In the 1920s, Henry Ford created a utopia in the middle of the Amazon jungle. The plan was to produce enough rubber to feed his auto empire, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Disease, riots, mud – and caterpillars – were too much for Ford’s millions.
How to Drive a Ford Model T in Plain English (Summary)
For the visual learners out there, the following video shows you what to do. If you learn better by reading, the “how to” section is below the video.
With the car on level ground and the engine off, climb up behind the wheel. Notice the hand lever on the floor to your left, the two levers on the steering column beneath the steering wheel, and the three pedals on the floor.
Let’s start with the hand lever. All the way back it sets the rear wheel parking/emergency brakes and puts the transmission in neutral. Half-way released it maintains neutral, and fully released it engages the planetary transmission in high gear. Feel it a few times, notice that it holds the left pedal in neutral mid-position, then release it, and notice that the left pedal is all the way up.
Next, the lever to the left beneath the steering wheel is the spark adjust advance/retard from before top dead center ignition to after top dead center. To retard the spark it is moved up, to advance the spark it is moved down. The Model T is always started in the retard position, as it was designed to be started by hand cranking. Unless it is retarded the engine can and will KICK BACK and do damage to hands, wrists and arms. NEVER crank it except in the retard position. After the engine is running, the lever can be moved down to advance the ignition until the engine chuckles smoothly, and when rolling to get the best performance.
The lever to the right is the throttle lever, there is no foot pedal like a modern car. Up is idle speed, down is as fast as it will go. Maximum performance in a Model T is like with a mule, with both ears laid back.
Next, the foot pedals on the floorboard – The left foot pedal changes your forward gear ratios, up is high, down is low. The Model T has just those two forward ratios, high gear and low gear. Midway between high and low is the neutral “out of gear” position of the left pedal.
To engage first gear, let the handbrake lever off and push the pedal all the way down until it becomes HARD. Pull the handbrake up and feel how the lever holds neutral position on the gear pedal.
The center pedal is for reverse gear engagement, but either the hand lever or the left pedal must be in neutral position before engagement, or the engine will stall. All the way down HARD is reverse position.
The right pedal is the brake. It engages a band around a braking drum in the transmission, operating in the engine oil bath. Therefore, to avoid burning off the oil due to friction heat, and wearing out the band quickly, apply the brake in relatively short duration thrusts to allow the oil to wash and continue lubricating and cooling it.
Note: The Ford Model T only applies braking to the rear wheels.
Braking by right pedal is via the driveline to the rear wheels only, does not actuate the rear drum brakes, and can cause dangerous skids in slick road conditions, as the differential will allow one wheel to spin forward and the other backward. Therefore, in slick conditions, use the hand lever to apply braking to the rear drum brakes.
Get the feel of the controls, they will become familiar quickly
1. Raise the right side of the engine hood and check that the engine oil level is adequate, within the limits prescribed. This is done by opening the lower petcock at the rear of the engine. If it does not flow, close the lower petcock, open the upper petcock and add oil until oil flows from the upper petcock. Close the upper petcock, lower and latch the hood.
2. Remove the radiator cap and top off the radiator with fresh water and/or antifreeze solution in freezing weather. A 30-40% methanol (wood alcohol)/ water solution may be used, but a 50% ethylene glycol/water solution is recommended for all seasons.
Please observe that the hand crank is located in the center of the car below the radiator. To crank the engine, one must stand in the path the car will take if the engine starts while in gear. The car is NOT OUT OF GEAR UNLESS the Emergency brake/neutral lever is all the way back and the rear brakes set. This must be done FIRST, or you will get run over by your own car should the engine start, MOST EMBARRASSING!
NEXT, move the spark advance/retard lever all the way up to retard position. Move the throttle lever down approximately ? of the quadrant.
Observe that the Magneto/OFF/Battery Switch (or key) on the coil box or dash panel is in the OFF position. The Model T may be started in either Magneto or Battery position, usually in Battery position unless the battery has lost charge.
Observe the wire ring at the lower left corner of the radiator as you face the car. This is the pull wire of the hand choke. PULL IT OUT.
With the switch (or key) OFF, push the crank in and crank the engine over one or two turns, finishing by coming up against compression and just past.
