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Five models that changed the world

autos Updated: Jan 12, 2008 02:15 IST

Ford Model T (1908)

The first mass-produced cheap car (about £2,000 in today’s terms), Henry Ford’s “Tin Lizzie” revolutionised work and economics as much as transportation. Ford used assembly line techniques and standardisation of parts and tasks to create vast economies of scale in his River Rouge plant, the largest in the world – creating a method of manufacturing we we now call “Fordism”.

Willys-Overland Jeep (1941)

The vehicle that “won” the Second World War and the grand-daddy of today’s SUVs. No doubt Nazisim would have been smashed sooner or later, but the US Army’s “GP” utility reconnaissance car certainly did its bit, as anyone who’s seen James Caan drive his through a wood in A Bridge Too Far can see.

BMC Mini (1959)

Difficult to believe that the industrial wreckage that is Longbridge was once the centre of such technical brilliance. The British Motor Corporation wanted a small, economical car to challenge the German “bubble cars” . Sir Alec Issigonis thought of turning the engine sideways, making it drive the
front wheels and putting the gears in the engine oil sump. A miracle of packaging, fun to drive and still much loved.

Saab 93 (1958)

There was nothing that remarkable about this little Swede, though the firm was a pioneer in aerodynamic shapes and ergonomics and enjoyed much rallying success. The truly significant thing is that this was the first production car to have seat belts fitted as standard.

Toyota Corolla (1966)

The Corolla was the most successful of the many Japanese models that introduced reliability and a radio fitted as standard to a startled world. It was to become the most successful nameplate in automotive history, selling more than 30 million.