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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

Icon:Ford Model T, 1916

related ingenious images © Science Museum/Science and Society Picture Library

With the Model T car Henry Ford established the manufacturing system that made his name a byword for mass production. His vast Highland Park plant in Detroit, USA, was one of the industrial wonders of the twentieth century and was visited by political leaders and industrialists from around the world. 'Fordism' became profoundly influential.

Ford declared, 'the man who places a part does not fasten it ... the man who puts on the nut does not tighten it'. By this ruthless subdivision of labour, and by applying mass production techniques on a vast scale, the Ford company created, with the Model T, a simple and affordable car. This brought motoring within the reach of a huge new market. Every step was taken to simplify and speed up production, including the decision in 1914 to paint cars only in black.

The design was first introduced in 1908 and, by 1927, when the Model T was phased out, over 15 million had been produced. This was the largest production run of any car design in the first half of the twentieth century.

Production costs were tightly controlled and, with price reductions in some years, the Model T gained an increasing share of the market. In Britain, Fords accounted for over 40 percent of vehicles on the road by 1919.

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