Turn the Magneto/OFF/Battery switch to Battery. The coils will buzz, and sometimes the engine will start without further cranking, especially if warm. If it doesn’t, the engine must be cranked through one more cycle of intake/compression. Do this carefully with your LEFT hand, pulling up ONLY by ratcheting the crank as necessary. Do not grip the crank handle but cup it in the palm of the hand with the thumb on the same side of the handle as the fingers. As the cylinder begins to come up on compression, ratchet the crank down to the bottom. Now pull up swiftly, and the engine will start. If not, repeat the process.
NEVER start the car with your right hand. If the engine were to misfire or kick back, you would likely suffer a broken wrist and/or arm. The right hand may be used for priming the engine, as you need your left hand free to operate the choke, but when ever the ignition switch is ON, you MUST use your left hand. again, do not grip the crank handle but cup it in the palm of the hand with the thumb on the same side of the handle as the fingers.
In cold weather the choke may need to be left out until the engine warms. It may be released (or set) from the driver’s seat by pushing down the choke/carburetor adjust knob to the right side of the dash panel.
Speed up the engine with the throttle lever, advance the ignition with the advance/retard lever about half-way, then return the engine speed to an idle. It will now chuckle over smoothly at about 400 rpm.
Really useful Ford Flathead V8 specification reference page from VanPelt Sales
The Flathead V8 engines produced by Ford Motor Company included basically three versions. The most popular being the 85-125hp that was first produced in 1932, and continued until 1953 (except for Canadian and Australian production which ended in 1954). Ford also designed and produced a smaller 60hp flathead V8 engine from 1937 until 1940. Lastly, the big 337 cubic inch flathead V8 engine, which was produced mainly for truck use and for Lincoln cars from 1948 to 1951. Ford’s flathead V8 engines when introduced in 1932 were the first mass-production V8’s where the block and cylinder assembly were poured as one single casting.
Click on the links below for general descriptions, general specifications, and tune-up specifications on each series engine. Horsepower and torque curves are available on some
Buried deep into the Brazilian jungle sit the remains of what was once Henry Ford’s utopian city. A place where one of the richest and most influential men on the planet wanted not to make money, but to – quote – help develop that wonderful and fertile land. And I can tell you right now that Henry Ford definitely didn’t make any money out of his dream city. In fact, it turned out to be one of his biggest failures – but we’ll get to that later. So stick around until the end of this video to find out the story of Fordlandia, an American attempt at making an American rubber factory and an American-style community in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.
‘ve been nattering about this project for a few years now, as the plans have morphed based on my resources. Last month, I unveiled the first installment in a series of articles discussing, in depth, the recipe I’ve worked out with my friend Clayton Paddison to turn a well-preserved 1921 Ford Model T touring car into something capable of running on modern roads without hanging an orange triangle on the back.
The blueprint we’ve laid out uses 1920s and ’30s technology to expand the capabilities of the Model T’s 1900s design in much the same way a driver in that era might have done so. The previous installment dealt with the chassis and brakes. This month, I want to explain our plans for the powertrain: engine, transmission, rear axle, and driveline.
The engine on a hot rod should never be an afterthought, yet on my car it’s getting only mild attention. That’s because it’s an original, 99-year-old (June 1921) engine that still runs well.
I know that if I were to start hotting it up, it would quickly collapse under the strain. On a pre-1927 Model T engine (engines stayed in production through December 1941), the biggest weakness is the “bent-paperclip” crankshaft.Eventually, when the reservoir of fun tickets has refilled, I will build the “big” engine—starting with a 1926-’27 block and EE-series crank and capped off with a pair of Stromberg 81s on an Evans intake. Beyond that, who knows? Maybe by then I’ll have acquired the Rajo Model A head I’ve always wanted.
Alternately, I’ve also got a ’28 Chevrolet head bumping around here that I can’t bear to part with.Until then, a set of aluminum pistons and a few mild bolt-ons will suffice. The original intake manifold and Kingston L4 will be set aside and replaced with a “straight-through” Holley NH and an aftermarket high-volume intake manifold.
The straight-through NH was a short-lived version of the common Model T carburetor that flows slightly better than the norm and the high-volume intake is a necessity to take advantage of its potential.Bigger, one-piece valves and a high-lift camshaft will further the performance enhancements, permitting more mixture into the cylinders.
To make sure that charge is properly tumbled and squeezed, I’ve also sent Clayton an aluminum “Z” Head which has about 6:1 compression (stock was 4.5:1—gas wasn’t great in the ’20s—and the practical maximum for an L-head engine is around 7 or 7.5:1, but that’s awful hard on the bottom end of a stockish T engine) and the efficient combustion chambers advocated by the great Harry Ricardo.
