The Truth About Cars » Ford Model T http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 04 Dec 2014 19:13:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Ford Model T http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Model T Production Began 106 Years Ago This Month http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/model-t-production-began-116-years-ago-month/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/model-t-production-began-116-years-ago-month/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 15:35:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926113 Sorry for missing an important automotive anniversary, but ’tis the season for those of the Mosaic persuasion. On October 1, 1908,  at least according to some sources*, the first production Model T was assembled at the Ford Piquette Avenue factory, Henry Ford’s second plant for his third, finally successful, automobile company. There are lots of myths about […]

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Full gallery here.

Sorry for missing an important automotive anniversary, but ’tis the season for those of the Mosaic persuasion. On October 1, 1908,  at least according to some sources*, the first production Model T was assembled at the Ford Piquette Avenue factory, Henry Ford’s second plant for his third, finally successful, automobile company. There are lots of myths about Henry Ford. Some of them are actually true, but many are the stuff of legend. For example, people think that the Model T made Henry Ford a wealthy man. Henry was a very wealthy man before he started making the Model T. He was one of the leading automobile producers in the world and he was the leading automaker in Detroit. Ford Motor Company was a success almost from the outset and when Henry hit on the idea of a simple, inexpensive car that folks who weren’t affluent could afford with the Model N and then the Model S, the Model T’s immediate precursors, he was selling thousands of cars a year.

The Ford mansion in Detroit’s Boston-Edison district, and the one up the street built by Ford’s lawyer and investor, Horace Rackham, were constructed in 1907, the year before the Model T was introduced. Henry was a successful man. That success gave him the freedom to develop the ultimate simple and inexpensive car, the Model T. Henry, though, was a big idea man who loved engines and power (in all of its meanings) but he was not the most technically proficient person.

Assembly-Piquette

Oliver Berthel, who designed Ford’s first two racers, the Sweepstakes and 999 cars that predate the Ford Motor Company, and also likely designed the nearly identical first Cadillac automobile and Ford Motor Company’s first car, the 1903 Model A, had first met Ford when the latter was teaching courses on the automobile. Berthel described Ford as an average teacher with similar mechanical skills. He had made himself into the chief operating engineer of the Edison Illuminating company of Detroit, but he had no formal engineering training. Ford’s 1896 Quadricycle was highly dependent on the work of Detroit’s first motorist, Charles Brady King.

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Ford Model N. Full gallery here.

While Henry Ford was no mechanical genius, he had a small number of very good ideas and, more importantly, he was indomitable. I believe that if Ford had genius, that genius was in his ability to identify and hire genuine mechanical and business geniuses with an even rarer talent, the ability to get a megalomaniac to agree with you. Ford surrounded himself with men like Farkas, Galamb, Sorensen, Martin, Wills, and Couzens and it could be argued that they were just as important to the success of the Ford Motor Company as Henry Ford was.

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Ford Model S, the immediate precursor to the Model T. Full gallery here.

Besides being a megalomaniac, Ford quite possibly was dyslexic. When he later sued the Chicago Tribune for libel, he was embarrassed by the jury’s $0.06 judgment in his favor, but even more so, he was humiliated as publisher Robert McCormick’s lawyer showed that not only was he not familiar with many things that had been published in his name, he could barely read. He’s also recorded as favoring wooden models to blueprints. Dyslexic or mostly illiterate, you take your pick. As Farkas, Galamb and Wills developed the Model T in the Piquette plant’s secret “experimental room” at the back of the factory’s third floor, Henry would sit in his rocking chair and his workers would bring him the models for his approval. It was “Spider” Huff, Ford’s riding mechanic in his early racing days, who developed the Model T’s innovative magneto (and likely also invented the porcelain spark plug insulator while developing one of Ford’s racers) and it was C. Harold Wills who introduced Ford to vanadium steel, one of the key ingredients to the success of the T.

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The Experimental Room where Ford and his associates developed the Model T. Full gallery here.

