I am having to rebuilt the engine/transmission on my 1912 touring and it is also an opportunity to make things as right as possible. So the engine painting question is a big one on the list. After spending hours researching and reading earlier posts, I don't feel I am any closer to the answer.
What evidence can people provide to support the idea of the early engines being unpainted or painted (with the Gilsonite coating)?
There are some things that really bother me about the idea that the early engines were left unpainted, when looking at it from a manufacturing and sales perspective. If the early engines were unpainted, why bother painting/plating the trans access cover or the valve covers (11&12) silver? I can see why the color silver would be used if the covers weren't painted until they were installed (silver would hide a lot of sins from a sloppy brush job) but why paint them at all if the block is not? The brass era T's had a lot more embellishments done to them to make them cosmetically appealing, why leave the engine a blotchy combination of flash rust, oil spots and oily hand prints from handling the parts during manufacturing and assembly? Or was it that the residual coolant on the castings, used during machining, was enough to keep them looking like fairly clean cast iron until they were delivered? The Model T was a very utilitarian vehicle and Henry was always trying to cut costs, so why start out unpainted and later add the cost/time of painting the engine, in around 1913, at a point when he was so focused on cutting down the Model T's production time and cost?
Whatever they did, they did it for a reason. Whether is was cost related, related to how the vehicles were sold at the time, etc, etc, they had a reason for doing it that way.
Questions, questions? It makes this hobby both fun and frustrating at times.
Here is one of the previous threads: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/118802/176637.html?1292981746
One piece of evidence is the 1915 Ford Methods and Ford Shops book. It describes production of 1914 Fords; step 84 in engine assembly process states: "Paint motor-remove from line"
Much was done by Ford to make the early Fords pretty - colors, brass, paint striping etc. It wouldn't make sense to leave the engine ugly & unpainted on the pretty early cars and then add engine painting when cost cutting began for real on the 1914 Fords.
Paint was likely a thin black gilsonite slush without much shine that didn't last many months. Nowadays there are better products that will keep that new Ford look for years
I think you may find that there is no actual answer but mere speculation to whether it was bare or preservative type protective coating..
Other than the engine pan and visible bolts, nuts ect, it appears no paint or very light colored paint...l have no idea in simple terms, but a lot of us would love to know the real answer.
Evidence is pointing to the fact the engines were painted but only speculation exists that they were not. As noted by Rodger and in the thread he linked to the Ford Methods and Fords Shops book states that in 1915 "paint motor- remove from line". If they were doing it then they would have been doing it before especially before they decided on one color only. Different colors and fine lining but no paint on the engine - highly unlikely.
I'm sure by this period that they were smart enough to realise that you needed a thin coating on hot parts to help the heat to escape. Being such it would not last long especially not years later.
For some reason some say the Fords and even other cars had flat finishes not the "Hot Rod Glossy" finish of today They did not, the paints even though they were crude compared to todays started off as highly glossy surfaces.
Unfortunately most did not last long out in the weather, even today you will find fairly new cars with terrible finishes which have lost their gloss or even peeling off.
Fords two coats of color plus a clear varnish gave a great mirror finish. Find any 80 plus year car in original condition and its unlikely there will be any gloss, but people will decide it must have had such a finish when new.
On the HCCA forum there are all sorts of theories even surprise that (COB)Clear over Base) paints existed in the early 1900's, but they did ( they were all done that way) and lots of effort was put into producing a piano like surface even on our Fords.
I would love to see any actual evidence ( not dad said so ) that no paint was used on engines.
Tod, Where did you hear the Trans and valve covers were silver?
I doubt that we'll ever know for sure, but the arguments in favor of paint make the most sense.
Your keyword 'evidence' is why there is no real reason to ever know for sure. Yes Trent and Bruce compared notes over the years, yes they debated some things, but 'evidence' or partial 'evidence' as meaning record is blind before the end of 13. There simply are not records that go back further that would help the cause. Even the photographs of anything earlier can be rationalized to either side.
Could they have been in fact bare? Perhaps, perhaps they simply gave them a coat drizzle of mineral oil and that got them through the sale and startup. Perhaps they had a clear coat? That too is open as there was clear technology then, but it really wasn't any good. It was the pigments and binders that gave 'paint' its flexibility once dried.
Left dry and unprepared, the block and head would have been carrot-top orange by the time it gets anywhere before turning blackish/brownish in use. But also, a little kero and a scrub brush makes that look like a mellow brown finish...for a week or so after it arrived at the dealer.
