I posted more pictures, taken today, of My '26 Model T on my original thread, "1926 Coupe together again after ten years". Go have a look.
Since my Model T will soon be ready for the road, after 10 years in pieces, I am somewhat apprehensive about driving it on the open road, in today's traffic, especially after reading on the forum, of several bad accidents during tours and road trips, caused by being rear ended by speeding driver's, diastracted by either texting, adjusting their radios, or talking on the cellphone, when suddenly confronted with a Model T directly in front of them going only 35 mph. Road rage is also a factor that could make driving a Model T on modern roads a dangerous and unpleasant experience.
I suppose the safest way to drive one's Model T on today's roads is to have a family member or friend follow close behind your Model T in a modern car with flashers flashing. The two drivers can stay in contact by walkie talkie or cellphone and the following driver can signal the traffic behind with brake lights and turn signals, conveyed by the Model T driver. This is especially important if one is going someplace and is unable to make it home before dark. Jim Patrick
Jim, No problem, Just kick back and sing this song while driving your T on the open road and all will be well, works for me!!
BTW your coupe looks great!!
JIM, it depends on what you call the open road. I drive mine all ofer the place on roads with a speed limit of 45 or less, like it was any other car. I don't drive my car on roads above 45. Now, if you had to get someplace where a higher speed road was involved, then yes, I'd have somebody following me.
Not sure what the traffic is like in your part of the country but in my stock Ts I try to stay on secondary roads with speed limits of 30 to 40. That way I'm not too far from the legal limit unless there is a steep hill. I also drive with an eye to my rear and if traffic starts to back up or someone is riding my tail, I look for a place to pull over or off the road so as not to irritate those in a rush. The higher the speed limit, the more I try to be aware of what is behind me. The best way to make friends while driving a T is to pull over, wave and smile as the faster cars pass you.
The slower roads are usually more scenic and I prefer to drive my stock Ts in the 25 to 40 range. On a good day when all is right with the world I may do a little more but it better be an excellent road with little or no traffic.
Even with the speedster which will comfortably go much quicker, the back roads are always the best. I think we sometimes create a "distraction" safety issue on high speed multi-lane roads. Seems to be the case around here anyway.
Find some quiet back roads if possible and take it easy. Driving a T is a fine way to put the world and life in a better place.
A few suggestions:
1. Your car LOOKS great! Be sure that it is mechanically as good as it looks, particularly the suspension, steering and brakes. Also very important is an engine that can be relied on to not konk out in the middle of an intersection (Mine does not have electrict start.)
2. If it dosen't have them, consider auxilarry brakes (Rockies, Bennetts, etc.).
3. Always plan your route ahead of time. I am very careful to never take my ol' truck anywhere I think may be dangerous due to traffic speed, cross traffic, etc. I am also very carful to not over estimate my range. To date, I have chosen to not drive it during hours of darkness.
I know. It sounds like a lot to worry about, but it's not, really. Just be carful and remember to have fun!!
I'm fortunate to live in a small town where driving a T isn't the worry it might be in heavy traffic. Also, I try to avoid rush hour traffic. Since I'm retired, I often drive during weekdays when traffic is light. Looking in the rear view mirror is good advise.
Anywhere around our town except on the freeway is fine for a T. There are back roads to most places away from here. Saturday I drove to San Diego about 30 miles one way. All back roads or surface streets. In the city all the roads had at least two lanes in my direction, so I just kept to the right. Only problem was that there are signals on almost every corner. Even if they are set for 35 MPH, it takes so long to get up to 35 in a T that the next signal is almost always red. Sometimes one can slow down in advance and catch the next green light without stopping. I try not to drive after dark. Once in a while I drive early in the morning before sunlight, but during the "rush" hour almost all the traffic is on the freeways.
When you pull off the highway be warned, sometimes the faster traffic slows down to stare at you as they pass, so if you think you can just pull over and let them pass and go back on the road, sometimes you will have to come to a complete stop. Then you will be going even slower when you start again. This is especially true when going uphill. Unfortunately, the most cars come up to your tail when you are going uphill. If the hill is not long, I usually wait until the top to pull over because of the problem getting up speed afterward.
It really depends on what traffic is like where you are. Ralph Ricks drives a T with a hot engine and modern brakes because of the heavy traffic where he lives. At least he drives it and a model T is seen. Most parts of the country aren't so bad. Usually, a model T can run 40mph or more for a ways on the highway to get to a better side road, and side roads are more fun. Unfortunately, risk is a part of life. There are safer things to do than driving a model T, like sitting on the couch watching television.
