Before the developing the assembly line to build it on, Henry Ford first designed a streamlined production model automobile, a no-frills basic car intended to be inexpensive and fast to build. This was the Model T, a car which would come to be popularly known as the Tin Lizzie. The first Model T Fords were built at a secret facility on Piquette Ave. in Detroit, Michigan. They were built of vanadium steel which Ford had discovered by examining a wrecked French race car in Florida. It is lighter and stronger than the steel then commonly used in America, and so durable that there are still many surviving Model Ts on the road. Using the assembly line concept, Ford Motor Company cranked out thousands of cars in the first years of Model T production, and each year was a new record for the time, but one that would be broken over and over through the ensuing two decades of Model T production. All told, over 15,000,000 Model Ts were built between 1908 and 1927.
With the opening of the new Ford plant at Highland Park the already streamlined process was further perfected. The Highland Park Complex was set up to produce all parts needed from raw materials, and to turn out the finished product. It included steel mills, tire factories, casting shops, and every other necessary process. By the last year of the Model T in 1927 Fords factories could turn out one every 24 seconds.
This whole evolution was driven by Fords tapping a previously untapped market. All previous automobiles had been luxury models costing , on the average, over $2000. The first Model T was designed to sell for $850, and this price went down from there over the years. It really became an automobile for the great multitude, and in the process changed transportation and life in America permanently.
Model Ts were everywhere, most sporting a basic black paint job, and they were hugely popular. The cars became the subjects of art, photography, and even songs (see below). People could take long road trips. New mobility was empowering for many, and in an era of dirt roads, the Tin Lizzie was the perfect vehicle for its time. The suspension was a transverse spring, the wheels were steel spoked wooden artillery carriage wheels, the tires were pneumatic rubber, and you probably wont find a modern vehicle that is as at home on rutted dirt roads as the Model T is.