A slush coat of red beet juice would also keep iron looking like iron until it saw heat...but Ford would have jumped on that I believe as some sort of revolution.
Again, no one knows what...but based on what was done later and documented, and being logical as Roger is attempting to say, we know that once documented what covered the engine it was in fact just a wash and the wash technology had already existed for years as a technology. Maybe they used it from day one, maybe not...and the beat goes on!
As pointed out, for its' bitumen based products Ford had an affinity for "Gilsonite". Gilsonite is just a dried natural tar pit type substance that is now solid. Bitumen as pure as it gets in natural form without trash and organic contaminants. It turns liquid above 300 degrees and the viscosity doesn't change much up until 400 degrees so it also has great open time!
Were I to venture a guess and call it a professional guess and not a 'my dad said so' Gilsonite can be cut to behave like a natural black lacquer and stay shiny if thin enough, but durability would be in the toilet.
Binders can be added to a cut to increase dried flexibility,but it is also the binders that would tend to dull out the finish once dried, and binders cost money. Gilsonite must have been dirt cheap as Ford brought it all in from halfway across the nation.
My thumbs up reco.....50% Gilsonite, 50% mineral spirits was probably the cheapest balance to at least keep it looking new(ish) and not rusty. At this mix, the wet would look glass black and the dried would bring out the browntone a bit of the bitumen. You can't mix mineral spirits into bitumen, it has to be the other way around. Let the wife go shopping, borrow her oven, set it on 350 and melt normal today black pitch chunk and use an equal amount of mineral spirits to pour it into. Foam brush it on and it's going to last only to a few heats...but will be about the closest to what was on there in the first place, if there was something in the first place. Adding carbon black about 10-15% of the mix would probably keep the browntone dried reflection at bay for as long as the finish lasts.
Yeah, heresy because there is absolutely no documentation to prove or disprove whether they were painted or not...but if they were coated as a 'logical' step then they needed something more than a lacquer as that wouldn't even last past factory run in...and the cheapest Gilsonite mix that would handle the basics comes in at 50/50.
History lesson over...today on all my blocks and heads I use Rustoleum Gloss and Rustoleum Flat Black mixed equal and then cut to 50%. Not saying it's even close, but something that probably gives the same effect as the Gilsonite wash. They're my cars, this cut has some durability, and that's how I get away with it...
There are factory photos that show black painted engines in 1913. There are also factory records of processes to paint the engine in 1913. There is little doubt that they were painted.
If you want to make your 1913 engine authentic you should apply a really sloppy, thin coat of the cheapest black paint you can buy. Only apply enough paint to keep it from rusting until the car is sold to the first buyer.
Highland Park plant, 1913. Photo property of the Benson Ford archive.
Note - I realize you asked about 1912. I don't have similar pictures for 1912, but doubt there would have been anything different.
The information that the valve covers and inspection door are painted silver is in the next to last version of the MTFCI guidelines.
The latest updated version of the guidelines no longer makes any reference to valve covers and has the inspection door to be left natural or zinc plated.
So someone found something that conflicted with the idea that they were both painted silver. I wonder from what source did the guideline authors glean this new information .
Furthermore I must have two or three dozen early valve covers , the thicker ones, and they are all black.
Oddly enough and even more confusing, are these assembly line photos which clearly show the valve covers either silver or natural and the inspection door as black…
Yes, I think the guidelines book, when making changes, should cite the source of those changes.
Clearly conflicts between guideline books, Bruce's book and actual assembly line photos...
I'm amazed that among the thousands and thousands of surviving Flivvers, especially including the original-condition barn-finds, we can't find a handful with engines that unequivocally tell the tale. If we could only find, say, five unpainted engines!
Failing that, I'm with Royce: There's no shortage of factory photos and movie footage of the assembly line. All of us can conjure up the mental image of the video which features Model T engines lined up like Rockettes as they go down the line and make that sharp turn on the track and continue on. And all of those engines seem to be painted a dark color which looks like it matches the body paint in the same video—which I assume to be black.
I agree, the guideline books need to explain why they make definitive statements on what has been previously vague or make changes in what has been "accepted" in the past. One gets the impression that the decisions are perhaps done like the parable of the medieval monks discussing the number of teeth a horse should have. A good example is the transmission inspection cover mentioned above. Are we to believe the "Guidelines" or our lying eyes?
