On Dec. 10, 1915, Ford Motor Company marked a major milestone of the Industrial Age. Rolling off the Ford assembly line, the one millionth Model T’s engine was identical to the first one manufactured Oct. 1, 1908.
The engine design—a single block with a removable cylinder head—became the industry standard. The four-cylinder, 20 hp engine had a top speed of about 45 miles per hour and fuel consumption between 13 and 21 miles per gallon.
Ford Times, a company publication, said: “It would be difficult to name any other American-made piece of machinery—least of all one requiring such exact workmanship as a gasoline motor—that has been manufactured in a quantity of one million, and which still is made with change, in growing numbers to meet the demand.”
The company also described the Model T engine as”dependable, flexible, serviceable, durable,” and “a triumph of mechanical perfection.”
The Model T was the first low-priced, mass-produced automobile with standard, interchangeable parts. Henry Ford called it “the universal car,” a low-cost, reliable vehicle that could be maintained easily and could successfully travel the poor roads of the era.
In addition to the Model T’s three-point suspension, other breakthroughs included the magneto ignition (a flywheel with magnets and stationary coils) and centralized lubrication.
The Model T’s agile planetary transmission enabled novices to operate the gears, and was a forerunner of modern automatic transmission designs. The Model T also popularized the left-side steering position.
Versatility, however, was a hallmark of the Lizzie. Ford offered nine different body styles on the same chassis, while after-market kits converted the Model T into a truck, tractor or even an early snowmobile.
Priced at $850 in 1908, the Model T was mass-produced on a moving assembly line from 1913 on. The 1916 Roadster sold for $390 and when production ended in 1927, Ford had sold more than 15 million Model Ts as little as $260.
In 1914, the year after Ford introduced the moving assembly line at its new Highland Park plant, Ford produced about 300,000 cars, while 299 other companies with 66,350 employees made about 280,000 vehicles.
In 1912, Ford Motor Company launched its market research by survey customers on why they bought the Model Ts. By the one million milestone, Ford was starting to see a significant shift in Model T buyers and its impact on the U.S. economy. For the first seven years, almost two-thirds or 64 percent of Model T sales had been in small towns and farming communities.
But by mid-1915, a shift in sales data showed that the Model T was beginning to make its mark as a tool of business and commerce. “With the constantly increasing demand for the Ford in professional service, in fact, as a general industrial utility, the sales are running about 55 percent for the small towns and country districts, and about 45 percent for the big cities.”