On the Model T’s birthday, I visited its birthplace, the Piquette Avenue plant that is now a museum in progress, to see what changes have taken place since my last visit. The director, Nancy Darga, graciously gave me permission to take the accompanying photos (some are from previous visits since they were setting up for an event hosted by a non-profit – the facility is available for rental so if you’re looking for a way cool venue for a wedding, benefit, or corporate event, I recommend it). Even more graciously Ms. Darga gave me access to Henry Ford’s now reconstructed corner office, which has been furnished to replicate how it looked in a historical photograph taken for the Ford Times publication just before the Model T’s introduction. The desk in the office is a reproduction made by the grandson of Peter Martin, who was Ford’s production manager.

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Unlike just about everyone mentioned above, Peter Martin stayed with Ford Motor Company for his entire career. Henry had few lifelong business associates. Even James Couzens, without whose business acumen and management skills Ford Motor Company would likely have not succeeded in the early days eventually got fed up with being spied upon and resigned, later serving as Detroit mayor and U.S. Senator. Offhand, Charlie Sorenson, Peter Martin, Harry Bennett and Ford’s son Edsel are the only people that I can think of that spent their entire careers in Ford’s employ. Gene Farkas hired in and quit twice before staying on for more than a decade and even he eventually got tired of working for Henry.

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Henry Ford’s restored office at the Piquette Ave plant. Full gallery here.

His employees may have tired of working for him, but Henry Ford is undoubtedly one of the more fascinating personalities in automotive history and it’s hard to get tired of writing about him, his enterprise and his associates. A piece of work for sure, he changed the world. We’d be driving automobiles today whether or not Henry Ford came along, he was just one of many pioneers, but I think the automotive world and the world in general would be a different place without him.

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In the background is a reproduction of the rocking chair where Henry Ford would sit in the experimental room and approve wooden models of proposed Model T components. In the foreground is sculptor and master clay modeler Giuliano Zuccato, who carved the first clay model of the Ford Mustang, and who was shooting a documentary the day I visited the museum.

*The Piquette Ave museum has the date of the first Model T being assembled as Sept. 27, 1908.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If you think that 3D is a conspiracy to get you to buy yet another new television set, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

 

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Preservation Group Crowdsources Purchase of Ford’s Highland Park Buildings, Reprises “Five Dollars a Day” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/preservation-group-crowdsources-purchase-of-fords-highland-park-buildings-reprises-five-dollars-a-day/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/preservation-group-crowdsources-purchase-of-fords-highland-park-buildings-reprises-five-dollars-a-day/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 10:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500009 Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park plant was the location of the first moving automotive assembly line a century ago this year. Henry Ford started to build the Highland Park complex in 1910, needing more capacity than he could produce in the Piquette Avenue plant. Getting away from Detroit taxes and more effectively being able to […]

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What remains of Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park plant, where the moving assembly line was developed and implemented.

Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park plant was the location of the first moving automotive assembly line a century ago this year. Henry Ford started to build the Highland Park complex in 1910, needing more capacity than he could produce in the Piquette Avenue plant. Getting away from Detroit taxes and more effectively being able to influence politics in the small municipal enclave within the Detroit city limits were also factors in Ford’s move. Much of the large complex, designed by famed architect Albert Kahn, has long since been demolished but a Detroit economic and community development group is trying to buy the plant’s office building, which still stands, and turn it into a center for information on automotive related attractions in the Detroit area.

Starting yesterday, the Woodward Avenue Action Association is going to try to use crowdsourcing to raise the remaining $125,000 needed to purchase two former Ford Motor Co. buildings in Highland Park. If successful, later funding will be needed to turn the buildings into a tourist information center. “We’ve not been very good at telling our own story,” said Deborah Schutt, interim director of the community group said about Detroit area automotive history. “So we’ve decided, let’s pull everything together and tell our story.”

Ford Highland Park plant Administration Building

Ford Highland Park plant Administration Building

In 1914, Henry Ford instituted a $5/day wage for Ford auto workers. That wasn’t out of the kindness of his heart but rather because he was all about productivity. Henry didn’t invent the assembly line, though FoMoCo is likely to have been the first car company to use one effectively. No, Henry’s contribution to mass production was breaking assembly down into discrete, simple tasks that even untrained labor could do. The result was a mentally stultifying job. The year before, in 1913, Ford had to bring on 42,000 new hires just to keep 14,000 positions staffed. To reduce that turnover rate and improve productivity, Ford started paying more for labor.

