Kansas Collection books

The Model T Ford

The Model T Ford

    I remember reading in school about the seven wonders of the world.  I'm not sure that I remember any more what they all are.  However, I've often thought there should be an eighth wonder of the world.  That would be the Model T Ford.  In my estimation, it was truly a wonder!

    Henry Ford propelled America from the horse and buggy era into the automotive age with his Model T Ford.  I'm not just sure when he made the first one, but it was in the early 1900s.  He also perfected the assembly line production of autos which is still used today.  Prior to Ford's production lines, autos were made by assembling the whole car piece by piece, at a stationary location.  The Model T was the most popular car in America until 1930, when Henry came out with the Model A Ford.

    To my young, inquisitive mind the Model T was a mechanical wonder.  It was a classic example of simplification.  First of all, the color.  Henry was quoted as telling his customers that they could have "any color they wanted, as long as it was black."  If you wanted another color, you painted it yourself.

    Then there was the motor --- transmission drive train, as it is now called.  It was all one piece construction.  The four cylinder motor was so simple that it could be taken apart with one wrench (which was supplied with each car), a pair of pliers, and a screwdriver.  Of course you had to know how to do it, but it could be done.

    The transmission was simple, yet unique.  There were three pedals on the floor board.  The left one was low and high gear.  The second was reverse and the third one was the brake.  There was also a lever on the left side.  When pulled back, it supposedly put the car in neutral gear and set the hand brake.  That's assuming everything worked as it was supposed to.  The transmission was full of oil, as it was a part of the crankcase, and when the weather was cold and you had to crank the T, it wasn't easy.  We soon learned that if you jacked up one rear wheel and put the lever forward, the car was easier to start on a cold morning.  The ignition system was also unique.  Attached to the flywheel was a series of high carbon steel magnets.  As they spun past the field coils, built into the transmission case, they generated electricity to power the ignition system.  The current ran through ! ! a si mple distributor and then to a set of four high-voltage coils, to boost the voltage to the spark plugs.

    My first Model T was a 1924 coupe.  I didn't especially want a coupe, but it was all I could afford.  I traded a fellow two Jersey calves and $8.00 for it.  The car had an enclosed cab with windows you could roll right down --- sometimes.  It did have a starter and a generator and a battery.  The dashboard, now called an instrument panel, had no instruments.  It only had an ignition key and a headlight switch. This coupe ran, but barely.  It was worn out before I got it.

    My next Model T was a 1927 touring car.  It had a top that would shed some rain and some snap-on side curtains that kept out some wind.  But it did have balloon tires with detachable rims.  That meant I could carry a spare tire.  I spent most every afternoon tinkering with that car and getting it ready for that evening's journey to wherever the gang decided we would go.  It would hold six easily and eight or more if necessary.

    The "gang" varied in size and numbers but nearly always three or four of the regulars were along.  We were pretty evenly divided between boys and girls but none of us were dating steadily.

    The Model T served as a passenger car, a light truck and a source of power for farm equipment.  Often, one would see a pulley attached to a rear wheel.  That could be belted to a pump jack, a sausage grinder or a buzz saw.  They were worth every penny of the $425 it took to buy a new one.

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