Some suggestions for night driving. Get about a half dozen reflectors like the kind that used to be put on trucks and fence posts (about three to four inch. Use some small bungee cords to attach them to the spare tire and rear axle when you go for a drive at night. It helps a lot, especially from these modern too-bright headlamps. During the day they stay in the trunk.
Something else that really helps. Get a spare tire that is a whitewall. Keep the spare cover on it most of the time so it doesn't look out of place with your blackwall tires. But if driving at night, especially on dark side roads, put the tire cover in the trunk. Headlights coming up from the rear hit that white wall and light it up. Friends and I used to do that on cars we drove a lot. We called the whitewall "the glow-in-the-dark donut".
Some people like to put a "slow-moving-vehicle" triangle on the back of their T. I have never done that, but am not opposed to it either. Note. in some states it is technically not legal on an antique car, or so I have read on this forum. But I would agree with those that say do it anyway (if you want to, I have never felt it was necessary).
Drive carefully, but drive and enjoy. Watch the rear-view mirror like a hawk. Definitely, pull over often to allow faster cars to pass, and wave. Use hand turn signals, yield to faster cars (but go when it is your turn to).
Here in the rural area of South Central Texas, traffic stays somewhat light. Most roads do have a 65 or 70 posted speed. Lots of these roads do have shoulders where one can pull over and let that fast traffic go past. I try to be as courteous as possible and I do watch the rear view mirror at all times. I DO NOT get on the Interstate highways,
I keep one or more magnetic lights stuck to the back of the car and if I get caught after dark, these flashing amber lights are very bright and do reduce the chances of being read-ended. These light are available at TSC and many hardware stores.
wonder how fast those model Ts with 40-50hp obviously using aftermarket engine components could actually go, should the wooden spokes not break
Has any one mentioned brake lights that work? I have run behind our T's with a modern car and the flashers flashing but if the T in front of me has no brake lights it could get exciting real fast. When pitch black out on the road and you are following several blck T's without much lighting equipment it is scary when someone passes and fails to realize there are cars in front of you. Nuff said.
i think i read something on a prior post of one of the major parts suppliers for model Ts having an aftermarket automatic brake light switch that enables whenever the brake is applied?
My first modern experience with the T on real roads was about a week ago when I took my wife to the Post office.
It was in town with 30 MPH speed limits.
The first leg was easy because the guy that was behind us understood and left a space of about 5 cars lengths.
The second leg was a bit nerve racking because a 20 something girl insisted on following about 5 feet behind us. (I think she was doing her hair.)
All I could do was drive at the “normal speed” and hope she didn’t do anything dumb.
Later I realized that a 5 foot interval is normal for the young female drivers in New England.
Since I carry a 12 volt battery for starting purposes, I’m planning on installing a removable light rack with flashing LEDs to get peoples attention and brake lights.
Hopefully, they will make people aware that I'm there and they give me a bit of room.
I found this site and will most likely get the LEDs from them.
If it works out I might put LEDs with in the kerosene side lights
When I travel on the open road I do two things that seems to help a lot.
1. I never let a car follow me - I always make them pass, even if that means pulling over. You might be surprised at how many cars will try to follow you mile after mile at 10 mph under the speed limit. The reason that I make them pass is that if you have one car (the Model T), it is very easy to pass. If you have two or more cars, it becomes much harder to pass both, and soon you have three cars, then four etc. until you have a huge backup.
2. I try to keep my eye on the rear view mirror and be ready to get out of the way when a car approaches from behind.
I have found that in general, the public loves old cars and are very polite and accommodating to them nation-wide.
We have those same young girls out here on the west coast. I think they go by a rule that says, "As long as I don't actually hit you, everything is fine". Hopefully, they grow out of this type of thinking as a consequence of age and not experience.
This is one of the few times when being a newbie actually qualifies me to give advice on this forum. I got my first Model T in August, so I understand and identify very closely with where you're at, right now. When my car was delivered to my home, it had been thoroughly test-driven, tuned, tweaked and adjusted for me by the previous owner; but the consequence of that thoroughness was an almost empty gas tank. My first "mission" in that car would be to get it to the nearest gas station that could be accessed by residential backroads of little traffic. I had driven a Model T only once before.
If you like, you can read the action-packed story of that terror-filled, first drive here:
From my newbie's point of view, the most important considerations when driving a Model T relate to speed. It takes much, much more than double the distance to brake a Model T to a stop from 30 mph than it does from 40 mph. I imagine your '26 Coupe has the 21-inch balloon tires, which have a bigger footprint than the older vintage clinchers, so that's good. If your car has Rocky Mountain brakes, your braking power will be much improved to the point of being lousy. Without RM brakes, braking is truly awful. Either way, stopping ability diminishes exponentially with increased speed.
