Ford asks the college kids to reimagine the Model T

Photo by Chefranden. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

This isn't the first time that Ford is trying to reinvent the Model T. The company developed a successor concept called the Model U, and has tasked young car designers to think about what a modern-day Model T would look like in the past. The vision of an updated Model T, back in May, was an all-electric spidery-looking thing. Now, Ford is trying to update the Model T again, turning to college students at five schools to "dream big and create a Model T concept for the 21st century." Maybe this way, an electric Model T will be more than just an Indiana Jones fiction.

Students at the five schools (the schools are listed in the press release after the break) in Germany, Australia and two U.S. states have about a semester (four months) to design a concept Model T that can "deliver an alternative transportation concept for tomorrow – and beyond." The vehicle should be tough and lightweight, hold at least two people, have a 125-mile range while "offer[ing] solutions that address sustainability aspects." Oh, and it should have a final cost of just $7,000. I mean, if Ford can't do this, then why shouldn't some undergrads be able to knock the idea out of the park?
[Source: Ford]



AACHEN, Germany, June 25, 2008 – A century after the Model T put the world on wheels, Ford is challenging five universities from around the world to dream big and create a Model T concept for the 21st century.

Teams of undergraduate and graduate students will work to create revolutionary concepts that address transportation needs of the future. Participating schools are: Aachen University, Germany; Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA; Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia; Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan, USA; and University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

Students at each have been selected to participate in the four-month challenge, trying to deliver a Model T concept that will earn their school $25,000 in scholarship funds. As the only European university selected to compete, the ika (Institute of Automotive Engineering Aachen) from Aachen University has risen to this challenge. "We are very proud to be among five institutes worldwide and the only European one given the opportunity to work on such a complex, challenging task. I don't think that the Model T history can be repeated due to completely different societal and economic circumstances today, but I'm confident that we will open another chapter of history with our concept," said Prof. Dr. Stefan Gies, managing director of the ika.
Ika has been co-operating with international vehicle manufacturers and suppliers in complex tasks in the field of automotive engineering, especially in chassis, body, powertrain, electronics, acoustics and also in developing new vehicle concepts. Ika works very closely with the Ford Research Center in Aachen which is the only Ford research centre of its type outside the US.

"The Model T is a true product of an engineering genius. Although simple and practical, it changed the way we live, work and play and met the needs of millions," said Paul Mascarenas, Ford's vice president of Engineering for Global Product Development. "In that same spirit, Ford continues to deliver high-quality, affordable products and technologies for the masses. Through this challenge we're looking for the students to push the boundaries and deliver an alternative transportation concept for tomorrow – and beyond."

Each university received $75,000 in funding from Ford Global Technologies, LLC to support the creation of a vehicle concept through sketches, models, research papers and potentially even working models that deliver on the brief.

The teams are challenged to create a vehicle that is simple, durable and lightweight. Each vehicle must accommodate at least two passengers and offer solutions that address sustainability aspects. Plus, perhaps the most challenging task, the vehicle must have a range of at least 200 kilometers (approximately 125 miles), and come equipped with a base target price of only $7,000.

"It's not often we celebrate the centennial anniversary of an iconic vehicle, so we created the Model T Challenge as the perfect opportunity for students to conceptualize future transportation in a way that is unique to Ford," said Bill Coughlin, president and chief executive officer of Ford Global Technologies, LLC. "To date, there has never been a vehicle that has left such an impact on the lives of millions, and Ford is challenging students to present an alternative that just might."

Students have until September 1 to submit their proposals. Five judges from Ford Motor Company, including Mascarenas and Coughlin, will critique each concept. The two concepts that best embody the Model T spirit, personify the Ford brand and meet the challenge criteria will each be awarded $25,000 from Ford Global Technologies for university scholarships on the October 1, 2008, anniversary of the Model T.

Celebrating an Icon
During the next six months, Ford will recognize the Model T's historic milestone through a series of regional celebrations joined by thousands of Model T owners and global enthusiasts. Beginning on September 5, Ford along with The Henry Ford will host the largest Michigan gathering of Model Ts. The weekend event will kick off with a Model T display on the grounds of Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn for employees, families and friends. More than 200 Model Ts are expected to appear. Those vehicles also will cruise over to celebrate at The Henry Ford's Old Car Festival on September 6 and Sunday, September 7.

Several Model T clubs throughout Europe will celebrate this icon vehicle with special events and "centennial" drives. The Model T will also be the highlight of some classic car events such as the "Le Mans Classic" in July and the Portuguese "Raid Figuera da Foz – Lisboa" in October. Hungary plays a very special role for the Model T: the Hungarian engineer Jozsef Galamb was Henry Ford's "right hand" in engineering and assembling the Model T. Therefore, Ford of Hungary together with Galamb's former colleagues have launched their own competition for technical students to design a "Model T for the 21st century.

Ford Model T Facts

* October 1, 1908 the first Model T is built for sale.
* The Model T was the first low-priced, mass-produced automobile with standard, interchangeable parts.
* The Model T was equipped with a 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine with a top speed of approximately 45 miles per hour, weighed 1,200 pounds, and achieved 13-21 miles per gallon.
* The first Model Ts sold for $825 – an unexpected bargain compared to other cars and even more remarkable is that during its 19 years of production, Ford continued to steadily lower its price, thanks to manufacturing efficiencies.
* The moving assembly line for the Model T revolutionized manufacturing in 1913.
* In 1921, the Model T accounted for almost 57 percent of the world's automobile production.
* More than 15 Million Model Ts had been sold by May 26, 1927, when a ceremony marked the formal end of Model T production.
* Henry Ford called the Model T "the universal car," a low-cost, reliable vehicle that could be maintained easily and could successfully travel the poor roads of the era.
* On December 18, 1999, the Ford Model T was named "Car of the Century" by a panel of 133 automotive journalists and experts who began with a list of 700 candidates in 1996 and sequentially narrowed the nominees through seven rounds of balloting over three years.

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