In my Roaring Twenties mystery series, I want to get the cars “just right.” But I’m not a car person, so I rely on friends—one in particular—who know a lot about antique cars. One of the few things they didn’t know was the price of cars during the 1920s, so I had to research that myself. It turned out to be a fun project.
My main character needed to buy a modest American car in 1924. The obvious choice of car was the Model T, something Henry Ford engineered to fit the pocketbook of the average American. Until the Model T, only the very rich could afford a car. Once Model Ts started rolling off the assembly lines, nearly everyone with a job could afford one. That was Henry Ford’s intention. “I will build a car for the great multitude,” he said. “It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.” And he paid the unheard of wage of $5 a day to his factory workers to build it.
I soon learned there were many body types of Model Ts: runabouts, touring cars, sedans, roadsters, and so forth. In researching advertisements of the era, I found one from 1924 that hawked Model T runabouts for $265 (by the way, that works out to be about $3,300 in today’s dollars). So I used that body type and that price for my fictitious character.