Diverse applications in a world not yet widely paved, motorized, or electrified

When the Model T was designed and introduced, the infrastructure of the world was quite different from today’s. Pavement was a rarity except for sidewalks and a few big-city streets. (The sense of the term “pavement” as equivalent with “sidewalk” comes from that era, when streets and roads were generally dirt (mud during rainy periods) and sidewalks were a paved way to walk down them without getting dirty. In fact, this was a motive for segregating foot traffic from carriage traffic long before the speed of automobiles provided another motive.) Agriculture was the occupation of many people. Power tools were scarce outside factories, as were any power sources to run them; electrification, like pavement, was found usually only in larger towns and cities. Rural electrification and motorized mechanization were embryonic in North America and Europe, and nonexistent elsewhere.

Henry Ford oversaw the requirements and design of the Model T based on the realities of that world. Consequently, the Model T was (intentionally) almost as much a tractor and stationary engine as it was an automobile, that is, a vehicle dedicated solely to road use. It has always been well regarded for its all-terrain abilities and ruggedness. It could travel a rocky, muddy farm lane, ford a shallow stream, climb a steep hill, and be parked on the other side to have one of its wheels removed and a pulley fastened to the hub for a flat belt to drive a bucksaw, thresher, silo blower, conveyor for filling corn cribs or haylofts, baler, water pump (for wells, mines, or swampy farm fields), electrical generator, and countless other applications. One unique application of the Model T was shown in the October 1922 issue of Fordson Farmer magazine. It showed a minister who had transformed his Model T in to a mobile church, complete with small organ.

During this era, entire automobiles (including thousands of Model Ts) were even hacked apart by their industrious owners and reconfigured into custom machinery permanently dedicated to a purpose, such as homemade tractors, ice saws, or many others. Dozens of aftermarket companies sold prefab kits to facilitate the T’s conversion from car to tractor. In a world mostly without mechanized cultivators, Model Ts filled a vacuum. Row-crop tractors such as the Farmall did not become widespread until the 1930s. Like many popular car engines of the era, the Model T engine was also used on home-built aircraft (such as the Pietenpol Sky Scout) and motorboats.

Also, many Model Ts were converted into vehicles which could travel across heavy snows with kits on the rear wheels and skis where the front wheels were located. They were popular for rural mail delivery for a time. The common name for these conversions of cars and small trucks was Snowflyers. These vehicles were extremely popular in the northern reaches of Canada where factories were set up to produce them.

Mitch Taylor

New South Wales, Australia

www.FordModelT.net

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