I am based in Michigan, USA: the home of the car and the home of Detroit – famously known as “Motor City”. When we were asked to choose an object to represent our location as part of the 75th Anniversary celebrations of MANN+HUMMEL, I knew that it should be something car related.
The decision was clear
MANN+HUMMEL in Portage and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is contributing a miniature Ford Model T as our essential to be exhibited at the Technology Center in Ludwigsburg, Germany and then placed in MANN+HUMMEL’s time capsule. I don’t think we could have selected anything else; the success of the Ford Model T cannot be underestimated. It was the first affordable car and it made motoring accessible to nearly everyone. It could be argued it is the reason why we can all be here celebrating our company’s world-wide success!
Cars are in our blood in Michigan
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and, as a child, saw cars with the latest cutting-edge designs and engineering out on the road every day. Everything revolved around the automobile – we even visited Henry Ford Museum on our elementary school trips. Although the industry has gone through some hard times, Michigan is still very much in love with the car. The big three automakers- General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler– are all headquartered in the Detroit area and suppliers are spread across Michigan, influencing the industrial landscape of the entire state.
The first massed-produced, affordable car
Born in Michigan, Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and began work on the Model A, going through the alphabet with subsequent models and prototypes. It wasn’t until the Model T that he really struck gold. The Ford Motor Company manufactured the first Model T in 1908, priced at US$825. The cars were reliable and easy to maintain and their popularity grew year after year. By 1916, the price had dropped to US$360 (the equivalent of around US$8,000 today) and by 1918, almost half the cars in the USA were Ford Model Ts.
Assembly lines: a turning point in manufacturing
However, not only did the Ford Model T represent a breakthrough in the availability of cars, but also in how they were manufactured. It was Ford’s first automobile to be mass-produced on moving conveyer belts. Workers could then use standard, completely interchangeable parts to build the car, each person having his particular task to do. The assembly line meant that the average production time was just 93 minutes.
One aspect of the Ford Model T everyone likes to quote is the fact that it only came in black. This is only partly true – there were other colors available for the first few years and later on towards the end of production. However, due to the speed and constraints of assembly line production, black paint was used as it was cheap, durable and dried quickly.
Motoring for pleasure
The Ford Model T also changed the image of motoring. Suddenly, you could go wherever you liked at an affordable price and so the concept of automobile clubs started. Local clubs sprang up around the country to encourage drivers to explore the country and drive together for leisure.
A whole auto culture grew and your automobile became a reflection of your personality. This is still true today; small towns, big towns, county fairs, and local businesses organize car shows so people can show off their cars, trucks, or whatever motorized vehicle they own. The biggest such event in Michigan is the Woodward Dream Cruise with old, new, weird, and futuristic vehicles participating – slowly driving up and down the road, showing off to the crowds. Of course, Ford Model T enthusiasts also love to take their cars for a spin and it’s not unusual to see five or 10 Ford Model Ts driving in procession along the road. It is such a great sight!