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In tribute to that socially groundbreaking act, the Woodward Avenue Action Assoc. has started a “Five Dollars a Day” campaign so it can finalize a $550,000 purchase agreement to acquire the plant’s 40,000 sq ft administration building and an adjacent 8,000 foot garage by the agreement’s Sept. 19 deadline. They hope to raise the $125,000 that is needed to complete the deal, after securing $415,000 in grants from the Michigan Economic Development Corp and Michigan’s state Department of Transportation. The site was granted National Historic Landmark status in 1978.

Those who wish to donate can call 248-288-2004 or visit the Woodward Avenue Action Association’s crowdsourcing site for more information.

 

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And the Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-24/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-winner-is-24/#comments Mon, 24 Oct 2011 05:32:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415714 It’s been quite a year for the builders of the Model T GT: a feature article in Hot Rod, plus several races in which the T held the lead for quite a while before vaporizing the transmission. Finally, everything came together this weekend at Infineon Raceway aka Sears Point, and the world’s quickest road-race Model […]

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It’s been quite a year for the builders of the Model T GT: a feature article in Hot Rod, plus several races in which the T held the lead for quite a while before vaporizing the transmission. Finally, everything came together this weekend at Infineon Raceway aka Sears Point, and the world’s quickest road-race Model T turned more laps than every one of its 170 competitors.
The team’s route to the winner’s circle involved a reduction in power, going from a 500CFM two-barrel carburetor to a 390CFM model, then retarding the ignition timing. This slowed the car down by a few seconds per lap, but kept the fragile T5 transmission alive and reduced the number of fuel stops by increasing the car’s range on a tank of fuel.
I’ve known Dave Schaible, the hot-rodder behind the T GT, since he helped me build the Impala Hell Project’s engine more than a decade ago, and I know how he scrounged up the bits and pieces to build today’s winner (I also know he’s good enough at building engines that we did an impound-and-dyno-test routine on the T GT’s Ford 302— when it was in the Buttonwillow-winning Mustard Yellow Volvo Doing 45 In The Fast Lane— at a Thunderhill LeMons race a while back: 188 horsepower).
According to LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm, the rules will soon be a-changing, making quasi-scratchbuilt-chassis cars like this (the T GT is built on a much-modified Model A frame with Fox Thunderbird suspension) more difficult to get onto a LeMons track (rumor has it that motorcycle engines in LeMons cars may also be outlawed). The T GT has become Schaible’s daily driver, anyway, so maybe it’s just as well that its racing days will be over soon. Congratulations, Team Model T GT!

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Rust, Tatts, and Brilliant Engine Swaps: Billetproof California 2011 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/rust-tatts-and-brilliant-engine-swaps-billetproof-california-2011/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/rust-tatts-and-brilliant-engine-swaps-billetproof-california-2011/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 23:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411695 The rules for the Billetproof show are simple: Nothing newer than 1964, no trailered vehicles, no post-1960s mag wheels, no fenderless cars with independent front suspensions, and— above all— no billet anything! I flew out to California Saturday to check it out. I’ve been going to these shows for a few years now, and I’m […]

