Kansas Collection books


Travels with Henry

Henry, another Ford


    I was looking in my clutch-pile the other day for something I thought I needed.  I can't remember what I was looking for, now.  However, I did find some antique pieces that brought back old memories.  Maybe I'd better explain what a clutch-pile is:  in my case, it is several rather large boxes that contain all the miscellaneous stuff I've saved over the years, thinking it was something I would need someday.  Sure enough, about twice or three times a year, I need something like a sintwister to a woffenwappie or a tizziewizzle and I look in my clutch-pile and there is one I'd saved thirty years ago.

    In this case, these old antiques I found reminded me of Henry.  I knew Henry quite a few years and we traveled many miles together.  Actually I knew Henry's sister Lizzie before I knew Henry.  She was 10 years old when I first met her and she had acquired the full name of Tin Lizzie.  She was medium size and had a bright outlook on life.  She was kinda boxy looking but had good visionary attributes.  She had a title, too.  It read "Ford Coupe, 1923 model, Motor Number 034789.  Made in Detroit."  She had seen a hard life but was still running and all her windows were intact.  But she was old, decrepit, with squeaky joints and inclined to develop strange ailments.  I traded a friend two Jersey calves and gave him $8 to boot for her.

    But let's get back to Henry.  He was only 7 years old in 1934 and was in pretty good shape for his vintage.  Henry was a 1927 touring car, also with a title that proclaimed him as a Ford.  He had a "rag" top with only a few holes in it, balloon tires and a full set of side curtains.  I traded Lizzie for him plus $20.  That was all the spare cash I had saved from a summer of hard work, helping the neighbor harvest wheat.  I was a senior in high school and I thought Henry would be a great asset in attracting the opposite sex.  Well, he was, but he was also somewhat of a burden.  It seemed like he was always needing something in terms of repairs, or gas, or oil.

    It was those antique auto parts I found in my clutch-pile that started me remembering how many times I had repaired Henry.  I found a slightly used connecting rod for a Model T, and I remembered all the times I had to drop the oil pan and tighten up Henry's rods.  When a Model T Ford was new it had all metal shims in the connecting rod bearings.  After some miles of driving, especially with "both ears down" (that means a wide open throttle), the connecting rods became loose and needed to be taken up.  If there were any shims left in the rod bearings, you took off the bottom half of the bearing and removed one or more shims.  If there were no shims left, then you put the bottom half of the bearing in a vise and filed off enough to make a tight fit.  I saved that connecting rod, thinking just maybe, someday, my grandkids would restore a Model T Ford and would need a slightly used connecting rod.

    In addition to the rod, I found two Model T field coils.  There was a coil box under the dashboard and it held four of them, one for each cylinder.  They supplied the spark to the spark plugs.  I figured they would probably be hard to find too, if someone, maybe the grandkids, would need them to restore a Ford.  I also found a Ford wrench.  These Ford wrenches were somewhat unique.  They were a combination end wrench and socket wrench, all wrapped into one.  They fit two different sizes of bolts, for good reason.  One or the other of the wrenches would fit nearly every bolt or nut on the entire car.  As a result, I could dismantle nearly every part of the Model T with that wrench, a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.  As I turned that well-worn wrench over in my hands, I remembered the skinned knuckles and bruised fingers I got from repairing Henry.

    I wore out several Model T Fords over the years.  As they wore out I pulled them out behind the barn and they became a source of spare parts.  For several years all Ford parts were interchangeable and so the worn cars were cannibalized for parts.  You didn't need a part number, you just looked at it and then searched for one just like it.  You knew it would fit.  The summer after I graduated from high school, I was undecided what to do.  Jobs were scarce or nonexistent, so most of my classmates were in the same boat.  We would pool resources about once a week and go to one of the neighboring towns for a dance.  Somehow we thought the girls in neighboring towns were prettier than the ones in our home town.  On one occasion, we were returning rather late at night and had detoured down a country road to drop off one of the boys.  As we roared (at 45 mph) down the road, Henry "threw a rod."  I! ! t di dn't take us long to decide that Henry wouldn't make it home without some surgery.  So with the aid of a weak flashlight, we dropped the oil pan, removed the bottom half of the loose rod, and shoved the piston up far enough for the rings to hold it there.  Then we replaced the pan, poured the oil back in the crankcase and drove home on three cylinders.  It was after 4 a.m. when I crawled into bed.  Next morning Grandma saw black oil on her bed sheets and my greasy clothes, and I was required to explain to her why I was so late and where all the oil came from.

    As I was putting all the old stuff back in clutch box number 4, it occurred to me that there was a fortune tied up in those old boxes.  If I could find someone who was anxious to restore a Model T Ford, I could be in the auto parts business.

    I wish I'd saved one of those Model Ts.

The Prairie Prophet says:  "Success is like riding a bicycle; either you keep moving or you fall off."


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