Ford in the 1920s was in a state of transition. In 1921, William S. Knudsen resigned as production manager of the Ford Motor Company, reportedly with the pithy comment that
Henry Ford found it difficult to work with anyone who was smarter than he was.
This 1923 Ford Model T incorporates some of the model's rare
nods to styling. See more pictures of Fords.
The following year, Knudsen was appointed vice president for production at Chevrolet. Conditions at Chevrolet were so bad at the time that a team of independent auditors had actually recommended the liquidation of the entire division.
It was a challenge exactly to Bill Knudsen's liking; besides, it gave him an opportunity to even an old score with Henry Ford. It wasn't possible to re-engineer the Chevy in time for the coming season, but new styling made the 1923 Chevrolet Superior a much more impressive-appearing automobile than its predecessor. Meanwhile, work got under way on some badly needed chassis improvements, in preparation for the 1925 season.
By 1924, Knudsen was Chevrolet's president and general manager. Shortly afterward, at a meeting of some 2,000 dealers at Chicago's Palmer House, he stood and declared in his thick Danish accent, "I vant vun for vun."
Almost 800,000 1923 Model Ts with demountable
rims and self starter were built for the calendar year.
It took a moment for his meaning to sink in, but when the assembled dealers realized that their new chief was proposing to match Henry Ford's production car-for-car, they rose to their feet in a spontaneous standing ovation.
Now, as stubborn as Henry Ford unquestionably was, stupid he was not. Ford knew better than anyone that Knudsen was the best production man in the business and that meant Chevrolet would soon become, for the first time, a real threat to Ford's sales supremacy.
Still, at that time, the Ford Motor Company was building far more automobiles than all the rest of the industry put together. It was out-producing Chevrolet by about five to one, and justifiably so; the Ford was a tough little machine, while the Chevrolet of the day was notorious for its fragile rear axle, a problem exacerbated by a jumpy, leather-faced, cone clutch.
Aftermarket commercial bodies were often mounted
on the factory-cataloged stripped Model T chassis.
It was inevitable that Knudsen would soon correct those difficulties and present Ford with greater competition than it had ever faced before. In the meantime, Henry Ford had agreed to make some modest changes to his beloved Model T.
To see the changes made to the Model T for the 1923 model year, continue on to the next page.
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