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Ford Model T chosen as car of the century

By: staff

Date: 1999-12-29

Photo of Ford car An international jury of automotive journalists and experts meeting in Las Vegas has chosen the Ford Model T as the winner of the coveted "Car of the Century" award. The Model T was selected for the significant innovation it represented in its day, its design, and its impact on the auto industry, and, indeed, society itself.

"The COTC award represents the hard work of many people from all over the world. We salute the Ford Model T for winning this award," said Fred van der Vlugt, chairman of the Global Automotive Elections Foundation.

The jury of 126 automotive experts represented 32 countries. The general public was also invited to join in on the voting via the Internet. Their votes were integrated with those of the experts.

The voting process started in 1996 with a list of 200 cars. That narrowed to the top 100 cars in 1997, then to the top 27 cars in early 1999. Finally, the top five were chosen.

The finalists included: Ford Model T, 742 points; Mini, all types, 617 points; Citroen DS, 567 points; Volkswagen Beetle, 521 points; Porsche 911, 303 points.

Between 1903 and 1908, Henry Ford and his engineers developed 19 different vehicles, naming them 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 most recognized of the production cars was the Model N, a small, four-cylinder car which sold for $500.

The Model T was introduced on October 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 was also 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% of global auto production. In total, more than 15 million Ford Model Ts were sold worldwide.

Henry Ford rose from a farm boy and tinkerer to become the world's first billionaire, all on the strength of a single idea. He 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.

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