Top Cars by Decade: The 1910s

Ford Model T vehicle on display at a park.

The period between 1910 and 1919 was nothing short of revolutionary for the automobile industry. By 1910 there were around 500,000 motor vehicles cruising the streets of America.

People no longer had to rely on horse-pulled carriages to get around, and there was a decrease in short trips by train as well. Automobile production was a booming industry—in fact, our modern use of the assembly line can be attributed to the early auto industry. By 1913, the Ford Motor Company had even managed to cut its chassis production time down to about 2 hours and 40 minutes—way faster than the twelve-and-a-half hours it used to take.

The decade saw a huge increase in car production, meaning that showrooms and maintenance centers started popping up all over cities. Careers in auto repair also increased along with the growing number of road vehicles.

With such a high caliber of cars being produced, and a growing market for showrooms, people today might wonder: what were the top cars for consumers? Read on to find out.

The 1912 Cadillac Touring Edition

For those looking to become a mechanic, 1912 proved to be an interesting year with the invention of the electric starter, which made its debut in the 1912 Cadillac Touring edition vehicle.

Before that, starting your car required a hand crank. As cars grew larger, the effort it took to start engines via hand crank grew more difficult and gave rise to the term “cranky” – which described the mood someone would usually be in after struggling to start their car.

The kickback of the crank handle also brought with it a huge risk of injury. After the wife of a friend had been killed crank-starting a vehicle, Cadillac founder Henry M. Leland commissioned the help of an inventor and incorporated the electric starter into the production of his cars.

Here are some great shots of the 1912 Cadillac in action:

The Ford Model T

Henry Ford had a vision to produce cars that could be afforded by everyone, and as we already know, the Ford Model T outsold everything by a landslide. This car is what truly revolutionized accessibility to automobiles for consumers and what gave the world true “automobility”. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways that Henry Ford changed automotive history during the 1910’s:

  • 1910: The Ford Motor Company (FMC) opened its 60-acre Highland Park plant on January 1 in an effort to meet the unprecedented demand for the Model T. To keep up with demand, Henry Ford scrapped all existing manufacturing machines and developed more specialized tools for the production process. Ford sold over 32,000 units of the popular Model T that year.
  • 1912: Henry Ford could produce in excess of 300,000 Model T’s a year. FMC had 3,500 car dealers nationwide in the US.
  • 1914: The introduction of the moving assembly line at Ford allowed the company to push production past 500,000 units. The assembly line was not introduced by European automakers until the 1930’s.
  • 1916: The Ford Model T was able to get 20 miles per gallon of gasoline. Unable to compete with Ford on price and value, other manufacturers introduced purchases on credit as a way to lure customers into their showrooms. Ford sold 734,811 Model T’s during this year.

Before the end of the decade, automotive service technicians would be happy to know that Ford finally incorporated the electric starter into the Model T. Through a 3-year balloting process, 133 automotive journalists and experts named the Ford Model T the “Car of the Century” and with these impressive stats, it’s easy to see why!

Check out this test drive of a Ford Model T :

Do you know of any other notable cars from the 1910’s?

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