The Ford Model T (colloquially known as the Tin Lizzie, Leaping Lena, or flivver) is an automobile produced by Ford Motor Company from October 1, 1908, to May 26, 1927. It is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened travel to the common middle-class American; some of this was because of Ford's efficient fabrication, including assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting.
The Ford Model T was named the most influential car of the 20th century in the 1999 Car of the Century competition, ahead of the BMC Mini, Citroën DS, and Volkswagen Type 1. Ford's Model T was successful not only because it provided inexpensive transportation on a massive scale, but also because the car signified innovation for the rising middle class and became a powerful symbol of America's age of modernization. With 16.5 million sold it stands eighth on the top ten list of most sold cars of all time as of 2012.
Although automobiles had already existed for decades, they were still mostly scarce, expensive, and unreliable at the Model T's introduction in 1908. Positioned as reliable, easily maintained, mass-market transportation, it was a runaway success. In a matter of days after the release, 15,000 orders were placed. The first production Model T was produced on August 12, 1908 and left the factory on September 27, 1908, at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, Michigan. On May 26, 1927, Henry Ford watched the 15 millionth Model T Ford roll off the assembly line at his factory in Highland Park, Michigan.
Several cars were conceived by Henry Ford from the founding of the company in 1903 before the Model T was introduced. Although he started with the Model A, there were not 19 production models (A through T); some were only prototypes. The production model immediately before the Model T was the Model S, an upgraded version of the company's largest success to that point, the Model N. The follow-up was the Ford Model A (rather than any Model U). The company publicity said this was because the new car was such a departure from the old that Henry wanted to start all over again with the letter A.
The Model T was Ford's first automobile mass-produced on moving assembly lines with completely interchangeable parts, marketed to the middle class. Henry Ford said of the vehicle:
I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces.
Although credit for the development of the assembly line belongs to Ransom E. Olds with the first mass-produced automobile, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, beginning in 1901, the tremendous advancements in the efficiency of the system over the life of the Model T can be credited almost entirely to the vision of Ford and his engineers.