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 Heritage Moment:  Model T and Henry Ford Named Best of the Century

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Editor's Note: Each Thursday, @Ford Online takes a look back at Ford heritage moments from the company's past. Click here for more heritage articles.​ ​

DEARBORN - On Dec. 18, 1999, the Model T was named Car of the Century, and Henry Ford was named Automotive Entrepreneur of the Century, by Car of the Century International.

The Model T, which by 1921 accounted for more than half of global automotive production, was chosen from a list of over 200 cars by a jury of automotive specialists.

“The twentieth century can, in retrospect, be regarded as the ‘century of the car’ – a revolution of technology and lifestyle.  In this revolution, Ford Motor Company paved the way both as a manufacturer and as an industry leader. It was Henry Ford’s vision to give people unprecedented mobility that changed the lives of millions throughout the world,” said Dick Holzhause, leader of the group of car enthusiasts who sponsor Car of the Century International.

Between 1903 and 1908, Henry Ford and his engineers developed 19 different vehicles, naming each for a letter of the alphabet, from Model A to Model S.  Some of these cars were experimental models that never reached the public.  Perhaps the least recognized of the production cars was the Model N – a small four-cylinder car which sold for $500.

The Model T was introduced on Oct. 1, 1908 and quickly won the approval of millions of owners, who affectionately dubbed it “The Tin Lizzie.”  Lizzie was popular slang for a good and dependable servant.  Besides providing independence and opportunity, the Model T also was affordably priced.  The car initially sold for $850, but continual improvements in design and production eventually lowered the price to $260.  The first year’s production of Model Ts reached 10,660, breaking all records for the industry.  By 1921, Model Ts accounted for 56.6 percent of global auto production.  In total, more than 15 million Ford Model Ts were sold worldwide.

Henry Ford was honored for putting the world on wheels, and spurring growth of the middle class through innovations like the $5 work day.

He rose from a farm boy and tinkerer to the world’s first billionaire, all on the strength of a single idea.  Ford clung to that idea through two failed attempts at starting companies.  His idea was an affordable and dependable car for the common man.  His achievements brought about such a car, and the establishment of mass production which changed the face of the automotive industry and provided a model for other industries to follow.  Additionally, he originated the significant social contribution of the five-dollar-day at a time when the average worker made less than that in a week, spurring the growth of the middle class in America.

The contributions of Henry Ford also were recognized that year by Fortune magazine when it named him “Businessman of the Century” for making transportation available to the masses and pioneering the moving assembly line in manufacturing.

  

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12/20/2012 5:55 AM