All Black, Henry Style

New Orleans is a city with a proud automotive heritage. As many NOLA history buffs know, the Louisiana ‘Big Easy’ was one of the many places around the country that produced the legendary Ford Model T. 

Model T cars rolled off the production lines at the ford plant at 7200 North Peters Street throughout the 1920s. But what exactly made the Model T so revolutionary? Let’s take a look at some of the things that made the diminutive car so special. 

Who Could Buy a Car?

During the first years of the 20th Century, cars were exclusive luxuries. Companies like Rolls Royce and Daimler made expensive, high-quality vehicles that were only available to the kind of people who might employ chauffeurs. 

Henry Ford had a different idea. In 1908, he released the ‘car for the multitudes’ – the Model T. The Model T was not by any means luxurious. It was simple, flimsy and slow. It was, however, extremely cheap when it was released in 1908. Not cheap enough, apparently, for Henry Ford. 

The Production Line

Ford was an innovative and ruthless industrialist, and wanted to be able to produce Model T cars as cheaply as possible to broaden the reach of the automobile market in the increasingly road-dominated United States. His solution? He helped to create one of the world’s first moving production lines. The moving production line is essentially a factory system that uses automation processes to create products more efficiently. Conveyor belts were used to deliver parts and tools to specialized workers, who each toiled on only a few select tasks. 

Conveyor belts were already in use in coal and gold mines before 1913. Ford simply adapted the conveyer belt system idea in order to completely streamline the manufacturing process. Conveyor belts are still used in many manufacturing industries in order to cut down costs and drive efficiency. Companies like fluentconveyors.com still offer conveyor systems that are relatively similar to the first machines employed at Ford plants. 

Parts standardization was a major factor in lowering the cost of Model T cars, allowing plants to be set up in different locations that produced cars of a similar quality. Ford also broke the manufacturing process down into 84 distinct steps and trained each worker in just one of the steps. This specialization allowed the Ford Motor Company to streamline their workforce and accurately predict their monthly output. 

Cultural Impact

The Model T had an absolutely huge impact on American culture. It mobilized the American people and had a hand in creating the new middle classes. Road culture soon sprung up, and whole towns grew thanks to the new prevalence of the automobile. During the Great Depression, the Model T was the workhorse of the working class southern migrant families fleeing poverty. Manufacturing was permanently changed by the way in which the Model T was made. The car was by no means a Ferrari, but it changed the pace of American life for ever. 

 

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