Sometimes even the "documentation" appears to be in conflict or error. For example, the oft cited removal of the screwdriver from the supplied tools because of the addition of the screwdriver on the handle of the pliers in 1921. It is my impression that this is documented in the Ford Archives. HOWEVER, the photos in the early parts books clearly show the pliers with a screwdriver handle, AND no one on this forum has been able to show a pair of non-screwdriver handled pliers that is not a fake.
Another example of "where did this come from?' is the recent pronouncement that the jacks (without integral handle) supplied with the brass cars were painted black. I have seen many of this style jack with traces of silver paint in protected areas. On what basis was the definitive statement that they were black made? There is good observational evidence that they were silver.
Definitive research requires primary source attribution. For me, the photo of the black transmission cover is primary source evidence that they were black!
Thank you to all that have already taken time to respond to this post!! Keep the insight, pieces of information and photos coming.
I have been on the fence as to which way to go for a while. Cast or Black? But I have always intended to use modern products, that are more durable, to try to cosmetically mimic how it looked when it left the factory and preserve it that way.
As to your question regarding the covers, Greg pretty much summed it up in his post. Also, Gail Rodda's research of the trans access covers, came up with multiple originals with silver paint on them. (See Volume 2, pages 18 & 19.) It appears that this cover was then painted black around 1913/1914 when it became just a flat piece of steel. I am less convinced that the valve covers were ever silver.
I wouldn't be to hard on the people that have taken on the task of trying to keep the Judging Guidelines as accurate as possible. It would be a very difficult task considering the lack of documentation on certain issues (like this one) and the "use up what we have in stock" philosophy that Ford used. (like the valve cover wing nuts changed to just nuts on 11/11/11 put still found on original early 13's)
It could also be true that some of the assembly line photos may be misleading. Old black and white photos,shadows, etc.
Here, for example , is my "barn find" 1912 engine. If you look at the cylinder head it appears gray or unpainted. If look at the lower part of the block you see that it looks black. But its not black, its gray or unpainted like the head. Its just the shadow or lighting that makes it look black.
Good point. I always wondered about many of those hazy old photos.
While we are on the subject of paint or no paint or what color, the guideline book says that the dash should be a dark cherry stain. Is that documented anywhere?
I have many early dashes and in the areas that were covered by data plates, steering column flanges or speedometers,etc, this is the color I always see. A much brighter,lighter red.
I can understand why you might want a deeper darker, richer cherry look but isn't this closer to the original color than a dark cherry stain?
I would suggest a semi-gloss or matt finish like George suggests. That being said, mine is currently painted with Cast Blast.
On my firewall I matched the stain to the uncovered parts on the original dash which, by the way, was NOT covered with veneer (nor is my new dash).
: ^ )
On my early 13, produced Nov 1912, the engine still has a lot of the original paint on it, and it is black. On the firewall color, I cleaned a small spot and it is definitely a dark cherry red. It's the same color behind the coil box.
The fire wall from my 14, is also the same color. I have a piece of the original veneer from behind the coil box, and it shows the dark cherry color.
It may have been a couple different suppliers, and they may have used different stains.
This is way out of the time line being discussed but my '23 had 4 coats of paint on it. 2 shades of green, 1 of grey, (don't ask I have no idea) and the final black almost see-through paint color most guys mention. "Wash" is really the best description. It was painted but it must have been a hell of a thin paint.
Dans and Gregs original dash color look the same to me. Both on the light side. I cant see where anyone thinks that's a dark cherry stain.
The old photo comparison is the big jump ball and where I mentioned that Trent and Bruce 'debated'endlessly before agreeing to agree both sides were right!
As explained to me by Bruce...for every photo that Trent came up with showing a shiny reflection at some 'early' year point and early stage of manufacture in a B/W photo in Trent own research...Bruce could come up with a photo in the same period, possibly even the same photo-shoot session, where later in process there was no reflection from the block and head at all in the B/W photo.
So they considered it a 'draw' and decided to base research comment on what could be found in real records which unfortunately only go back as far as '13.
I'm talking through my butt on what follows as pure speculation...but my belief is that they were in fact both 'right' and never realized it! That 50/50 cut of bitumen/mineral spirits would have looked like black lacquer while wet...and would have been dull as dirt when dried fully! Only speculation...we may never know.
