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Photos: The centennial of Tin Lizzy

It was 100 years ago this week that Ford built the first Model T for sale and helped bring the world fully into the automotive age.

Ford Model T in the mud
In 1909, this Model T may have been stuck in the mud, but pretty soon Ford had a runaway hit on its hands. (For more photos, click on the image.) From the collections of The Henry Ford and Ford Motor

You don't have to have lived a hundred years ago to appreciate the Model T. All you have to do is look at the world around you today.

The Model T put the auto industry on the road to standardized parts and the assembly line. It helped make cars affordable for ordinary folks, by the millions. And if John Steinbeck is to be believed, it was instrumental in bringing into being the generation born between the two World Wars: "Most of the babies of the period were conceived in Model T Fords and not a few were born in them."

This week marks the centennial of Ford Motor's best-known car, at least until the Mustang came along. The automaker has been commemorating the occasion for the better part of the year, and over the summer, fair weather beckoned about 1,000 modern-day Model T owners to Richmond, Ind., for what Ford says was the largest-ever gathering of cars (outside the factory, we presume). It must be said, though, that not everyone is a fan.

More than 15 million of the cars were built between 1908 and 1927. The first models had no headlights, had to be started with a hand crank, and were actually available in a few shades other than black. Eventually, headlights became standard, as did electric starters and black paint (until, in the latter days of production, Ford reintroduced a wider color palette).

At first, the Model T cost about $850, but competition and the assembly line helped push the price tag below $300. Yep, bread and milk were a lot cheaper in those days, too.

If you can't get your hands on your own Model T, satisfy your nostalgia with this look back at the car of the century that was:

Photos: The Ford Model T turns 100