CAR OF THE CENTURY
LAS VEGAS, NV: The Ford Model T was named Car of the Century here on Dec. 18, in a ceremony that was supposed to end a three-year international process but likely didn't.
The COTC award itself came as little surprise, since the Model T, which was introduced in 1908 and went on to sell more than 15 million models worldwide, seemed to be the odds-on favorite from start. Indeed, people have been saying, "Why not just give the prize to the Model T now and save yourself all that trouble?" to many of the 133 international auto writer jurors (myself included) from the start.
During a lightly-attended ceremony here on December 18, 1999, the breadth of this perspective become obvious as the Model T overwhelmed the four other finalists -- the Mini, the Citroen DS, the Volkswagen Beetle, and the Porsche 911.
The 112 ballots from jurors in 33 countries gave the Model T 742 points, well ahead of the Mini at 617, the DS at 567, the Beetle at 521, and the 911 at 303. Indeed, the Model T topped the polls in three of the five regional counts and trailed only in the UK (where the English-built Mini won) and middle and southern Europe (where the French-built Citroen won). Even in those two regions, however, the Model T did well.
The five finalists, models of which were in the room with about 100 dinner guests, were selected from a previous list of 27 nominees. The group of professional journalists was supposed to pick 25 cars, but a tie upped the count by one. The public, via the Internet, voted in great numbers but essentially agreed with the choices made by the jury. They only car public voting added to the list of semi-finalists was the AC Cobra.
What took place in Las Vegas was a far cry from what was originally meant to happen there (a televised three-hour extravaganza), and that was in keeping with the entire COTC process. Since it was announced back in 1996, the Dutch-organized and operated contest has rarely lived up to its own billing.
For example, the world-wide tour of the 100 final nominees was pretty much reduced to a couple of shows, with Toronto in 1998 being the only North American stop.
These diminishing plans did not affect the jury activty in any way, as a committee of its members took an original list of more than 4000 cars and came up with a 200-vehicle short list. That list was halved by the full jury and then the list of 26 semi-finalists was struck. Then a few weeks ago, the public added the Cobra.
Saturday's event was supposed to be the end of the COTC process, but the Europeans who financed the program (and who decline to identify themselves) have plans to keep it going. They hope to stage some kind of "celebration" of the Car of the Century next year, they have plans to keep www.cotc.com going as an enthusiast site, they want to sponsor an auction of cars from the list of 100 vehicles, and they are thinking about putting together a Car of the World contest.