The Car that Roared during the Roaring Twenties

I am not a car person. Oh sure, I can tell grey cars from blue cars, and I can identify station wagons, pick up trucks, and convertibles (when their tops are down), but names and makes mean virtually nothing to me because they all look so much alike. So perhaps I am the only person on earth who was surprised to learn what I learned about Model T Fords, the car that my main character drives in my Roaring Twenties stories. (A 1925 version is pictured here.)

1925 Model T







Did you know that . . . .?

 Model Ts were not even called Model Ts until the middle of the 1920s. People referred to them as Tin Lizzies or flivvers or simply Fords.

15 million of them were manufactured from 1909 to 1927. In the mid-1920s, roughly half the cars on American roads were Model Ts. It was not a luxury car or a beautiful car, but it was cheap, reliable, and within the pocketbook of America’s middle class.

Everyone knows Henry Ford’s famous saying: “You can have any color you like as long as it’s black.” He may or may not have actually said it, but whatever the case, it wasn’t true. Ford factories manufactured Model Ts in several colors. For the first 5 years, customers could choose between red, blue, green, grey, and black. But Henry Ford’s obsession with cost-cutting pushed him to limit the choices to one. From 1913-1925, only black was offered, so perhaps he made that statement in 1913 when they eliminated colors. Why? Because black paint was the cheapest and most durable, and Henry was hell bent on reducing the price of his cars, so black it was. In an attempt to boost sales, he returned to a choice of colors for the last two years of the Model T’s production.   

I don’t know about you, but I always thought the Model T referred to a particular car that varied little over its lifetime. The second part of that sentence is true—the design hardly changed from year to year—but there were many different models each year, all built with the same engine and chassis (that’s the frame, for those of you who, like me, didn’t know). The only variable was the body. I discovered that there were roadsters (a la Nancy Drew), speedsters, coupes, coupelets, runabouts, roadster torpedos, town cars, touring cars, and the fordor and tudor sedans (get it? 4-door and 2-door . . . heh, heh.)  

Now I need to decide which one my main character drives. Sigh . . . choices, choices . . .

Published in: on September 2, 2009 at 7:11 am  Comments (12)  

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great article on the flivver. Jesse is the kind of gal that does not waste time. Her car is a roadster with a Frontenac engine!

  2. Good enough for me–you’re the expert. I’ll make her car a roadster but excuse me if I don’t go into the Frontenac engine . . .

  3. Why were they called Tin Lizzies?

    Nice article, Mary!

  4. The first known written use of the phrase “Tin Lizzie” occured in 1915. It was an affectionate term first used to describe the Model T and later expanded to mean any cheap car. Tin was the cheapest metal (think tin cans) and Lizzie was a common name for a horse. Thinking of a horseless carriage as a tin version of good ol’ Lizzie seems like a likely explanation.

  5. I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Tony Brown

    • Thanks for the compliment. I would have thanked you earlier, but I just found your comment in my Spam file. Can’t think why. Mary

  6. Great site, how do I subscribe?

    • Hello Kelli. Thanks for the compliment. (I’d have responded sooner but your note went to my spam file for some reason and I don’t check that as often as I should.) But I don’t understand your question: How do you subscribe? I’m pretty new to blogs, and I don’t know what “subscribe” means. Mary


    • Well, thanks for asking this question, because it made me figure out how one subscribes to a blog. I’m new at this, so pardon my learning curve. I’ve added an RSS symbol that is supposed to let people subscribe, so we’ll see.

  7. Hi there,

    I just came across your blog while researching small time vaudeville. My great uncle was a member (at least for some time) of the Western Managers Vaudeville Association out of Chicago. He was part of an act called “Lew & Lulu” from around 1900-1920. His name was Lewis Truedell and his wife was Lulu Lorraine Jenkins Colding, formerly married to musician Gerard Colding. Do you have any idea where I could go to maybe find some information on this act?

    • Hello, Marilyn. How interesing that you had a great-uncle in vaudeville!
      I checked my copy of Joe Laurie’s VAUDEVILLE (published 1953 and the bible for vaudeville acts) but didn’t find any listing in the index for Lew, Truedell, Lulu, or Colding. The association is mentioned in several places, but it is called the Western Vaudeville Managers Association (switched words around), and most of the information is about its founder, John Murdock. I am sure you have already googled your relatives’ names and the act’s name, as I did, and found nothing.
      Sad to say, I’m afraid that’s about it. With Small Time vaudeville, there are virtually no organized repositories of information . . . even Big Time vaudeville is darn sketchy. I’ve gotten lucky sometimes finding information about certain acts using google to come up with old newspapers that have ads or articles or announcements about a particular act coming to town, or a review of a recent act.
      I regularly look on eBay and other on-line auctions for vaudeville playbills. I own quite a few. They are cheap to collect, since there is virtually no interest in them. None of mine list your relatives. Beyond that, I’m afraid there isn’t much to go on.
      All I can say is that I will keep your e-mail address and if I ever see that act, I’ll get in touch!
      Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

    • Here is his burial and death announcement:

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