Going Backwards Uphill


The Ford Model T was the first affordable automobile. Known as the “Tin Lizzie,” it changed the way Americans live, work and travel.

Henry Ford’s revolutionary advancements in assembly-line automobile manufacturing is what made the Model T the first car to be affordable for a majority of Americans. Car ownership became a reality for average American workers, not just the wealthy.

More than 15 million Model Ts were built in Detroit and Highland Park, Michigan. They were also assembled at a Ford plant in Manchester, England, and at plants in continental Europe.

It had a 2.9-liter, 20-horsepower engine and could travel at speeds up to 45 miles per hour. It had a 10-gallon fuel tank and could run on kerosene, petrol/gasoline, or ethanol.

But the thing I only learned recently is that it couldn’t drive uphill if the tank was low on fuel. Why? Because there was no fuel pump. The workaround in this design flaw was that people would drive uphill in reverse, thereby using gravity to get the fuel to the engine. I imagine lines of cars at hills going in reverse. That would certainly be a strange – and dangerous – sight to see today. But I like their ingenuity.


The Model T cost $850 in 1909, and as efficiency in production increased, the price dropped, so that by 1927, you could get one for $290. The last Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1927.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

3 thoughts on “Going Backwards Uphill”

  1. Wasn’t it also because the final drive ratio in reverse was lower and made it possible to climb steep mountains? Seems I saw that somewhere about travel on Rt.66 thru Arizona.


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