Ford's Model T

You can't be in the Henry Ford Museum, if you don't see a Model T. The model T is what got Henry's venture going and he made it until it almost put him out of business. It was followed by the Model A and Model B. But the model T is best known.

The model T was such a success that they couldn't manufacture them fast enough. In the early years you could get them in different colours, but by 1916, you could get any color as long as it was black. We learnt during the visit that Henry insisted on black because as a paint it dried the quickest and he could thus get them out the door faster.

By the 1920's they sold for $265 US. The car was a BASIC car. The horn and starter were supplied by other manufacturers. Because the lead acid battery was not that developed, the ignition was driven by dry cells. If you had the starter, you could get about 6 starts before you had to replace the cells or have a rechargable battery.

If you look in the back seat, you will see the floor is wooden boards. We were told that the engine was shipped from a separate plant, in a shipping crate. Henry used the material of the shipping crate to supply the boards for the floor.

To look at the car, it appeared to be a metal car, but if you looked past the outer shell you would find the car had a wooden frame.

And here is that wooden frame.

Trevor took a photo of Bruce and I sitting comfortably in the model T. Then Trevor joined us because it looked like we were enjoying ourselves.

Bruce got a set of instructions in driving the model T. First he had to figure what the pedals and levers were for. It was then that he learned that the transmission was an early form of todays automatic, but manually manipulated. You had to set the hand brake so the car would not run you down when you went to crank the engine. Next you had to set the throttle (gas) on a lever on the stearing column and set the spark so that it reduced the chance that the engine would kick back and break you wrist or fingers or worse.

Now that Bruce had the engine going, he had to adjust the throttle, release the hand brake and press on the left pedal to get low speed. He had to let the pedal all the way up to get the 2nd speed. and then he had to press the high speed to get what we would call 'drive'.

Bruce was reminded that the gas flowed by gravity to the engine and thus to climb a serious hill he would have to back up the hill else the tank might not be high enough to make the gas flow to the engine. To get into reverse, he had to position the low speed speed to the middle of its stroke, where the transmission would be in neutral and then he could press on the pedal that would make the car travel in reverse. No wonder you didn't have a foot free to operate the gas flow. There were 3 pedals to manage.

We were fortunate while were visiting this display that a knowledgable person was taking the time to explain these details to us.

But before we start of on our journey, we must visit the filling station. Now at that time gas was something like 10 cents a gallon. And the fuel pump was completely manual.

You decided how many gallons you wanted to buy, the station operator would pump that much gas into the transparent holding tank at the top. The tank could hold up to 10 gallons. Then they would insert the hose in the car tank and press the lever. Gravity would drive the gas down from the glass tank into the car.

Remember, the car had no gas guage and it might not even have a speed-o-meter. When you took the gas cap of the car tank, you stuck a rod in and noted how high the existing gas came on the stick.

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