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Ford Model T

by Chris Dugdale


The Ford family arrived in Michigan from Ireland in 1832 and Henry was born some 30 years later in 1863. The Fords settled in Dearborn because it was virgin territory, land was plentiful and cheap. The Ford family purchased their uncleared forest from the US Government and commenced turning the area into fields. Henry's father, William worked as a carpenter and with his savings he increased his acreage to 120 acres in 1864.

Henry started his apprenticeship at the firm of James Flower & Brothers Machine Shop in 1879. The firm had a reputation for excellent workmanship, and another apprentice at the same period was David Buick who initially made his way in plumbing and bathroom fittings before turning to automobiles.

After his time at Flower Bros. he moved on to work for the Detroit Dry Dock Company, he augmented his income at this time by taking a evening job with a jeweller repairing watches. In 1882 he left the Dock Company and returned to the farm in Dearborn.

Henry married Clara Bryant in 1888. Shortly after this Henry went to Detroit to see the new internal combustion engine, the "OTTO". Henry was sure he could build his own self-propelled vehicle but the Otto used electricity for the ignition, as Henry had worked with steam engines he had not learned about this system. This caused him to take employment in 1891 with the Edison Illuminating Company as a mechanic and engineer at a wage of $45 per month.1915 Model T

During his spare time he experimented with a small lathe and built a crude single cylinder engine. By early summer of 1896 he had nearly completed the construction of a device which he called the Quadricycle. Power was derived from two cylinders, chain drive and steering by tiller, it attained a speed of 20 miles per hour.

The forgoing is but a brief overview of the early years and anyone who wishes to learn vastly more could do no better than to get hold a of copy of "Ford" by Robert Lacey. Published in 1986,

The Model T was proceed by the "A";"C"; "K" and "N". These cars led to the immortal "T" in 1909. The Tin Lizzie was very advanced for its day, with a 2.9 litre monoblock side valve engine with detachable head, a fuel consumption of around 25 to 30 miles per gallon and a top speed in the vicinity of 45 miles per hour. It was introduced at $850 but the price was constantly cut until the Roadster could be purchased for as little as $260 by 1925.

Between October 1908 and 1927 some 15 million vehicles were produced. It formed the basis of a farm tractor in 1916 and a one ton truck in 1917. A factory was opened at Trafford Park, Manchester, England in 1911 where the cars were also produced in rhd form. During the entire 18 years of manufacture the basic design remained unchanged. Alterations such as a black painted radiator replaced the brass shell in 1917 and from 1914 to 1925 Black was the only body colour offered. Electric lighting and an electric starter was added around 1920. Production ceased in 1927 and the factory was closed for six months whilst it tooled up for the new Model A.

The Ford T differed from most vehicles of the period in that the transmission was of the Spur Planetary type, this combined ease of operation with smooth and silent running qualities and the gears were always in mesh, unlike a conventional "crash" gear-box. There were only two forward gears, low and high, plus of course reverse. The three floor pedals do not operate as with normal transmission, the throttle is located under the steering wheel on the right hand side, the left hand lever being the ignition advance and retard. The pedal to the extreme left is the clutch. Place your left foot thereon and slightly depress it by about an inch, take hold of the hand brake lever with your left hand and thrust it forwards as far as it will go, at the same time you must continue to press the clutch pedal forward and down as far as it will go, this will cause the car to move forward in slow speed, after some 10 or 12 yards slowly let the pedal come up towards you. When it is fully up the car is in high speed, it may be necessary to close the hand throttle slightly as you let the pedal up. When high speed has been engaged your feet will be clear of the pedals and speed can be increased by pulling back on the hand throttle a few notches.

To slow the vehicle close the throttle, if more retardation is required the pedal to the extreme right can be pressed which is the brake, the braking bands are in the gear-box and so apply on the transmission not directly on the wheels. In an emergency this pedal must be pressed and also the clutch pedal but only to its half-way position to free the engine from the rear wheels. If the driver wishes to reverse, then the hand brake lever should be moved forward to release the brakes but only as far as the neutral position not fully forward which would engage high gear! The middle pedal is fully depressed with the left foot and the car will then start to travel in a rearward direction, the right foot should be resting on but not depressing the brake so that the car can be stopped if the procedure should get out of control.

Model T of 1923The Ford T can be an ideal vehicle for someone who wishes to own an Edwardian or Vintage Car and is new to the hobby, the cars are robust, simple and easy to maintain. Should spare parts be required these are readily available, brand new, in many parts of the world.

In the United Kingdom a sum from 6,000 to 10,000, depending on model will buy you a car in good all round condition and give the owner many miles of highly enjoyable motoring.

© Dugdalevms 2008