In practical terms, this means stop signs are good, because the traffic behind you knows you're going to stop and understands why you're slowing down. Traffic lights are bad. This is because following drivers will not understand that you must start to slow down an eighth of a mile in advance of a green traffic light because if you don't, it'll probably turn red at a point where you won't be able to stop in time--and you do NOT want to get T-boned in a Model T. Somebody once said that driving a Model T safely involves planning ahead as if you had no brakes at all.
People often ask me how fast my Model T can go. When I tell them it has a top speed of just under 50 mph, they assume I can actually cruise at that speed. I can't. No production car handles well at (or near) its top end. It can't slow down quickly, can't change direction quickly and certainly can't accelerate. Avoiding traffic hazards at 45 mph in a Model T would be difficult, to say the very least. Even hitting a pothole at that speed could be really bad news. My Model T is happiest at 30 mph and pretty good at 35. It's willing to cruise at 42, but at that speed, I'm definitely on red alert.
Model T's don't take corners very well, mostly because of their high center of gravity and I have to slow down for turns or the car could possibly tip over--but your 1926 coupe is lower slung and should handle much more nicely than my 1915 tourer. If you're at a stop light, about accelerate into a left turn, don't upshift in the middle of the turn. If you do, you'll either be shifting too early and you'll then have to lug your way out of the turn, or you'll be taking the curve too fast.
The best roads to travel will be boulevards that have two lanes in each direction. That way, you won't feel pressured by impatient drivers behind you--they can simply change lanes and pass you by.
With a full load of fuel and two average guys aboard, your coupe weighs at least 1800 pounds. Assuming 20 horsepower, that works out to a power loading of 90 pounds per horse, which is very weak, so hills can be challenging. Just like a kid on a bicycle, you'll gather speed in advance of an incline so you'll have some zoom reserve to get over the top. Lugging your engine at low speed up a hill with a full load can be hazardous to your crankshaft. Retarding the spark will help in that regard, but the safest thing to do is downshift. You'll hate to do that because your speed will drop to a walk, but there are times when there's just no other choice, even with a line-up of impatient drivers behind you.
A daily driver needs a high-compression head, which will yield at least another five horses and when you're that low on power, every single pony is noticeable. It won't increase your practical cruising speed, but you'll have snappier acceleration and more climbing power.
You also might want to invest in a magnetic 'slow moving traffic' sign for the back of your car. That's because there's no shortage of pubescent, hat-backwards morons on the road. Every now and then, you'll encounter one who needs to have it explained, in as few words as possible, that a horseless carriage can't perform like the brand new, 426-horsepower Camaro SS his idiot father gave him for bringing home a passing grade in algebra.
Here's the encouraging part:
After I drove my Model T for the first time, I was exhausted from the effort and covered with sweat. I actually felt afraid of the car and worried that I'd never get the hang of being able to drive it comfortably. That was because I was forced to bite off more than I could chew on my first ride--the car really needed a fill-up. Instead, I should have bought an empty can, filled it at the service station and brought the gasoline home to my car. As your car is freshly restored, your tank is empty, so do that. Then, drive the car to your local high-school parking lot this weekend (when there will be no other cars in the lot) and practice starting, stopping and shifting. Practice some slow figure-8's and look where you're going--don't stare at your feet. After doing that a little while, you'll feel much more comfortable with the car. I learned that the problem was not so much the car's limitations as it was my inability to recognize where those limits were. That lack of familiarity passes very quickly and before you've burned through your first tankful of gas, you'll feel much, much more confident.
And one newbie to another: Warmest congratulations on that absolutely gorgeous car!
Oops... sorry, Jim. I forgot... you're not a newbie. My mistake.
The first day I owned my speedster, I took it down one of the main drags. 3 lane road, but the right lane is for right turns only. Most of the right lane has a solid white line, so you should not be driving in it anyway. The white line goes to the curb at the corners.
I am in the middle lane, lift up my left hand to signal a right turn into a gas station, following the solid white line. Good thing I did not turn a second sooner because here comes a young lady in the right lane who was passing me and had no intention of turning into the gas station. I was almost totaled the first day I had the car, less than a mile from home.
Otherwise, I have no problem driving 40-45 down the main drag. Just have to watch out. Like driving a motorcycle. Maybe I should always leave my headlights on.
