Sunday, November 13, 2022
The Model T was the first mass produced automobile, and it changed the way people lived and travelled. A steam powered vehicle had been created as early as 1672 but the first gas powered vehicle wasn’t tested until 1870 when a small motor was placed on a cart. Carl Benz created the first gas powered automobile in 1885 and produced several copies. Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and assembled a few cars per day with a team of two or three men building a complete car. He soon perfected the concept of the assembly line where each man did a few small tasks as the line carried the automobile past their workstation. He sold a few hundred copies per year of several models during the first couple of years. In 1908 he invented the Model T which would go on to sell 15 million copies over the next twenty years. It was the first automobile to be mass produced on an assembly line and the best selling car of all time until it was surpassed in 1972 by the Volkswagon Beetle.
Soon his factory wasn’t able to get the manpower needed to keep up with demands and so sales to the international markets began to be assembled in other countries. Canada got four of the new Ford assembly plants. One each in Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto. The assembly plant in Toronto was built at the corner of Dupont Street and Christie Street.
The five-story building was purpose-built with heavily re-enforced floors to support the weight of the automobiles that were being assembled inside. The ground floor was the showroom while the second one was for shipping and receiving. The third and fourth floor were used for assembly while the fifth one had the paint shop on it. At this time, Ford cars were only available in black. The roof had a small track that was used for testing the cars.
Loading docks were located on the second floor facing the CPR railway tracks. Parts were brought in by train and finished automobiles were then shipped back out on railway cars to be sent to various markets around the country and the British Empire. This facility also built the right-hand drive cars for India, Australia and New Zealand, among other British colonies. The close up in the image below shows the heavy concrete transfer pads (just below the graffiti) that formed the floor and were designed to carry the weight of the incoming and outgoing shipments.
Parts for the Model T were shipped to the facility as kits from contracted suppliers who were required to package the components in very specific sizes of crates. This was because the crating material was designed to be used in the construction of the floors of the automobiles. In 1924 the building was sold, and production was moved to a new facility on Danforth Avenue. This was done because the introduction of a new Model A Ford required more room for manufacturing. Several food companies occupied the building until 1948 when it was bought by Planters for packaging peanuts. Planters Peanuts stayed until 1987.
The archive photo below shows the assembly workers putting together a row of Model T automobiles.
The first-floor showroom was designed to dazzle prospective buyers and entice them to purchase one of the automobiles. The car sold for $360 in 1927 when the factory closed, which is equivalent to $5,616 in today’s currency.
A Model T can be seen in the window on the second story of the building.
Faema Caffe now occupies much of the lower floor of the building and has a Model T on display as well as a sign board showing a brief history of the car and building. This one was a convertible while the one upstairs is a hard top.
The front view of the car shows its simplicity compared to the modern cars that can be seen outside in the parking lot. However, it also lacked a lot of the features and comforts of the modern automobiles, as well as the hefty price tag.
Toronto once had several automobile manufacturing plants but this at least has not been demolished. Not yet anyway.
Google Maps Link: Model T Factory
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