Hooray for Henry

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The Henry I am referring to is the great Henry Ford, who virtually invented mass-production and whose automotive empire is, responsible for almost always good products.

The Model T may have been a pig to learn to drive but with over 16 million Ts made between 1907 and 1927, respect is due.

The T-Ford was a universal Globe-wide encounter. As a boy I saw them everywhere, vans delivering goods, smart saloons and decrepit trucks. If you went to Brooklands rather earlier, you’d see racing Ts on the concrete. Stirling Moss’ father raced his Fronty Ford there. So surely Henry had no qualms about rivals, even electing to shut down his factories until its replacement Model A, to mass hysteria, made its public bow, following enormous bouts of often wildly inaccurate speculation.

If he did have any fears his ad men were clever in countering it. I suppose from remote Michigan the Chevrolet 490 was the tourer those who had tired of their Ts mostly went for, or maybe they waited for the Willys Overland in the motor expanding early 1920s. Like most of the cheaper American autos they were spacious with woolly engines for good torque and long life. But the T had all of these, and was made of better steel. The Chevrolet had the backing of GM, the Overland, with transverse springing both front and rear, that of Crossley Motors of Manchester.

Across the pond, it seems that Henry by 1926, in the waning year of the Model-T, felt the competition might come from the Chevy, Star, Overland and Dodge. The Star was scarcely known in Britain but the Dodge was a respected make. In case the immortal T was threatened, the spin-doctors got spinning. They pointed out that in 1926 compared to a T tourer, the Dodge was 109% more expensive, the Overland cost 69%, the Star 45% and the Chevy 41% more to the same specification.

Whether the Ford ad-men got their figures from rival’s literature I know not, but they convinced believers that whereas a Ford lasted for eight years, all the rest were ready for the knacker’s yard after six years!

Did you know that the Ford Motor Co. published six motor magazines and owned The Dearborn Independent with a weekly circulation of 650,000? I have driven Model Ts over short and long distances. I like them. But if I had been in the market for a new car in 1926, would I have bought one?