Model T

Today, as heard on NPR this morning, marks the 100 year birthday of the Model T. It was originally designed to run on gasoline OR ethanol. Body parts of the model T were also made of hemp.

Isn’t it interesting that Prohibition made alcohol, hemp and marijuana illegal thus making us more dependent on petroleum?

I have an uncle with a model T, it is pretty cool. I wonder if npr said anything about fuel economy. Avg model -t get about 25 mpg (if your good with the manual timing), and more cars today get well less. But hey it is really hard to get past eight percent efficiency…

If you built a large golf cart with 25hp today, it would get well over 100 miles per gallon. Not a fair comparison to a modern car at all, and certainly not some Big Oil conspiracy. The land speed record in 1908 was about 120mph. If you brought a 2008 Toyota Camry back in time 100 years, you could shatter the land speed record while your kids sit in back watching Finding Nemo on their iPods and you comfortably talk on the phone. The Victorians would swoon. Progress is awesome.

at the time big Oil didn’t have the influence,
Big Asphault, Big Rubber (Goodyear+Uniroyal) and Big Detroit (Ford+GM) went to Washington DC and created the American Dream of suburban home ownership - made possible with long roads with tons of cars on them.

I must disagree. Rockefeller was the first billionaire and it didn’t came from asphalt, rubber and internal combustion. His family is still one of the wealthiest and most influential clans in the world. Standard Oil was so powerful that they had to break it up into all the “little” American oil companies, some of which continue to exist today. Moreover, the interstate highways were not made until after the 2nd war, so big asphalt was not really that big whent he Model T was new.

By the way, it is generally accepted that the Model T was designed that way specifically because roads at the time were poor to non-existent.


One company that I feel is highly suspect with a hand in prohibition is DuPont, from their website (

DuPont’s link with General Motors began with Pierre S. du Pont, who bought GM stock in 1914 and watched wartime demand increase its value sevenfold in a year. Despite high profits, though, GM suffered from divided management.

In 1915 Pierre was elected a GM director, then board chairman, to help solve that problem, but America’s entry into World War I in 1917 left him little time. After the war GM executive and former DuPont treasurer, John J. Raskob, persuaded DuPont’s directors to invest $25 million in GM. Raskob saw a sure market for DuPont’s artificial leather, plastics and paints; plus the investment would also yield reliable returns. Pierre became GM’s president in 1920, his brother Irénée succeeding him at DuPont. By then DuPont’s GM holdings had doubled, accounting for a third of all GM stock. In 1929 GM stock provided half of DuPont’s total earnings.

During the 1920s DuPont and GM developed new refrigerants (GM owned Frigidaire) and antiknock gasoline additives, and DuPont’s Engineering Department helped GM build plants and workers’ housing. Most significantly, however, DuPont adopted the bold restructuring plan that Pierre and Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. successfully implemented at GM. The close relationship between the two companies eventually attracted the attention of federal antitrust prosecutors, who filed suit in 1949. Eight years later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against DuPont, and in 1961 the company finalized the disposal of its GM shares.

As such, DuPont, although a great innovator in the field of chemistry research and the development of a wide array of plastic materials, does have a very shady history.

Cannabis was not seen as a problem by anybody until, in 1916, Dept. of Agriculture scientists discovered a way to use it to create cheaper paper. Farmers saw a good cash crop and grew large amounts of cannabis for commercial paper-making.

This was a problem for William Randolph Hearst, who owned 28 newspapers and many thousands of acres of trees, which he used to make paper for his and many other newspapers. It was also a problem for the DuPont chemical company; a large crop of hemp presented a serious competitive threat to the DuPont-owned process for creating paper from wood pulp.

Back then and still today, if you had money, you had an enormous amount of influence.

It’s just interesting to learn all these things about these companies who have played major roles in the field of Industrial Design. I may not be able to change the past, I can at least help to create a future where we can rightfully capitalize on industries that have the greatest potential to ensure our energy independence and create a profit. It is possible now to do both.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Industrial Design community rescued the American economy?

Rockefeller was the first billionaire … His family is still one of the wealthiest and most influential clans in the world.

To which I might add:

After the war (WWII) began in Europe, the English became angry about U.S. shipments of strategic materials to Nazi Germany. Standard Oil immediately changed the registration of their entire fleet to Panamanian to avoid British search or seizure. These ships continued to carry oil to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where they refueled and siphoned oil to German tankers for shipment to Hamburg.


Ford Germany and Opel (GM) continued sending profits to their US headquarters during the war. Capital never knows borders.

So did Coca-Cola, they made up Fanta to make money in Germany during WWII. and if you want to know some scary/ just wrong business deals. IBM make the best analog computers in thoughts days, they could handle so much data. The Germans used them for record keeping…(that mean exactly what you think it means). But the Germans ran so much data that the computers had to be serviced monthly, from IBM headquarters. So some American person would go over to where the computers were and work on them. (they were at the camps, for the most part).

