The Competition – The Model T Ford in the Marketplace Part Two – 1915

Ford had been producing the Model T as its only model since the fall off 1908. Introduced as a 1909 model year car, the Model T went on to dominate the marketplace in its first year. This was no surprise to Ford’s competitors as the plucky Ford Model N – R – S had dominated in the years prior. By 1915 one would think that the rest of the industry would have figured out how to make a better and less expensive car than Ford. As we shall see, that was not how things worked out.

Above, the “new” 1915 Model T was simply an updated 1914 with less brass on the cowl lamps. Most 1915 Model T Fords looked just like the car in the photo above.

Ford continued to dominate not just USA auto sales, but the world. Ford made a little over 500,000 cars in 1915 model year which began on August 1, 1914. Ford introduced a new body style in mid model year, which was unusual but not unheard of at Ford. The older body style that had been offered first during the 1914 model year was continued with some updates at the beginning of the model year, such as “billed” front fenders and less brass trim on the cowl lamps and tail lamps. One improvement over 1914 was that speedometers were again supplied as standard equipment on all Model T’s.

Above, the new 1915 Center Door sedan was introduced to the public in the fall of 1914. It was the first car that offered the new for 1915 closed cowl. Ford had a hard time selling the center door that first model year. Just 989 of them went to buyers in 1915 model year, costing $975 each.

The couplet was introduced about the same time as the center door sedan in the fall of 1914. Expensive at $750 it nonetheless outsold the center door with a little over 2400 sold.

The town car was sold primarily as a taxi cab used in cities large and small. You may read in other publications or Model T club websites that Ford did not build any town cars in 1915. This is false. Ford documented sales of about 475 Model T town cars in 1915 model year, with each car selling at $690.

The runabout body style, also called the torpedo, was the second best seller in 1915 model year with a little over 47,000 cars sold at $440 each. This was the cheapest Ford in 1915. Many were converted to pickup trucks. Notice the car above has the new “1915” body style but continues to use the straight rear fenders often thought to be discontinued when the old body style was replaced. Restorers need to do better research, the information is available.

Above, the 35 HP Overland touring was a very popular car in 1915.

Willys Overland was the second place manufacturer in 1915, as had been the case every year since 1912. Overland built and sold a little over 90,000 cars in 1915, with a model change around May.

Lovely Overland advertisement from 1915 shows prices ranging from $850 for a Model 81 roadster to $1075 for the larger Overland touring.

35 HP Overland engine was noted for its reliability and sturdy design.

Overland started the 1915 model year with the model 79 rated at 35 HP. The engine was 4 cylinder with each cylinder individually cast and bolted to a shared crank case. The transmission was a three speed manual sliding gear unit. Electric starting and lighting were standard. Like most cars of the era, the 1915 Overland had nickel trim which was much more durable and practical than the brass trim found on the Fords that year.

The Dodge brothers had built Ford’s first cars and were also builders of the curved dash Oldsmobile. By 1913 they were the major supplier of Ford engines and chassis parts. They were also a major shareholder in Ford Motor company. They gave notice that they were going into the car business in 1913, and by 1914 they had sold the first of their new cars. In 1915 they jumped to third place in the industry, with sales of 45,000 cars.

The Dodge factory was very up to date. The Dodge Brothers had seen how Ford used the assembly line, and they used that knowledge to their advantage.

Like Ford, the most popular Dodge Brothers body style was the touring. Dodge offered a full line of body styles including coupe, sedan and runabout. Prices ranged from $835 – $1235.

Dodge cars were equipped with a standard electric starter / generator and electric lighting. The engine was rated at 30 – 35 horsepower, block cast as a unit with removable cylinder head. The transmission was three speed sliding gear type. These were very well built cars.

Above, the Dodge automobile was requisitioned for use by General Pershing during the Mexican war that year. It proved to be reliable and was mentioned in his remarkable autobiography by famous WWII general George S Patton who served under Pershing in Mexico.

Maxwell was the fourth largest auto manufacturer in 1915 with an output of 44,000 cars. Rated at 25 horsepower with a three speed sliding gear transmission, the Maxwell was a lot of car for $695. This price was for a touring without electric starter and generator. For $55 more you could have the latest in modern convenience, an electric starter, generator and storage battery.

Lovely 1915 Maxwell cabriolet was perfect for this lady. Maxwell also sold a town car and a runabout body style in 1915.

The Maxwell was a very well designed car. The gas tank was mounted in the body just to the rear of the firewall. The gas filler was in the dashboard. Thus the Maxwell did not need a fuel pump, gasoline could gravity feed to the carburetor.

