'20 H.P. 5 Passenger 'Ford' Touring Car, with full equipment. Price, £210.'


We will be using a 1913 three door Ford Model T Touring.

The Ford Model T, colloquially known as "Tin Lizzie", was an automobile that was produced by the Ford Motor Company from 1908 to 1927. It's considered by many as the car that "put the world on wheels", and in 1999 received the "Car of the Century" award from an international jury of 133 automotive experts as the most influential car of the 20th century. More than 100 years since the first one was made it still remains one of the best selling cars in history with over 15 million built.

The historic importance of the Model T stems from Henry Ford's ambition to build a sturdy and reliable automobile that even the factory workers putting it together could afford to buy and maintain.

Early automobiles were built by hand, meaning automobile manufacture was a slow and expensive process. At the time the automobile was generally considered to be a frivolous toy for the rich, not a viable form of transportation for the common people. They were produced in small numbers and sold for a substantial price that only the wealthy could afford. There did exist automobiles that were comparatively cheap such as the Brush used by Francis Birtles in 1912, but these cars were typically small, fragile and lacking power making them impractical and difficult to keep on the road. The Model T changed this situation forever.

After 2 years of work on the design, the first Model T was made in October 1908. Ford introduced the moving assembly line in 1913 and was able to produce the vehicle in ever-increasing numbers. By 1914, the assembly process for the Model T had been so streamlined it took only 93 minutes to assemble a car. That year Ford produced more cars than all other automakers combined, and was producing over 300,000 vehicles per year. By the time the 10 millionth Model T was made in 1924, 50 percent of all cars in the world were Fords. In the 1920s production reached a rate of close to 10,000 cars a day, or 2 million annually.

Both Francis Birtles and Andrei Nagel were familiar with the Model T. Francis Birtles used one in 1913 and 1914 on two of his many amazing adventures; photos of him with a Model T can be found on this website. Being that Andrei Nagel was an automotive journalist and keen motorist, it's almost certain he would have driven or travelled in a Model T.

1912 Ford Model T advertisement Before the start of the First World War, the Model T was sold in both Australia and Imperial Russia but the automobiles sold in each country were not identical.

Australia was supplied with the Model T from Ford Canada, which was a separate company from Ford USA. Henry Ford had granted the manufacturing rights to Ford in British Empire countries and colonies (except for Britain itself) to Canadian investors. This was done because automobiles imported into Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. were taxed at a lower rate if they were made in another country or colony of the British Empire.

The Canadian Model Ts sold in Australia differed to the USA made ones sold in the Russia Empire in a number of ways. The most obvious difference was that Model Ts sold in Australia were made RHD rather than LHD. There were also many smaller differences such as that on cars made in 1913 or later, Canadian cars had a driver's door whereas American made cars had none (the driver had to enter via the front passenger door). Australian buyers also avoided Henry's edict that cars made from 1913 onwards must be painted black (black paint dried quicker which enabled faster production). Another difference was that early American Ford Model Ts used different sized wheels and tyres for the front (24 inch, 30x3) and rear (23 inch, 30x3.5) which allowed Henry to save a few cents per car by having thinner tyres on the front. Canadian cars used the same sized wheels and tyres all round so that drivers did not need to carry two tyre sizes for spares.

Around 10% of Model Ts sold in Australia before the First World War had the Canadian body removed from the chassis by the Australian Ford dealer and replaced with a locally made body. This was done because some customers considered the Canadian/American styling too mundane compared to the British and European cars available at the time. Luckily, a few of these Australian bodied cars still survive today and are considered by many Model T enthusiasts as the most attractive Model Ts ever produced.

Model Ts sold in Imperial Russia were made in the USA and shipped to Russia partially disassembled in large wooden crates. They were LHD and identical to the ones sold within the USA. An interesting fact is that although traffic in Russia had been keeping to the right side of the road since 1752, most automobiles sold in Imperial Russia were RHD including the locally made Russo-Balt vehicles. This anomaly also existed in many other countries including the USA where all Cadillacs were made RHD until the First World War.

Unlike in Australia, Britain, the USA and many other countries, the Model T did not sell well in Imperial Russia. Professor Boris Shpotov from the Russian Academy of Sciences researched the topic looking at Government statistics and other sources and found that prior to the First World War very few Model Ts were sold in the Russian Empire. Professor Shpotov suggests that the most likely explanation for this is that the middle class, the people who the Model T was aimed at, was only a small proportion of the Russian population at the time. The few people who could afford to buy an automobile were wealthy enough to buy an expensive French or German luxury brand. An interesting finding by Constantine Mandylas, while researching the Model T in Imperial Russia at the Benson Ford Research Center in 2010, seems to support Professor Shpotov's theory. By chance Constantine came across a photo from 1912 showing the owner of the Ford dealership in St. Petersburg sitting in a British made RHD Model T in front of the dealership. Perhaps because his customers were not buying the USA made Model T, despite it's low price, the dealer decided to import a more expensive but less mundane looking car to see if that would sell better? Whatever the case, none of the Model Ts sold new in Imperial Russia are known to survive today.

Francis Birtles (in white) with his 1913 Ford Model T Touring in Hughenden, Qld (1913).
A 1912 Ford Model T Touring in front of the Ford dealership in Moscow (1912).
Our 1913 Ford Model T Touring.

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