Almost everyone has heard of the Model T Ford. It is a truly iconic car, which revolutionised the automotive industry through the introduction of assembly lines. We take a nostalgic look back at the vehicle that helped change the face of automobiles…and the world.
The Man behind the Model T Ford
Henry Ford was an amazing man. Not only did he found the Ford Motor Company and dream up the Model T Ford, he also invented the phenomenon of mass production.
By bringing in assembly lines to build the Model T Ford he was able to reduce production costs and make the car affordable. Cars and almost every other product has been built the same way ever since. Henry always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When he was in his early teens, his father William gave him a pocket watch and by the time he was 15 he was stripping and rebuilding the watches and clocks of neighbors and friends, quickly earning a reputation as a timepiece repair man. By 1893 he had enough time and money to start experimenting with gasoline engines and just three years later, in 1896, Henry Ford built his first ever self-propelled car — the Ford Quadricycle.
Early Years of the Ford Model T
The Model T first went into production on October 1, 1908, and was designed by Childe Harold Wills, Joseph A. Galamb, Eugene Farkas, Henry Love, C. J. Smith, Gus Degner and Peter E. Martin.
The early Model Ts had lots of brass on them: lights, windscreen surround, clock, speedometer, horn, speedometer drive and starting handle were all brass, plus a few optional accessories.
The body style for most early Model Ts was the two-door tourer with the two doors at the back. To improve safety, the front had no doors — so as to make the car easy to jump out of!
The Inner Workings of a Model T
The Model T had a 2.9 liter engine, which could run on gasoline, paraffin or ethanol. It featured a three-speed planetary gearbox but today this would be considered a two speed as one of the gears is reverse. On the early cars the side lights (or coach lights as they would have been called) were powered by paraffin, and the headlights were powered by acetylene gas, a mixture of carbine and water. The mixer was located on the running boards at each side of the car and piped to the headlights. The ignition system consisted of four trembler coils connected to the spark plugs, which was considered a more cost effective system than using magnetos. Early cars featured a total loss oil system as the valves were not covered. Later cars had a rocker cover on them.
Starting a Model T
This is not an easy business. To start the Model T, you first need to make sure your handbrake is all the way back. If it is fully down the car will be in high gear and will run you over. Next, you need to make sure the advance retard ignition timing lever on the steering wheel is in the right position, as if it kicks back on the starting handle you could break your shoulder.
After that, you need to prime the engine. This is done by turning the engine three full rotations on the starting handle. You can then switch on the ignition at the trembler coils, set the throttle lever by pulling it a quarter of the way down, before checking the handbrake is fully on. Once you’ve done that place your left hand with four fingers on the handle, and pull it upwards with a good hard pull. Hopefully the engine should fire into life. NEVER place your thumb behind the starting handle as it could break if the engine kicks back.
Driving the Model T
Was the Model T easy to drive? That depends how you look at it. Back in the day it would have been considered easy, as there were not a lot of other cars around to compare it with. But converting from a modern car to a Model T can be tricky as the normal pedal system from right to left of accelerator, brake, and clutch does not apply. Instead the Model T has three pedals from right to left: brake, reverse gear, and forward gear.
How do you drive the old girl? First off, if you only want to use low gear, which has a top speed of around 15mph, you should set the handbrake at the half way point. This takes off the parking brake and leaves high gear in neutral. Then you press down on the left hand pedal and hold it there using the hand throttle to control the speed, which is on the right hand side of the steering wheel.
To move into high gear you push the handbrake lever fully down, lift off the left hand pedal and you adjust the speed by the hand throttle. To stop the Model T push the hand throttle up, press down on the right pedal to bring in the transmission brake when you hit about 15mph and press down on the left pedal to aid slowing. Lift off with your foot still pressed on the right had pedal, and bring up the handbrake lever to half way, or if you’re on a hill engage it completely.
To reverse, you can use one of three different methods. The first is to push the car back, as it only weighs 1,200 pounds. To drive it back (we suggest doing it this way as it is hard to stop in reverse) keep the hand brake fully on and press down on the middle pedal adjusting the hand throttle. Alternatively, you can put the hand brake in the half way position and press down on the middle pedal.
There were over 15MILLION Model T Fords made between 1908 and 1927. There were many different body types, as well as a string of style changes that were implemented over the 19 years of the car’s production. In 1914 the build time of one Model T ford was just 93 minutes.
The Model T was the first car to gain world-wide notoriety and be sold all over the world. The first production Model T was produced at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan. The cars were also produced in Walkersville, Canada, and in Trafford Park, Greater Manchester, England, starting in 1911. They were later assembled in Germany, Argentina, France, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan, as well as several locations throughout the US.
Today the Model T ford is still very popular all over the word with parts still available just about everywhere. Almost all parts are also interchangeable between the early Model Ts and late Mode Ts, making the cars easy to run. There are plenty of Model T Ford car clubs out there as well.
The only question that remains to be asked is was it Henry Ford that was the legend or the Model T Ford itself? They are both legends in our eyes, as without Henry Ford there would be no Model T Ford, and without the Model T the world would not be as advanced as it is today. The Model T is a legend both due to its global success and the fact it is still a drivable car more than 100 years after the first one rolled off the production line in 1908. An amazing feat.