Ford Publicity Stunts

It took more than a good design, good business and a lot of hard work to push the lightweight model T into the top selling car position. It took a bit of showmanship also. Across the country the model T was demonstrated doing feats that wowed and impressed the spectators (soon to be buyers). Two popular shows were the step climbing and the races.

A 1911 Model T climbs the steps of the Tennessee capital

In step climbing a model T was driven up some long flight of steps to the enjoyment of the crowds. Part of the trick was to keep the gas tank full. The position of the gas tank under the seat combined with the absence of a fuel pump meant that the climbing ability of the vehicle was subject to the realm of gravity. You can’t go up an incline where the engine is higher than the gas tank. In the field you could always drive up the hill in reverse.

Another part of the stair climbing trick is to get good traction on the rear drive wheels. The mechanic would stand on the rear of the vehicle adding his weight (which he could shift as needed)

Early on ford was very involved in racing and these races helped him make a name for himself. Ford built lightweight vehicles that could compete with racing  cars of the day. They were smaller and lighter. Henry Ford didn’t feel they needed the heavy ruggedness since the lightweight vehicle wouldn’t be put to as much strain as the heavier one. The transcontinental race of 1909 carried the ford name all across the land.

Two fords in the 1909 transcontinental race

These publicity stunts for Ford were not about competing with other makers, but about generating enthusiasm for the automobile. The bottom line was served, not by being the best auto, but the one everybody wanted.

Fifty boys ride in a model T through the streets of Payne, Ohio in 1912.

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