To many, electric cars are a completely new thing. However, they actually have a long history in the United States. For some time, they were the top dog. However, due to battery limitations many decades ago, they got replaced with gasmobiles.
With recent advancements, electric cars are back. But it’s important to note that many of their key benefits are the same today as they were back in the early 20th century.
For example, they are much simpler, cleaner, safer, and nicer to drive. Henry Ford’s wife knew this, as did many women of the early 20th century. Clara Ford apparently wouldn’t drive the Model T. She stuck to her electric car instead, a 1914 Detroit Electric.
Girls dig electric cars. At least that was the marketing message back in 1915, when petrol-powered autos were beginning to decisively pull away from electric ones. Battery-powered vehicles retained popularity among female drivers in cities, who valued them for their reliability — they wouldn’t blow up, as gas cars were known to do on occasion — and ease of use.
Clara Ford, wife of Henry Ford, whose Model T all but decimated the electric car, drove a 1914 Detroit Electric. (What her husband made of the fact that she wasn’t driving a Ford is lost to history.) The Detroit models could run 80 miles on a single charge, with a top speed of about 20 mph.
Most of us tend to think that Fords did not play much of a part at Le Mans until the early 1960s. But that is not quite the case. Charles Montier, a French Ford dealer, (called “Le Sorcier” by the locals long before Gordini) entered the famous endurance race in 1923, 1924 and 1925. Few people even realize that a Model T Ford not only raced in that grueling event (won by a Chenard Walcker) but finished in 14th place in the first ever 24 hours of Le Mans. But the Montier-Fords were just getting a start; amazingly, by the 1930s Montier-Fords would participate in a number of Grand Prix events, racing against Alfa Romeo, Mercedes Benz and Bugatti.
Charles Montier was the son of a blacksmith in rural France. While still in his teens, he helped his father build a steam powered wagon that scared the locals. From there he moved to Paris and on to a varied career in the burgeoning French motor car world including a spell building racers for Darracq, ultimately setting up his own business based around selling, modifying and racing Fords.
The Grand Prix Montier-Fords
Encouraged by his efforts at Le Mans, Montier kept up the development of his Ford based racers and appeared at many events throughout France and Belgium and even made occasional forays to Grands Prix as far away as Spain and Morocco. Joined later by his son Ferdinand, the Montier team often fielded two cars and even sold a few to amateur racer customers.
Montier’s career had many ups and downs and side projects that all serve to show the combination of determination and engineering skill that possibly deserve more recognition than he currently enjoys. He raced against some of the greats of the day, often gaining class victories, and such names as Tazio Nuvolari, and Albert Divo, Giovanni Agnelli, and the King of Spain all are part of the Montier’s story.
The car that ran at the first Le Mans 24 has been restored in France and has made appearances in recent years at the Le Mans Classic event surprising all who had thought that Ford’s participation in the famous ‘Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans’ had started with the legendary GT40!
Parts of this story have been told in French publications over the years but little was ever written about his exploits in English. In addition, this VeloceToday Select Folio includes period photos and a complete listing of all races, hillclimbs, and Grands Prix entered by the Montier-Fords from 1921-1934.
Ford’s philosophy was one of economic independence for the United States. His River Rouge Plant became the world’s largest industrial complex, pursuing vertical integration to such an extent that it could produce its own steel. Ford’s goal was to produce a vehicle from scratch without reliance on foreign trade. He believed in the global expansion of his company. He believed that international trade and cooperation led to international peace, and he used the assembly line process and production of the Model T to demonstrate it.
Henry Ford (Second from Left)
He opened Ford assembly plants in Britain and Canada in 1911, and soon became the biggest automotive producer in those countries. In 1912, Ford cooperated with Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat to launch the first Italian automotive assembly plants. The first plants in Germany were built in the 1920s with the encouragement of Herbert Hoover and the Commerce Department, which agreed with Ford’s theory that international trade was essential to world peace. In the 1920s, Ford also opened plants in Australia, India, and France, and by 1929, he had successful dealerships on six continents. Ford experimented with a commercial rubber plantation in the Amazon jungle called Fordlândia; it was one of his few failures. In 1929, Ford accepted Joseph Stalin’s invitation to build a model plant (NNAZ, today GAZ) at Gorky, a city now known under its historical name Nizhny Novgorod. He sent American engineers and technicians to the Soviet Union to help set it up, including future labor leader Walter Reuther.
By 1932, Ford was manufacturing one third of all the world’s automobiles. Ford’s image transfixed Europeans, especially the Germans, arousing the “fear of some, the infatuation of others, and the fascination among all”. Germans who discussed “Fordism” often believed that it represented something quintessentially American. They saw the size, tempo, standardization, and philosophy of production demonstrated at the Ford Works as a national service—an “American thing” that represented the culture of United States. Both supporters and critics insisted that Fordism epitomized American capitalist development, and that the auto industry was the key to understanding economic and social relations in the United States. As one German explained, “Automobiles have so completely changed the American’s mode of life that today one can hardly imagine being without a car. It is difficult to remember what life was like before Mr. Ford began preaching his doctrine of salvation”. For many Germans, Ford embodied the essence of successful Americanism.
In My Life and Work, Ford predicted that if greed, racism, and short-sightedness could be overcome, then economic and technological development throughout the world would progress to the point that international trade would no longer be based on (what today would be called) colonial or neocolonial models and would truly benefit all peoples. His ideas in this passage were vague, but they were idealistic.
World War I had recently ended when this pair of photos was taken and in that conflict the British and French tank designs for traveling over all types of terrain were proven. An example of the Mark VIII Tank, an Anglo-American effort produced near the end of the conflict can be seen above in the background.