I put brake lights on the T back when we got it to let everyone know I was stopping. The other day I got the magnetic trailer lights from Harbor Frieght and changed the bulbs to 6 volt. I put alligator clips on the end that was a 4 wire flat plug. They stick to the side of the car (bottom of light is smooth plastic, no scratches) and the alligator clips to the tail light and ground. They throw a lot of light. Now when I am out at night, I pull them out from under seat and stick on the back of the car. Clip the clips and now people can see us in the dark.
I solved the traffic problem years before getting a T by moving to a county with a population of only 30,000. There are country roads, generally laid out in one-mile squares, that will take me most places I want to go with little or no traffic. An advantage of the T on country roads is that being high off the ground and slow, it stirs up a lot less dust than modern cars.
I take our 27 Hack out every chance I get - to the local coffee shop, gas station, etc. Most of it is pretty close to home, but I am always in "defensive" mode when driving amongst the modern cars. The biggest problem I usually encounter is people watching the T and not the road. I always use proper hand signals and will pull over and let the anxious drivers by......for the most part, people are courteous and respectful - the best advice that I can give is keep your eyes open for the drivers that don't see you....
I would also suggest some sort of flashing lights from the rear and maybe a slow moving vehicle sign as well.
I know from experience driving equipment on major highways going only 20 mph that most people will slow down, but every now and then you get some crazy that just can't wait another 5 seconds for me to get to a spot where I can give him room to get by.
What's the saying, it's the other people you have to worry about. Be mindful of where you are and what is around you. I use to glance back every so often to see if there was anyone there, and if there was and they didn't have room to pass I would pull over to let them through.
The best our 14 ever made was 53 mph and that was before i joined the two pice crankshaft club! I doubt if any of our T's will ever see 40 again! Once was enough-Bud.
Well written good advice for any new T driver.
Thank you for taking the time, from one one who was a new T driver over 40 years ago.
Always, drive carefully, W2
"wonder how fast those model Ts with 40-50hp obviously using aftermarket engine components could actually go, should the wooden spokes not break"
Justin, my 27 Tudor with a custom built engine (and wire wheels) will do an easy 55+ mph but the rest of the car won't and it's downright insane to try to drive a "stock" Model T that fast. It's not about how fast you can go. It's all about how fast you can stop and turn.
I live in Southwest Florida with a bunch of "old farts" like me. You'd be surprised how many times I have to pass some ol gal doing 10 mph in a 35 zone because I'm stuck right between low and high gear.
Jim, I am sure your traffic cannot be any worse there than it is here in the Twin Cities. You sound like an old hat with a T, just out of practice. My recommendation is to start out slow; just going around the block and then just add distance and difficulties. I do like to avoid major roads. However, I have driven on each of the major highways in my area. Around here to get to the other side of the river you have to take a major road, or to get to the other side of town.
I try to be very conscious of my surroundings. Just take it slow and easy.
I find driving in the USA a lot less of a problem than driving over here in Australia. Even in LA it was more pleasant especially compared to Sydney's traffic. I rarely went on the freeways as the secondary roads are so good. I fitted turn signals and stop lights as the body is so wide you sit too far inside for a hand signal to be seen.
I was advised and used a slow speed triangle on our trip over to Richmond IN and as we had lots of time we especially took secondary roads and only took the highway when we had to (such as across the desert on HWY 40 in California) stayed in the right lane and traffic passed us without any agro.
Only time I felt uncomfortable was on 60 in Missouri after Springfield when the road had been reduced to one lane as they were putting a new top on it, the right lane was a good 10 inches higher making it impossible to get over onto it even if the witches hats were not there. It was a good 20 plus miles before we could do anything to let those behind pass yet there was not one complaint everyone just waved as they overtook us when the road reverted back to 2 lanes.
As we didn't know what the roads were like we had to take them as they came. I was amazed that the passes up into the Rockies in Colorado had no safety barriers and often there was a vertical drop of thousands of feet just off the side of the tar. Only good thing was as the Kamper is RHD the wife was away from the edge and didn't panic!
When we come back next year we will set off again and have no hesitation in doing so. Sure you may be wiped out by someone but how do you avoid such a thing. You can't! If you think that may happen you might as well leave the car in the garage and take up another interest.
I find one of the great things about driving the Model T is the challenge of actually doing so. Its an adventure where you meet lots of new people see new sights and have fun doing so. I can't wait till next summer.