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The rules for the Billetproof show are simple: Nothing newer than 1964, no trailered vehicles, no post-1960s mag wheels, no fenderless cars with independent front suspensions, and— above all— no billet anything! I flew out to California Saturday to check it out.
I’ve been going to these shows for a few years now, and I’m noticing a couple of very positive trends. First, way more engines other than small-block Chevy or Ford Windsor engines in patina’d-out fenderless rods. Even the flathead Ford V8s were getting boring.
Like, say, a Weber-ized Pinto engine.
Or a supercharged Toyota 22R. This one would have the old dudes at a pro-billet car show clutching their chests and toppling off their ice chests. All the Time Out Kids in the world couldn’t make up for the shock of seeing a rice-burning four-banger in a classic Detroit race car.
The Maserati Rod was back, and a big hit as usual… but isn’t it time someone built a ’58 Datsun (license-built Austin A50) with an Infiniti V8?
The other trend that’s so refreshing is the large number of examples of once-shunned-by-rodders marques such as Pontiac and Dodge.
Which is cool, because Pontiacs of this era have the extremely beautiful illuminated-Indian-head hood ornaments.
Though I prefer the Plymouth sailing-ship ornaments.
And where else would you see a 1945 International delivery truck slammed this low?
Even though I longed for a Maltese-cross rear-view mirror on my fenderless banana-seat Schwinn in 1971, I think the Maltese cross thing has been way overdone by now (and we all know who’s to blame). However, this version is still acceptable.
I think I need to start a car club, just so I can design a plaque like this.
It is impossible for me to go to any car-related event in the United States and not run into someone I know from 24 Hours of LeMons racing. Here’s the Model T GT, which is not only the quickest road-race T in the world, it’s also an excellent daily driver. Really, this car gets used for everyday transportation. I ran into members of the legendary Cannonball Bandits and a few other LeMons teams as well.
You can forget about the anorexic standard of beauty outside the gates of Billetproof; once you’re in the show, Bettie Paige and Tura Satana are the models for feminine beauty.
I’m working on a gallery of patina desktop wallpapers, to go with the Junkyard Desktop Wallpaper Collection, and Billetproof provides some great material for that project.
If you’d like to see some of these images in three corroded and/or button-popping dimensions, don your 3D glasses and head over to Cars In Depth.

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Arse Sweat-a-Palooza Day One: Model T GT Leads, Usual Suspects Close Behind http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/arse-sweat-a-palooza-day-one-model-t-gt-leads-usual-suspects-close-behind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/arse-sweat-a-palooza-day-one-model-t-gt-leads-usual-suspects-close-behind/#comments Sun, 07 Aug 2011 04:06:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406063 Were a reality show being made about the Arse Sweat-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons, the old-time hot-rodder crew and Spec Miata-champion drivers on the Model T GT team, just off their triumph of a feature in Hot Rod magazine, would be the dramatic focus for sure— the 302-powered ’27 Ford ended the day’s race session […]

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Were a reality show being made about the Arse Sweat-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons, the old-time hot-rodder crew and Spec Miata-champion drivers on the Model T GT team, just off their triumph of a feature in Hot Rod magazine, would be the dramatic focus for sure— the 302-powered ’27 Ford ended the day’s race session in first position. However, there are three former LeMons winners within a single lap of the Model T GT… and the T’s flimsy Mustang T-5 transmission is stuck in fourth gear and showing every sign of impending total disintegration.

The T-5 has proven itself to be an extremely fragile transmission in LeMons racing, and this isn’t the first time the T GT guys have suffered from transmission woes. Even if the gearbox holds together all day tomorrow, the several seconds per lap that its current single-speed nature costs the Ford makes it inevitable that Ununquadium Legend of LeMons and 2010 Season Champions Eyesore Racing will catch them. At this point, the Eyesore Playboy Miata sits about a half-lap behind the ’27. Of course, the Eyesoremobile has been known to suffer from mechanical woes itself, and sometimes the drivers screw up and get black-flagged out of the running. Not often, but you just never know.

If both the Eyesores and the Model T GT falter, the Geo Player Special CBR1000-engined Geo Metro, winner of the ’08 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza at this very same track, ended the day breathing down the Eyesore Miata’s neck. 199 laps for the Miata, 199 laps for the Metro. Also at 199 laps: the Altamont ’08 LeMons winning Krider Racing Integra.

In case that cluster of perennial LeMons contenders falls behind, a whole mess of German machinery lurks about five laps back, waiting for their shot. A few E30s, a Porsche 944, and the If It’s Not Punk It’s Junk 5 Series.

After a half-dozen or so very frustrating races, the Angry Hamster Honda Z600 (a car I believe to be the best-engineered LeMons car ever built) is finally holding together long enough to rack up respectable lap numbers. 18th place overall, out of 120 or so entries, and putting down some fairly quick lap times. Tomorrow, everyone gets back onto the track and continues where they left off.

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