Are you ready for a trip back in time? You've no doubt heard all about Henry Ford's assembly line. Ford didn't invent it, but he did fine-tune it by putting it into motion, bringing the product to the workers instead of the other way around. It's one thing to read about it, but seeing it in action offers a fresh perspective on this game-changing moment in manufacturing history.
We have Boss Tweed from Vimeo to thank for this cool glimpse at the early days of motoring. It showcases the final assembly of the Ford Model T as you'd see it at the old Highland Park assembly plant near Detroit, circa 1915. It's worth noting that there are actually multiple assembly lines in action here, and the video doesn't include all the sub-assembly work going on in other areas of the sprawling 102-acre complex. The development of this moving assembly line ultimately saw Ford building a new Model T every 90 minutes.
Gallery: Ford Model T Factory Sketch By David Kimble
If this video looks familiar to long-time Motor1.com readers, it's because the animation is based on a famous image from automotive cutaway artist David Kimble. Way back in 2017 we took a very close look at Kimble's Model T factory sketch, which he made for National Geographic in 1987 using archived photos and footage of the old plant. Unfortunately, none of those archives included video footage of a Model T being built from start to finish. The purpose of this recreation was to offer a nonstop glimpse of final production going from station to station.
And that's exactly what we see, albeit in three minutes versus 90. There are some surprises along the way, too, like seeing the dash and steering wheel installed before the body is added. That's something you don't see in modern vehicle assembly, though admittedly, modern cars are far more advanced than the simple Model T. Another surprise is that final testing doesn't come at the end of assembly, as the car is driven before the body goes on. Of course, without features like electric windows, door locks, or even a roof, there isn't much left to test at that point.
It's amazing to think just how much has changed in the 100 years since this assembly line first came to life. 15 million Model Ts would eventually be built, but the Highland Park plant stayed in operation long after the Model T's demise, manufacturing tractors and even tanks during World War II. Of course, it will forever be known for the Model T, which is why the site was made a National Historic Landmark in 1978.