Model T made mobility for the masses a reality

Torbay Weekly

Paul Jolly, classic car specialist and valuer:

The first internal combustion motor car is accredited to a German, Gottfried Daimler, who patented his engine in 1885.

Thereafter, the French led the way up to the end of the 19th century.

Britain made a slow start and development was hampered by its 4mph law designed for steam traction engines and the requirement of a man with a red flag to walk in front. ‘Elf n Safety’ even then!

The Americans, by contrast, were lagging behind mainly due to the lack of metalled roads between cities, concentrating more on utilitarian transport.

But by the early 1900s, Henry Ford was up and running with his Model T from 1908 aimed at the personal transport market.

Only available in black, these cars were the first to be made using an assembly line and prices started at $850 falling to only $500 by 1913 making mobility for the masses a reality.

This highly popular and serviceable motor car sold by the thousands every week and, in particular, to the country folk whose lives were transformed by this new-found independence.

In Britain, a branch of Daimler was formed which went on to become the transport of choice for our Royal Family.

Other famous marques were rapidly established before World War One, including Rolls Royce, Singer, Humber, Rover and Austin, many of whom had been prolific bicycle manufacturers.

By 1914, there were 132,000 registered private cars in Britain, the highest number in Europe.

Of course, the similarity between the early motor car and horse carriages is obvious with their narrow wheels and indeed these new means of travel were known as horseless carriages for a while.

It did not take long before rivalry and competition created the race track and other places for trials and racing such as open desert and beaches.

The racing motor car entered a new era after World War One and these became large fast and furious machines culminating in the famous Le Mans 24 race in northern France still held to this day.

Bentley made their mark here winning the 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 events.

UK design still leads to this day.