The Competition 1920 – Model T Ford in the Marketplace

The year 1920 was extraordinary in many ways, yet we don’t seem to remember many things about it today. Ford production increased significantly from the prior year, but most automakers had results exactly the opposite of Ford. Many auto manufacturers went out of business. The depression of 1920 – 21 is hardly; if ever; mentioned today; but it was severe and profound for those who lived through the time. Much of the economic trouble was caused by the end of World War I (simply known as The Great War at that time). Returning soldiers came back to find there were no jobs available, exports to Europe fell due to strife and hardship in that part of the world. Meanwhile the Volstead Act went into effect on January 16, 1920 ushering in a shadow economy of smuggling, speakeasies, and liquor trade that was not taxed yet cost the government lots of money while trying to enforce the unpopular new law. President Wilson had been incapacitated since a major stroke October of 1919, never to recover. A flu epidemic had been sweeping the world since 1918. By December 1920 it had killed about four to five percent of the world’s population, as many as 100 million people. It was the worst epidemic in recorded human history.

A 1920 Model T Ford Coupe sold for $850. Ford sold more than 60,000 of them that year. This one is fitted with a custom salesman’s trunk and a spotlight, bumper and running board rack photographed in downtown Dallas TX.

Ford built about 941,000 cars and trucks in 1920 model year, easily holding first place in the industry. Model T body styles continued from the previous year, with the touring being easily the most popular body style, available either in the basic hand cranked version with magneto powered headlamps and kerosene tail and cowl lamps, or in the fancier and more expensive version with starter, battery, 6 volt headlamps and tail lamp, and demountable wheels including a spare rim (a spare tire was optional at extra cost). Prices for the Model T touring started at $575 for the basic crank started version, or $675 for the fancy Model T equipped with electrical starter. Ford continued to supply its cars with the two speed planetary transmission controlled by foot pedals. The rest of the industry sold cars with 3 or more speed manual transmissions. The Model T engine continued as before, with 20 advertised horsepower from four cylinders and 176 cubic inches.

A 1920 issue of Ford Times featured this lovely runabout photo. The car is somewhat unusual in that it is apparently equipped with starter and battery, yet the wheels are non – demountable. The runabout started at $550, or $650 with electrical equipment.
Continue reading “The Competition 1920 – Model T Ford in the Marketplace”