When Henry Ford developed the Model T and refined (not invented) assembly line production methods, he transformed the automobile from a plaything for rich people into a tool for the masses, changing not only transportation, but the world. The breadth of the Model T lineup is on display at the Model T Ford Club of America Model T Museum in Richmond, Indiana, generally just called the Model T Museum.
The collection is hosted by the Model T Ford Club of America. It’s the largest Model T club in the world, with chapters in the United States, Canada, Europe, Oceania, and South America, bringing Model T fans together. The club was founded in 1965 and opened the museum at its current location in the historic Depot District in 2012. The 40-plus vehicles are displayed in the main building and in the annex across the street, which includes the Vintage Garage that houses a working machine shop to keep these cars running.
While there are car museums devoted to individual marques, it’s unusual to find one focused on a single model, but no other model was announced in 1999 as the “Car of the Century,” beating out the Mini, the Beetle, and others, and could rightfully be called the first global car
More than 15 million Model Ts were produced by the Ford Motor Company from the autumn of 1908 through the spring of 1927. During the early 1920s, more than half of the cars in the world were Fords. As Henry Ford said, “There’s no use trying to pass a Ford, because there’s always another one just ahead.”
The colorful display here belies the myth that all Model Ts were painted black. According to the Ford Motor Company archives, the Model T was offered only in black from 1914 through 1925. Admittedly, that’s a huge swath of production, enough to give the Model T a reputation as a car that came just in black, but in the years prior to that, and after, there were a range of colors available, making those versions interesting collector pieces.
One example is a red 1909 Touring, the 6,413th car to roll off the assembly line. During that first full year of production, red was available only until mid-year, when Brewster Green became standard for all cars.
Despite the model’s reputation for being utilitarian, they also made for sporty Runabouts that featured longer hoods and lower seats to create a racing effect. The 1911 Model T Torpedo Runabout had doors, unlike its brother car, the Runabout.
A 1921 Model T speedster with an Ames aftermarket body.
A 1921 Model T speedster shows off the versatility of the revolutionary lightweight, but strong, vanadium-steel chassis. Many owners attached aftermarket bodies to make the car suitable for other uses, in this case an aerodynamic Ames speedster body was perfect for road racing. Ames was the largest aftermarket producer of bodies to repurpose Model Ts. The Frontenac overhead-valve conversion kit was provided by the Chevrolet brothers.
A 1926 Model T Touring is among the first offered with a driver’s door, as well as larger, heavier fenders and running boards.
The 1926 Touring is one of only two models that were offered for the entire 19-year run of Model T production. For this year a driver’s door was finally offered. After 11 years of only black Model Ts, the car came in several colors, like the Windsor Maroon, seen above.
On Tracks and on Wings
From left, a 1923 Model T snowmobile and a 1923 Model TT tow truck.
The versatility of the Model T platform is on display in the annex building across the street with several models that weren’t run-of-the-mill daily drivers.
In inclement weather, rural mail carriers made their rounds in the 1923 Snowmobile. The front Snow Bird ski attachment was a kit sold by Farm Specialty and Manufacturing Company of New Holstein, Wisconsin. Their advertising claimed the conversion could take only two hours. The aftermarket body on the 1923 Ford Model T depot hack made it suitable to haul passengers and luggage to and from the train station, making it a predecessor to the station wagon.