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1908 Ford Model R Runabout

As the first decade of the twentieth century drew to a close Henry Ford faced a watershed. His big Model K 40hp six-cylinder luxury car cost $2,500 and enjoyed success among the wealthy, but Ford’s real vision was a simple automobile produced in large quantities with interchangeable parts that enjoyed economies of scale and could be sold for $500 or less. A big step in realizing this vision came in 1906, when he introduced the Model N. It had a 149 cubic inch, 15 horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, 2-speed planetary transmission, shaft drive and transverse leaf spring suspension, design features that led directly to the Model T introduced in 1909. By the standards of the time, the Model N was a huge sales success, reportedly selling some 8,000 examples in the twelve months after its introduction. Ford then took the advantage of the Model N’s success by introducing a better equipped version called the Model R. Mechanically the same as the Model N, it had full running boards, a mechanical engine oiling system and three inch tires. Ford also upped the price 25% (from $600 to $750) for the Model R, taking full advantage of the market’s strong demand. It was yet another success for Ford, as all 2,500 Model Rs built for 1907 were sold out by September of that year.

This 1908 Ford Model R Roadster, formerly part of the Winthrop Rockefeller collection, is a particularly pretty example finished in the attractive color combination of Brewster Green with black accents and a gold coachline, which complements its black top, black button tufted leather interior and white wheels with white rubber tires quite well. Typical of the period, it also has lovely gleaming brass headlamps, cowl lights, horn, steering column, hubcaps and speedometer. Its restoration was very correct and thorough to begin with, so it is still a gorgeous car that runs and drives very well.

The Ford Model N and R mark the beginning of the realization of Ford’s dream of automobile mass production at prices affordable by every farmer and workman. Much more rare and individualistic than the later Model Ts, this car represents an important milestone and will be a prized possession in any collection as well as an enjoyable car for tours and events.


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