It was Henry Ford's dream to "democratise the automobile", and this began to become a reality when the Ford Motor Company launched the Model T in Detroit, Michigan on 1 October, 1908. Over 15 million Model Ts were produced between 1908 and 1927 and sold world wide. This Model T, with a touring car body, was built in 1916 at Ford's Canadian factory. It would have cost around 195 pounds (the equivalent of $15, 645 in 2008) to purchase in Australia. It is particularly significant in that it is an example of a right-hand drive Canadian export model in quite complete and original condition. Whereas many similar Model Ts in the wider community have gone through several restoration projects, this one has spent many years in the Museum's collection.
The Model T proved ideal for Australian conditions, being dubbed the "Squatter's Joy" because of its high clearance, ability to ride over bumps and stumps and trouble-free progress through water. The car was devoid of all the fancy adornments that were common in luxury cars, such as brass carriage lamps, plush upholstery and flower vases. It had a windscreen and side curtains, which could be clipped onto the hood for protection in bad weather.
As the price of the Model T was slashed, due to improved production line techniques and Henry Ford's determination to sacrifice profit margins to increase sales, it became affordable not only to farmers but also to tradesmen, doctors and clergymen, who took it up with enthusiasm, finding a car more convenient than a horse and sulky. It was many families' first car and took car ownership from the rich and privileged to the general public. The car was easy to maintain, simple, sturdy, versatile, had interchangeable parts, and was virtually unchanged throughout its long 19-year production run.
Known affectionately as "Tin Lizzies", Model Ts are one of the few cars that have been celebrated in song, legend and folklore. In the words of Ford's advertising of the day, it was "truly the car for the multitudes - The Universal Car". In 2001 the Model T was voted the Car of the Century by an international jury of 126 automotive journalists from 32 countries.
Davis, Pedr, "The Australian Dictionary of Motoring", Pedr Davis Pty Ltd, Sydney, 2001.
Georgano, Nick (edit), "The Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile", The Stationary Office, London, 2000.
Simpson, Margaret, "On the Move: a History of Transport in Australia", Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 2004
Assistant Curator, Science & Industry