May/June 1998 | Volume 49, Issue 3
The 1955 Ford Thunderbird. The one question I am asked most frequently by the nonautomotive public is, “Why doesn’t Ford bring back the 1955 T-Bird?” This two-seat roadster struck an emotional chord with the public that few vehicles have managed. But the car was heavy, handled poorly, and had a level of fit and finish easily matched by most home-built picnic tables. Yet it looked good, exceptionally good, and it still does. Just don’t drive one.
The 1917-28 Ford Model T. The T is widely acknowledged to be the vehicle that brought car ownership within the grasp of the working man and woman. By 1917 Henry Ford’s adroit use of the moving assembly line had made possible the purchase of a two-passenger runabout for $345, substantially less than its first-year (1909) price of $850.
Less frequently the Model T is rightly identified as the car that changed the social and business habits of a nation. On a horse a man could ride fifteen miles a day. In a Model T, even on bad roads, the same man could cover as many as seventy-five or a hundred miles in a day—miles of his choosing, not a railroad’s. Diverse attractions not previously available became accessible: churches, art galleries, department stores, medical and dental help, machine shops, wholesalers, sporting events, brokers, brothels, barrooms, and vaudeville.
The Model T brought the outside world to the ordinary citizen—and with that gift destroyed forever the tyranny of isolation.