The Model “T” Ford Roadster equipped with endless tracks featured here, appears to have been demonstrated to high-ranking Army officers by a pair of business men trying to sell their design. It is wearing a 1920 New York license plate that is mounted backwards and crudely lettered U.S. Army Ord-Dept.
Another photo of the scene above exists, but just recently this excellent pair of images has been discovered. After a limited search, including patents of the time, nothing more was found to add to the story. Dan Strohl at HMN did a post on this same machine close to four years ago, but since that time we are unaware of any new information about its development.
The photo below posted by E. Bruckner on the MTFCA Forum shows that the tracks on this design were driven by four lugs clamped on on each rear wheel and tire. Larger brakes that have been mounted on the rear appear to be the means of steering the unit by slowing down or stopping one track at a time. Can any of our readers add any more details about its construction and history ?
This was emailed to me recently, regarding the Springfield Arch in Springfield, Oregon…
The Arch in the photo was destroyed in 1927 and for the past two or three years I’ve been designing and building a scale model of a proposed new Springfield Arch, which features our town’s official symbol, The McKenzie River driftboat. The long term game plan is to have a parade of tin lizzies pass through the new Arch as an inauguration. We’d invite any and all car clubs in the country to participate. Our community also has a yearly car rally which attracts 50’s and 60’s muscle cars, which might make a nice mix). The completed 1:12 scale model recently went on display at Springfield City Hall. The tin lizzie I used in the display is the ONLY 1:12 scale model “Model T Ford” that I could find on the internet. Here are the images of Model-T Fords through the original Springfield Arch, in Springfield, Oregon. The photos are circa 1920. The Arch was destroyed by a flood in 1927.
The gent keeping an eye on the model is a member of the Arch committee and editor/publisher of a newspaper, McKenzie River Reflections, serving the McKenzie River valley.
My car is a 1925 Ford Model T Open Tourer, built at Henry Ford’s Highland Park Plant, in Detroit, Michigan, USA. It never strayed far from the factory, its previous home, Ann Arbor, Michigan, just 60km away. From new, it’s had just three owners, myself being the third.
I’ve had a passion for vintage and veteran cars ever since I was a little tacker, and I always had a dream that, some day, I might have one of my own.
It all started in 1994, at age 7, while living in Albany, WA, where the former Extravaganza motor museum; once home to one of the most famous veteran cars in history, a 1904 Darracq called “Genevieve” famous for its appearance in the 1953 movie Genevieve. From that point, I was hooked on old cars, and as a boy, built countless models from Lego.
Later in 2009, I was living in Burnie, Tasmania, and even though the “Wonders of Wynyard” motor museum was only a few kilometres away, ironically, I never went there! The museum is home to the equal oldest Ford vehicle in the world – a 1903 Ford Model A.
So I wanted to own a vintage car, and I thought what better car to own than one of the most significant cars in history; the Ford Model T. It was the world’s first car to be mass produced on an assembly line. The Model T has the second highest production number of any car in history, with just over 15 million of them built in its 19 year production run, between 1908 and 1927. It’s only been surpassed by the Volkswagen Beetle, with 21 million produced.
My family and I moved to NSW in 2010. In January of 2011, I decided I wanted to buy a Model T. I scoured the Internet, hoping I might be able to buy one in Australia, but none were within my budget, the lowest priced car I found, was $45,000 – that was never going to happen! So I resorted to looking in America, and finally found the car, that would ultimately become my own.
I imported the car, with the help of my father. He imports all kinds of products from overseas, so I have to thank him for his assistance in importing my car. It took 8 months, almost $6,000 in freight charges and import fees, and much anticipation, from when I expressed an interest in the car, to when it actually arrived on Australian soil.
Almost every part on the car is original, with the exception of the seat upholstery, and of course, the tyres. Even the 89 year-old, 20 horsepower engine is original and still running as smoothly as ever.
The car underwent a partial restoration in 1966, and was garaged ever since. I had the roof restored in Taree by a very skilled upholsterer, Graham from Taree Upholsterers. A local tyre fitter, whom to my surprise had antique equipment in the workshop, was able to replace the perished inner-tube on the spare wheel. I’ve replaced the 4 coil boxes, so now the engine runs as it should.
There’s obviously no formal training available these days to teach anyone how to drive such a historic museum piece, so I learned via videos on YouTube, uploaded by fellow Model T enthusiasts.
The controls of the Model T are nothing like a modern car. There are three pedals on the floor – none of which are the accelerator! There’s the clutch, the reverse pedal, and the brake. The handbrake lever not only operates the parking brake, it doubles up as the gear lever – which is very amusing to modern mechanics when you try and explain it to them! The Model T has just 2 forward gears, plus reverse; and has a top speed of about 70km/h (45mph). I’ve been clocked at 60km/h, but mostly only drive around 40-50km/h.
By the time the car arrived, I felt confident I would be able to drive her, after I got the car started for the first time, my Tin Lizzie performed almost perfectly, although the fuel was running extremely rich at first, which caused her to blow lots of smoke! With some assistance from a fellow Model T owner and friend from Sydney, I soon had the engine running to original spec.
Since the car arrived in August last year, I’ve had to do little maintenance. The Model T was heralded as one of the most reliable cars in history. However, for safety reasons, I’ve added a set of auxiliary brakes. The reason for this, the original brakes are not attached to the wheels, as with a modern car – they are attached to the transmission, and have cotton linings. While I had every faith in the T’s ability to stop, it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra insurance policy!