The 1915 Maxwell engine was equipped with a high tension magneto. The four cylinders were cast as a unit and bolted to a crank case. The head was integral with the cylinder assembly, an unusual design.

In fifth place for 1915 was Buick, the only General Motors division on our list so far. Buick built three sizes of car in 1915, with two four cylinder engines of 165 and four-cylinders rated at 25 and 35 horsepower respectively installed in C-24 / C-25 or C36 / C37 series. Buick also offered their top of the line 55 horsepower 331-cu in straight six in the senior C55 models. Buick came very close to selling 44,000 cars in 1915.

The Buick C36 and C37 used this four cylinder engine. Like all previous Buicks these engine had overhead valves. A Delco starter / Generator and fully electric lighting was standard on all Buicks.

Buick painted all their cars Brewster Green in 1915, including the lovely roadsters seen in the advertising above.

Buicks were quite popular in Canada. They were sold under the McLaughlin – Buick name there. This is a 1915 Canadian Buick advertisement.

A lovely senior Buick 6 cylinder model on the lawn at Pebble Beach.

Buicks were solid, reliable cars. This photo is from the 1960’s, the car is what we would call today an “older restoration”. Buicks sold for prices ranging from $800 for the cheapest four cylinder roadster to nearly $2000 for a top of the line 6 cylinder town car.

One of the oldest manufacturers to offer an automobile was Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. Studebaker became famous for building the “Conestoga” brand wagons in the mid 1800’s. They bought a number of early automobile manufacturers including EMF, Metzger, Flanders and Tincher. Eventually Studebaker was the only brand that they sold. Studebaker came in sixth place in 1915 with 41,243 cars sold in two model lines. The family above has a six cylinder seven passenger Studebaker touring.

At $885 the forty horsepower 7 passenger Studebaker four represented a great value for the money.

I am not a fan of pimpmobile whitewalls on cars from the teens but this Studebaker 1915 model SF touring is a nice car. It sold last year at Barrett Jackson Scottsdale for $23,000.

Engine in the SF is a 40 horsepower Studebaker four. The engine had its cylinders cast as a unit. There was not a removable cylinder head, the cylinder unit bolted to a separate crankcase. All Studebakers had a starter / generator unit and electric lighting.

Five passenger model SD Studebaker again has goofy looking whitewall tires and mismatched paint on the doors on an otherwise outstanding looking restoration.

At the upper end of the price echelon was Cadillac. Surprisingly for such an expensive car. they came in seventh overall among all USA automakers in 1915 with 20,400 cars sold. All of Cadillac’s cars were powered by a very advanced for its time V8 engine displacing 314 cubic inches and with an advertised power rating of 70 HP. These cars sold from a low of $1975 to nearly $3700 for a top of the line Berline enclosed sedan / town car. Above we see the rare 1915 Cadillac Type 51 Landaulet coupe which sold for $2450 – about what you would pay for 5 Model T runabouts!

The 1915 Cadillac advertising concentrated on all the superlative features of the cars.

Above we see the cheapest Cadillac, the five passenger touring which sold for $1975. The 70 horsepower engine, three speed sliding gear transmission, and Delco starter / generator system were all standard equipment.

The 1915 Cadillac V8 had each four cylinder bank cast as a unit. The crankcase was a separate part; the two cylinder assemblies bolted to the crankcase. An updraft carburetor fed the two banks through a U shaped intake manifold.

General John J “Black Jack” Pershing preferred Cadillac cars. Above we see him in a 1915 Cadillac 7 passenger touring. Below we see him with a Cadillac town car.

Finally in eighth place was the unusual Saxon automobile. It was the brainchild of  Hugh Chalmers and Harry W. Ford (no relation to Henry ford). Chalmers had sold his company to Maxwell and he was looking to compete with Henry Ford’s Model T, The Saxon was cheaper than a Model T Ford. At $395 it was nearly in the price range of a cycle car. The 4 cylinder engine was rated at 12 horsepower. Transmission was a 2 speed sliding gear transmission which was quickly replaced by a three speed due to customer complaints. Saxon was one of the last cars in America to have carbide headlamps. The Saxon was only offered in two passenger runabout body style. Electric lights, generator and starter were optionally available for an additional $70.

The six cylinder Saxon was not a big seller. The cars are rare today.

The four cylinder 12 horsepower Saxon engine was actually quite modern by standards of the day. Built by Continental, it had a removable cylinder head and integral crankcase, much like the Model T Ford. Despite fairly good sales in 1915 – 1917 Saxon was out of business by 1922.

Ford continued to outsell all other automakers due to high quality, excellent reliability and a low price.

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