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How to Drive a Ford Model T (Part 2)

The lever to the right is the throttle lever, there is no foot pedal like a modern car. Up is idle speed, down is as fast as it will go. Maximum performance in a Model T is like with a mule, with both ears laid back.

Next, the foot pedals on the floorboard – The left foot pedal changes your forward gear ratios, up is high, down is low. The Model T has just those two forward ratios, high gear and low gear. Midway between high and low is the neutral “out of gear” position of the left pedal.

To engage first gear, let the handbrake lever off and push the pedal all the way down until it becomes HARD. Pull the handbrake up and feel how the lever holds neutral position on the gear pedal.

The center pedal is for reverse gear engagement, but either the hand lever or the left pedal must be in neutral position before engagement, or the engine will stall. All the way down HARD is reverse position.

The right pedal is the brake. It engages a band around a braking drum in the transmission, operating in the engine oil bath. Therefore, to avoid burning off the oil due to friction heat, and wearing out the band quickly, apply the brake in relatively short duration thrusts to allow the oil to wash and continue lubricating and cooling it.

Note: The Ford Model T only applies braking to the rear wheels.

Braking by right pedal is via the driveline to the rear wheels only, does not actuate the rear drum brakes, and can cause dangerous skids in slick road conditions, as the differential will allow one wheel to spin forward and the other backward. Therefore, in slick conditions, use the hand lever to apply braking to the rear drum brakes.

Get the feel of the controls, they will become familiar quickly.


How to Drive a Ford Model T (Part 1)

With the car on level ground and the engine off, climb up behind the wheel. Notice the hand lever on the floor to your left, the two levers on the steering column beneath the steering wheel, and the three pedals on the floor.

Let’s start with the hand lever. All the way back it sets the rear wheel parking/emergency brakes and puts the transmission in neutral. Half-way released it maintains neutral, and fully released it engages the planetary transmission in high gear. Feel it a few times, notice that it holds the left pedal in neutral mid-position, then release it, and notice that the left pedal is all the way up.

Next, the lever to the left beneath the steering wheel is the spark adjust advance/retard from before top dead center ignition to after top dead center. To retard the spark it is moved up, to advance the spark it is moved down. The Model T is always started in the retard position, as it was designed to be started by hand cranking. Unless it is retarded the engine can and will KICK BACK and do damage to hands, wrists and arms. NEVER crank it except in the retard position. After the engine is running, the lever can be moved down to advance the ignition until the engine chuckles smoothly, and when rolling to get the best performance.


Welcome to my Model T Ford website!

Hi, I’m Mitch, welcome to my Ford Model T website. I’m from Taree, on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, in the heart of the Manning Valley.

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 – and in 2011, my dream came true! … Be sure to read my previous blog post about how I came to own my Model T.

I put together this site to bring together all that’s great about the Ford Model T, built between 1908 and 1927. If you own a Ford Model T, want to own one, know someone who does, or just love old cars in general, then this is the site for you!

I am a member of the Taree Historic Motor Club, and I attend various club events, meetings and Show & Shine events. Please see the Taree Talk Converter (Taree Historic Motor Club Magazine) link on the home page for the Newsletter appearances of my car.

Read about the upcoming Show & Shine events or Car Shows I will be attending come along and say hi! As always, my attendance at any of these upcoming events is weather permitting.

See other fellow enthusiasts Model T’s in the Enthusiasts Photo Gallery, or browse all of the photo albums.

If you own a Model T and would like to show it off in the gallery, please contact me with your photos!

Until next time, stay tuned!


How I Came to Own a Ford Model T – My Story…

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 87 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!


Miscellaneous Henry Ford Facts

Ford was the winner of the award of Car Entrepreneur of the Century in 1999.

Ford published a book, circulated to youth in 1914, called “The Case Against the Little White Slaver” which documented many dangers of cigarette smoking attested to by many researchers and luminaries.

Ford dressed up as Santa Claus and gave sleigh rides to children at Christmas time on his estate.

A compendium of short biographies of famous Freemasons, published by a Freemason lodge, lists Ford as a member.

Ford was especially fond of Thomas Edison, and on Edison’s deathbed, he demanded Edison’s son catch his final breath in a test tube. The test tube can still be found today in Henry Ford Museum.

