What’s a Tin Lizzie?

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The term “Tin Lizzie” originally referred to the Ford Model T, but later became a slang term for any cheap old car. The nickname arose due to the car’s metal construction and was initially used as a derogatory term, but later became a term of endearment. The Model T was a reliable vehicle, but had some mechanical flaws that were quickly solved by its owners. The term “Tin Lizzie” was extended to all motor vehicles that gave any indication of mechanical trouble.

A Tin Lizzie is an old automobile, most commonly a Ford Model T. The term is said to be derived from the most common American name for a horse in the early 1900s: Lizzie, short for Elizabeth, and the fact that the vehicle was made of metal or tin. Used as a slang reference for the Model T, the term Tin Lizzie eventually came to define any cheap old car. In the early days of automobile racing, a Tin Lizzie was a nickname given to a tough-looking racing car. As other manufacturers began to produce automobiles, the term became synonymous with a dilapidated or cheaply built car or truck.

In the early days of the American automobile, the public was suspicious of the need for a motorized vehicle that often spooked horses and damaged roads by creating deep ruts in wet weather. As more and more of the Model T Ford cars began to occupy the country roads and streets, the dissatisfied public began to give the modern marvel of Mr. Ford not-so-wonderful nicknames, like Tin Lizzie. Eventually the name was seen as a term of endearment and some owners began to refer to their own Fords as Tin Lizzie.

For the most part, the Model T was a reliable vehicle and proved to be a dependable form of transportation that slowly replaced the horse and buggy. As more and more people began to ride in Tin Lizzie, some mechanical flaws were discovered that required a quick redesign by Ford. Early Fords were gravity fed with the fuel required to run the engine. This means that there was no fuel pump to deliver the fuel to the carburetor. Therefore, when the vehicle was asked to drive up a steep hill, fuel in the rear-mounted fuel tank would not flow to the engine, and the vehicle would run out of gas halfway up the hill.

The owners soon solved the Tin Lizzie’s fuel delivery problem and they began rolling back up hills. The uncomfortable process of driving in mountainous country gave rise to the Tin Lizzie nickname once again and the name was extended to all motor vehicles on the road that gave any inclination to mechanical trouble. Many car clubs dedicated to collecting and surviving the Model T call their members Lizzie Lovers.

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