Nobody's saying that the Ford Model T is the best car in history, but you can hardly dispute the fact that it's the most influential. Henry Ford's mobility staple held 60 per cent of the automobile market in its heyday, and that's on global terms not just the US.
However, old Henry wasn't much for change. I mean, he never even changed his hat, so why should he change his car?
That's why the Model T lumbered on for 20 years, losing market share to each newer and better General Motors product.
And then Henry saw the light, launching the Model A in 1927 and setting the tone for America's love of annual model updates and frequent replacements.
Yet for another five years Dearborn's Blue Oval failed to grasp back its monopoly over market share. With a lowly four-cylinder engine, Ford's Model A, highly successful though it was, simply couldn't compete with the General's six-cylinder cars. And then the blockbuster success finally regained the company's leading position.
This time, instead of blitzing the industrial world with a production line that brought the automobile to the masses, Henry Ford decided to climb a rung on the ladder and appeal to the enthusiast. This time, Ford decided to give the people a V8.
Sure, plenty of marques could offer you a stately V8 back then. Rolls-Royce and the French have been sticking V8s in their cars for decades by now, and Cadillac made this layout synonymous with General Motors' halo brand. But that was exactly the problem — note those names; Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, De Dion-Bouton, Darracq. These were the affluent man's machines.
And that's why, in 1932, Ford's first mass-produced, affordable V8 engine transformed America's love of horsepower, hot-rodding, drag racing and more horsepower. Known as the Flathead, the Ford V8 quickly became the average Joe's power for the road and the track. With loads of Flathead V8s leaving the production line every day, this immediately became the engine of choice for grassroots racing, in turn growing the modifications and aftermarket industry and giving rise to names such as Offenhauser, Ed Iskenderian's famed Isky Racing Cams, and later Edelbrock.
The V8 was easily attainable, as well as hugely tuneable, and revived America's road racing scene, winning airfield races, dirt oval meets, Californian dry lakes drags, and even bagging laurels for a certain Bill France, the founder of NASCAR.
Production of this venerable motor continued into the Fifties, with the last V8 leaving the factory in 1953, more than 20 years after its acclaimed debut. It's hard to imagine that even today, 80 years after its development and design, the engine that gave birth to hot-rodding is still an essential heart of a proper old-skool custom Deuce Coupe.