Very rarely do I come across an already modified vehicle where I wouldn’t be tempted to change something.There are a lot of Model T speedsters out there. Just removing the body and driving a T that way could be considered the speedster treatment—it certainly strips off a lot of weight.
Not all speedsters are beautiful, but some are incredible—Bugattis built of tractor parts. Others are in between.
This car isn’t a Bugatti, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s long and low and looks fast even as it stands still.
The retention of the fenders and hood add a very civilized air to what is otherwise a pretty bare-bones affair. The kicked-out front axle (on what appears to be a 1926-’27 chassis, 21-inch wheels included; the most fully developed Model T) extends the wheelbase somewhat and really improves the looks as well.
It’s worth mentioning that while the description says the car has four-wheel drum brakes, there aren’t any front brakes, just a speedometer drive. There are aftermarket brakes visible on the rear, however.
After sticking with its well-received previous model through model year 1948, Ford completely redesigned its namesake car for 1949. Save for its drive train, this was an all-new car in every way, with a modern ladder frame now supporting a coil spring suspension in front and longitudinal semi-elliptical springs in back.
The engine was moved forward to make more room in the passenger compartment and the antiquated torque tube was replaced by a modern drive shaft. Ford’s popular 226 CID (3.7 L) L-head straight-6 and 239 CID (3.9 L) Flathead V8 remained, now rated at 90 hp (67 kW) and 100 hp (75 kW), respectively.
The 1949 models debuted at a gala at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City in June 1948, with a carousel of the new Fords complemented by a revolving demonstration of the new chassis. The new integrated steel structure was advertised as a “lifeguard body”, and even the woody wagon was steel at heart.
The convertible frame had an “X member” for structural rigidity. From a customer’s perspective, the old Custom, De Luxe, and Super De Luxe lines were replaced by new Standard and Custom trims and the cars gained a modern look with completely integrated rear fenders and just a hint of a fender in front.
The new styling approach was also evident in the 1949 Mercury Eight and the all-new Lincoln Cosmopolitan.
The Henry Ford Digitization Project Hits a Milestone
The Henry Ford has announced a milestone in the massive effort to digitize its enormous collection of artifacts. Last week, the museum staff scanned its 100,000th artifact, a photograph of the 100,000th Fordson Tractor. To celebrate, The Henry Ford has been giving guests behind-the-scenes looks at the digitization process.“If you’ve visited our website, read a blog post, shared a social media story from our channels, or simply walked through the museum, you’ve encountered the work of our digitization team.” said Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO, The Henry Ford.
“Digitization has opened our doors to guests far beyond what we could have ever imagined. People can now view the Rosa Parks bus, the Wright Cycle Shop or Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory from anywhere in the world at any time they choose.”The process is very detailed, requiring many steps such as cleaning, special handling, or the application of other extensive treatments before digitization. Artifacts are either photographed or scanned, while the curatorial team drafts a summary giving an overview of the item’s significance.
When completed, each is catalogued in the Digital Collections for viewing. With more than 26 million artifacts in the collection, expect many more milestones over the coming year
The Ford Model T bridges the gap between when cars were mostly built by hand to when mass-produced, interchangeable parts came along. Sometimes, that means that the most effective way to repair one is to go back to the blacksmith-like techniques of yesteryear instead of needlessly dragging the T into the space age. If you’re used to the more modern approach, a Model T is refreshing to work on.Every car has its weak links.
On the T, those are most famously the number one main bearing (“A Ford owner had Number One Bearing constantly in mind,” E.B. Write wrote in 1936. “This bearing, being at the front end of the motor, was the one that always burned out, because the oil didn’t reach it when the car was climbing hills.”) and the thrust washers in the rear end. The ways those thrust washers can fail was discussed in the previous installment on this subject.
Bryan Cady, of Albany, New York, hasn’t had any trouble with his Model T’s number one main bearing, but earlier this year he learned firsthand why many Model T owners prophylactically replace the original-equipment babbitt thrust washers (selected for economy and ease of installation) with hard-wearing bronze or brass thrust washers.
Automobiles had been around for decades as we entered the 20th century but they were scarce and rather pricey. That was about to change. On October 1, 1908, a new sort of vehicle hit the streets. Known variously as the Tin Lizzie, Leaping Lena or the Flivver, the Ford Model T was the people’s car, […]