Back to cars,
Vetter holds a competition to make a vehicle that gets the most MPG with the least BHP. You need to be at, at least 100mpg to be competitive.

I feel that if the US citizens paid as well as company’s we might get some respect, but we do not and people flip about paying higher taxes so you get what you pay for.

I find that impossible to believe, for a number of reasons. You couldn’t exactly hop on a plane in 1943 and go to Auschwitz (or anywhere in German controlled Europe). Not to mention the fact that there was an economic embargo against Germany. Any American company doing business with the German government would had its executives brought up on treason charges. Do you have a source?

I find this similarly hard to believe. Those factories were building tanks and airplanes, and had been nationalized (just like ours). There were no profits.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

1940 – Nazi regime seizes control of Opel factories, ends all civilian production.
1942 – General Motors writes off Opel as a complete loss.
1948 – General Motors reasserts control over surviving Opel assets.

Well, we certainly hi-jacked this thread, eh?.

What is notable, with regard to the Model T, was the sense of human scale, and human need. The T was the essence of transportation, just enough to move people and things around with a degree of simplicity. No need to harness up the horse, or even feed it every night. No heater, never had one in the buggy, never even thought one was needed; when it’s winter we put on more coats. It didn’t even have windows. To start it you got out and cranked it up.

A simpler time when just enough, was enough.

Which isn’t to say that some wanted, and made, more out of them; a trait not found in modern automobiles. At 25 hp, with a bare running chassis weight of roughly 900 pounds, the T was the basic mechanical ingredient for America.

We won’t be seeing the like of the T in the US again; totally legislated out of existence even if someone wanted to produce an equivalent transportation product.

See the Galleries at:

Of course you can’t ever make the Model T again. A great deal of the complexity and weight in a modern small car has to do with the safety requirements. Crumple zones, side impact beams, safety glass, hardpoints for the seatbelts and a firewall that submarines the engine. Just removing the anti-lock brakes and the airbags and you’ll probably save a 100 kgs.


A great deal of the complexity and weight in a modern small car has to do with the safety requirements. Crumple zones, side impact beams, safety glass, hardpoints for the seatbelts and a firewall that submarines the engine. Just removing the anti-lock brakes and the airbags and you’ll probably save a 100 kgs.

Of course in 1919, oncoming traffic wasn’t bearing down on you with a closing speed in the 150 mph range either. Nor were there anywhere near the number of other vehicles. Safety issues weren’t so “important”. If you are a motorcyclist, as I am, they still aren’t (although Joan Claybrook was convinced that motorcycles should have seatbeats).

But safety issues aside, I find it hard to believe that Americans, in particular, would endure the hardships of such a Spartan automobile today. No electric starter, no satelite radio, no A/C, or heat, no GPS “navie” system to tell you how to get where you want to go, no LED headlight rims, no 60W fog lamps, no 22 inch wheels … no CUPHOLDER!!!

I know a little about IBM’s role in the holocaust. It’s well documented:

I’ll try to find my source about Opel and Ford Germany. Fascists don’t nationalize the same way Socialists do. Profits still existed.

Model T was a truly American car. Europeans were using efficient and quieter helical gears in three and four speed boxes. The T had two noisy straight cut gears (which was left in second gear for the most part). I’ll look up more examples of T barbarism when I get home. That car had no business being on a road in 1908, let alone today.

Clearly IBM’s German subsidiary (Hollerith) was making equipment for the Nazis, who used it for unspeakable things. The question of whether IBM corporate knew about or ultimately profited from that activity or not is a grey area and worth investigating. But the assertion that they were flying over Americans to service the things during the war is frankly incredible. That is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. Those would have been treasonous actions. People were executed for far less.

Similarly, although I’m obviously not a scholar on the issue, I know of no instance where German subsidiaries were sending money to their American masters during the war. Given the way capital moved back then, it would have been very difficult, to say the least. German currency was worthless on the international market, so it would have had to go through Switzerland in the form of gold, and I can’t imagine the Nazis would have been too keen on its companies sending gold to the US for the sake of keeping up a healthy relationship with the parent company. Everything I have read on the subject suggests that American companies pretty much lost control of their assets over there in the 30s, and didn’t get them back until we were able to sort everything out after the war.

This is way off topic and I apologize for the ongoing threadjack.

I’m making a new thread in OFF TOPIC.

Model T’s were very “thrown together” which was one reason they were popular to modify. Not too much there, and you can put stuff where it needs to be. I am still not a fan of safety equipment in cars; it makes them weighed far too much which in return kills performance and fuel economy. I had a toyota supra and the only remaining original safety equipment was the side impact bars (and they were like 75lbs each). I like how TVR stayed true and didn’t add any of that extra stuff. The point being safer driver = safer car.

I really want to get a bare steel rat rod or something like that.