Lots of good advice above it just requires you to be a alert as you can and think about what you are doing as you drive. American drivers are on the most part very forgiving to those in old cars.
dennis, it seems like the aftermarket is there and available to "stop and turn" just fine.. even been finding four wheel braking systems with re-inforced wishbones on the front axles, but you did mention an otherwise stop model T.. and in that reguards id say no, the brakes are hardly safe enough for a stock Ts speed limit
I felt like I was driving naked until I put on bright, working turn signals and brake lights and a rear view mirror. I don't think the average T is going to last long if it is driven at max speed on a freeway for long. I have done short hops to get to the next town for a tour but prefer the slower roads. Country backroads are super fun in a T. Traffic is not fun in a T.
should someone have enough power to cruise at highway speeds, had turn signals and tail lights installed and a four wheel brake system, would it not be any safer than for example, a volkswagen?
what volkswagen might you be referring to?
I'm going to catch a beating for this but in my opinion Justin you couldn't modify a T enough and still have a T to make it "safe" on the road compared to a modern car. It just wasn't designed for today's speeds and lack of consideration of other drivers. There in lies the real problem: it isn't us...it's them.
Justin, there are a lot of little "details" that can consume pages. Up above, you were talking "how fast", I tried to answer that question. I also said "stock" Model T.
The Roadsters and Touring Cars turn better than the (top heavy) Sedans. I'm not going to get into how well a "modified" Model T can turn or stop because the "modifications" are endless.
There are guys here with Speedsters that can put an Austin Healy to shame.
It's all subjective. It's like this. You can't make a vehicle built like a Ford Explorer go around corners like a Mustang. One of the guys above made a good suggestion. Get together with a Model T club. Once you understand that you're dealing with a vehicle that's only one generation away from a horse drawn farm wagon, things will make better sense.
My car with it's "high performance" engine, is a little like a farm wagon being pulled by a race horse. If you're willing to trot along, the race horse will pull the wagon quite effortlessly but if you take the whip to that horse, the ride in that ol wagon is going to get kind of squirrely.
Now, if you unhook the wagon and replace it with a Chariot, than it's a whole different game.
"should someone have enough power to cruise at highway speeds, had turn signals and tail lights installed and a four wheel brake system, would it not be any safer than for example, a volkswagen?"
Man, we're just not getting across to you here. If you want something old that will "function" in modern traffic with 4 wheel brakes, Buy a Model A and put turn signals on it.
If you're going to insist on trying to do this with a Model T, mount it on a Model A or B frame and put 40 Ford "juice" brakes on it. What we're trying to explain here is that once you get done with all the "modifications" you don't have the "feel" of a "Model T" anymore. You have something that looks like a Model T, more commonly referred to as a "Hot Rod".
The best advice I've seen so far, is "watch the rear view mirror".
We were crossing a 3 mile long bridge a couple months ago...divided road, 3 lanes each direction, full size pull off for breakdowns...
Spent most of the trip with one eye on rear view mirror until right at the end of the bridge, where we were hit by the only other car on the road. Must have been doing 65 and by God's grace they managed to only knock off the left rear hubcap and dent the demountable, as well as crack a couple of spokes.
Impact was quite a jolt...mostly upward. Ladie's car had completely destroyed right front rim, fender, headlight. You could see where our axle rode up her fender, across the wheel well and over the top of her passenger door handle.
Not a scratch on our paint or a bend in the metal. Miracles do indeed happen.
Watch out for the nut behind you. Period.
Yes, the single greatest improvement I have made to my car, is the mirror up on the hinge pin. Its nice to see who is behind you, and how they behave. I also think the mirror looks cool.
Scott, it sounds like you were very lucky.
I know of two accidents that involve people I know and slow moving vehicles. Both time they were run in to from behind. One was thrown out of his seat and slid a solid 100ft on the asphalt. The other was not so lucky. Know your surroundings and be prepared to get the **** out of the way.
My dad used to say driving a Model T was like herding a loose congregation of parts down the road in the same general direction.
I think what has Justin confused is that the model T was designed to be flexible to deal with the driving conditions of the day. A flexible chassis could navigate the ruts and bumps of the 1900 era roads without bending or breaking parts. Large diameter wheels and high center of gravity meant the car could pass over obstructions easily at low speeds! The sacrifice was stability at higher speeds.
Modern cars (and even VW's)are designed with chassis stiffness and light weight suspension components in mind. It creates the foundation for good braking, good cornering and minimal unsprung weight.
To get a T to this point would require major chassis changes.
I drive my T like it is a horse and buggy and let the gum snappers roar past to their destinies.
My favorite bumper sticker type sign for the back of a Model T Ford is one I saw some time ago. I suppose it could be considered a bit sarcastic but I still like it:
"I have two speeds, and you won't like the other one either".
The problem with that one is that for the most part, only people that are somewhat familiar with Model T Fords would understand it!