In 1923, Ford’s pastor, and head of his sociology department, Episcopal minister Samuel S. Marquis, claimed that Ford believed, or “once believed” in reincarnation. Though it is unclear whether or how long Ford kept such a belief, the San Francisco Examiner from August 26, 1928, published a quote which described Ford’s beliefs:

I adopted the theory of Reincarnation when I was twenty six. Religion offered nothing to the point. Even work could not give me complete satisfaction. Work is futile if we cannot utilise the experience we collect in one life in the next. When I discovered Reincarnation it was as if I had found a universal plan I realised that there was a chance to work out my ideas. Time was no longer limited. I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock. Genius is experience. Some seem to think that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives. Some are older souls than others, and so they know more. The discovery of Reincarnation put my mind at ease. If you preserve a record of this conversation, write it so that it puts men’s minds at ease. I would like to communicate to others the calmness that the long view of life gives to us.

 


Heny Ford’s Interest in materials science and engineering

Henry Ford long had an interest in materials science and engineering. He enthusiastically described his company’s adoption of vanadium steel alloys and subsequent metallurgic R&D work.
Ford long had an interest in plastics developed from agricultural products, especially soybeans. He cultivated a relationship with George Washington Carver for this purpose. Soybean-based plastics were used in Ford automobiles throughout the 1930s in plastic parts such as car horns, in paint, etc. This project culminated in 1942, when Ford patented an automobile made almost entirely of plastic, attached to a tubular welded frame. It weighed 30% less than a steel car and was said to be able to withstand blows ten times greater than could steel. Furthermore, it ran on grain alcohol (ethanol) instead of gasoline. The design never caught on.
Ford was interested in engineered woods (“Better wood can be made than is grown”) (at this time plywood and particle board were little more than experimental ideas); corn as a fuel source, via both corn oil and ethanol; and the potential uses of cotton. Ford was instrumental in developing charcoal briquets, under the brand name “Kingsford”. His brother in law, E.G. Kingsford, used wood scraps from the Ford factory to make the briquets.
Ford was a prolific inventor and was awarded 161 U.S. patents.

Henry Ford & International business

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.

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.


Henry Ford’s Mental Collapse and World War II

Ford had long opposed war and continued to believe that international business could generate the prosperity that would head off wars; when World War II erupted in 1939 he said the people of the world had been duped. Like many other businessmen of the Great Depression era, he never liked or entirely trusted the Franklin Roosevelt Administration. He was not, however, active in the isolationist movement of 1939–41, and he supported the American war effort and realized the need to support Britain with weapons to fight the Nazis. However, when Rolls-Royce sought a US manufacturer as an alternative source for the Merlin engine (as fitted to the Spitfire and Hurricane), Ford first agreed to do so and then reneged. He “lined up behind the war effort” when the U.S. entered in late 1941, and the company became a major component of the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

Following a series of strokes in the late 1930s he became increasingly senile and was more of a figurehead; other people made the decisions in his name. After Edsel Ford’s death, Henry Ford nominally resumed control of the company in 1943, but his mental strength was fading fast. In reality the company was controlled by a handful of senior executives led by Charles Sorensen and Harry Bennett; Sorensen was forced out in 1944. Ford’s incompetence led to discussions in Washington about how to restore the company, whether by wartime government fiat or by instigating some sort of coup among executives and directors. Nothing happened until 1945, with bankruptcy a serious risk, Edsel’s widow led an ouster and installed her son, Henry Ford II, as president; the young man fired Bennett and took full control.


Henry Ford and the World War I Era

Ford opposed war, which he thought was a terrible waste. Ford became highly critical of those who he felt financed war, and he tried to stop them. In 1915, the pacifist Rosika Schwimmer gained favor with Ford, who agreed to fund a peace ship to Europe, where World War I was raging. He and about 170 other prominent peace leaders traveled there. Ford’s Episcopalian pastor, Reverend Samuel S. Marquis, accompanied him on the mission. Marquis headed Ford’s Sociology Department from 1913 to 1921. Ford talked to President Wilson about the mission but had no government support. His group went to neutral Sweden and the Netherlands to meet with peace activists. A target of much ridicule, Ford left the ship as soon as it reached Sweden.

Ford plants in Britain produced tractors to increase the British food supply, as well as trucks and aircraft engines. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917 the company became a major supplier of weapons, especially the Liberty engine for airplanes, and anti-submarine boats.

In 1918, with the war on and the League of Nations a growing issue in global politics, President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, encouraged Ford to run for a Michigan seat in the U.S. Senate. Wilson believed that Ford could tip the scales in Congress in favor of Wilson’s proposed League. “You are the only man in Michigan who can be elected and help bring about the peace you so desire,” the president wrote Ford. Ford wrote back: “If they want to elect me let them do so, but I won’t make a penny’s investment.” Ford did run, however, and came within 4,500 votes of winning, out of more than 400,000 cast statewide.



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