Decades before the slogan “Built Ford Tough” became synonymous with Ford’s popular F-Series pickup trucks, the company’s “universal car” was busy establishing that reputation.
The Model T, which was introduced 110 years ago, came into a world unprepared for the freedom of mobility it brought with it. There were very few actual roads in the 1910s and ’20s when Ford Motor Company’s ninth vehicle offering was on its way to becoming the most significant automobile of the 20th century.
The low-cost and reliable Model T was also easily maintained and could navigate the poor roads of the era thanks in part to its three-point suspension.
Days before the Model T’s Oct. 1, 1908 introduction, company founder Henry Ford, along with two members of the Model T development team, test drove the vehicle during a hunting trip to northern Michigan and Wisconsin.
Two Model Ts would later be driven in a cross-country race from to New York to Seattle where the routes provided as much competition as the opposing drivers themselves. The vehicles overcame the roads and other higher-powered entries to finish first and third in the 1909 contest.
In addition to overcoming primitive roads, the utilitarian vehicle was also said “as useful as a pair of shoes.” That practicality led to the Model T being adapted for such uses as fire trucks and ambulances. They were also used to power farm machinery, sausage grinders, newspaper presses and more.
Some Model Ts even had their front wheels replaced with snow skis and swapped the rear wheels for caterpillar tracks, transforming the car into an early snowmobile for use by farmers and loggers.
In addition to the numerous jobs the Model T helped accomplish, its capability came to be used in stunts such as driving to the top of Pike’s Peak (14,108 feet) in the Rocky Mountains in 1913. In 1911, a Model T was driven to the Top of Ben Nevis, the highest point in the British Isles (4,406 feet).
When “Lizzies,” as the vehicles were known, weren’t being used to climb natural summits, they were scaling sets of stairs of various man-made buildings.
In 1910, a Model T was driven up the stairs of a Columbus, Nebraska YMCA location. Another traveled up the stairs at a courthouse in Duluth, Minnesota. A year later, another Model T was driven up the 66 steps of the Tennessee state capitol building.