Just look at crack sealer the highway department uses, same effect, somewhat the same chemistry...first day they pour it cold...you avoid it like the plague because if it looks wet, it must be wet...once it dulls up, you don't even think twice about driving over it because it appears dry!
Maybe my picture doesn't show it very well, but the color on my firewall is definitely a dark cherry stain. Greg's is more of an orangeish color. I have also seen his color before. Again, my guess is possibly a couple different suppliers, and different stains.
Yes, but the photos you show are photos of the dash where the dash was exposed to heat, smoke and grime. The areas shown by Greg have been covered for a hundred years and not exposed to the elements.
I have seen this same thing on 100 year old watercolor paintings. When you life off the mat you see the original brighter colors because the mat was protecting the border and not exposed to sunlight.
Same think happened with Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel when the cleaned it up several years ago and took off the layering of old varnish that was put on through the centuries by restorers.All the original brilliance returned and the true colors were revealed..
So I don't know. Yes a deeper richer cherry sounds and looks good, but is it really correct?
I thought I recall Trent stating that the dash was painted "barn red". If that's true I would think that meant a lighter red...see below
Roy, My trade was auto body repair. I've had my own collision service and taught auto-body at a trade school. I'm well aware of what environmental conditions can have on paint and other materials. On my 13, it had a 15 coil box on it when I bought it. I put the original back on so I have had the coil box off. You can see the nut and washer from my picture that it has been removed and re-installed. You can see specs of the original color around them. The stain behind the coil box was obviously protected, and it was the cherry reddish stain. The same is true on my original 14 with the coil box and ID plate removed. I'm not trying to dispute Greg's color, I'm just pointing out two other originals that are the cherry color.
When I bought my 1910 in 1946 the engine was painted Ford green. It had 10 thousand over size pistons (iron) so I assumed it had some rebuilding at one time. It also had the original head, pan and tran cover. At the time I assumed early Ts had green engines. My next T was a 1915. That engine appeared to be black.
Darel, in 1910 all T's were supposed to be painted Brewster green, including chassis and running gear - so perhaps your engine actually was painted green when first assembled?
Does anyone have any examples of early valve covers that still have the remains of a original silver coating or paint on them?
A couple interesting earlier posts on engine painting / valve covers for the 1912
Always happy to add to the confusion:
early valve cover
If the valve covers were indeed silver, and I don't think they were, it would seem to me they would kinda match the hogshead, which they don't!
I like the photo that Greg posted of the '13 firewall. It is clearly an early '13 judging from the size of the former patent plate.
THat firewall is from a late 1912 B engine Torpedo..
Larry - Here's an image of the transmission cover door on the same car. It still has traces of some sort of silver coating.
Knowing the history of the car, it seems somewhat unlikely to me that either of the two previous owners would refinish either this piece or the valve covers.
Can you tell whether the silver on your transmission cover is plating or paint ? Kinda looks like zinc or nickel in the picture.
Maybe these folks are saying "Wow, look at those pretty silver valve spring chamber covers!"
But what explains this assembly line photo that clearly shows a black door?
Shouldn't this photo be the smoking gun as far as the door covers are concerned?
You are right of course. Ford didn't do anything that cost extra unless there was a very good reason to do so. I don't often disagree with Phil, but it seems to me that someone painted those parts silver on his mostly original late 1911 touring. I don't know why a lot of people do a lot of things, so I am not going to speculate as to "why".
If i recall, didnt they leave the engine unpainted in the first on the centennial car ? Pretty certain they did.
Would that mean that Ford, with all its research resources, feel that the engines were originally unpainted?
just a thought.....
Could this be another "smoking gun" for engine paint or not paint?
Looks to be pre model T but still might be the answer we have been looking for?
They look unpainted to me. What do you think?
Looks un painted to me and a pretty clear photo..
Maybe an experiment needs to be carried out by our resident vintage photography members. Take a bare block and take some era-correct photos at a distance with no coating, and then some with the 50% Gilsonite, 50% mineral spirits brushed on. Take different pictures at intervals simulating the assembly line duration, as the coating evaporates If nothing, the pictures will be fun to look at.
I think this last photo pretty much says it. The engines look unpainted. The cars seem too assembled to be painted black after this point.
I agree , this looks like the smoking gun....
It's outstanding evidence if you are restoring a 1907 Model N. It's not relative for a 1912 Model T restoration.
Bear in mind too that Ford was buying nearly every part of the Model N, and making nearly nothing in house. By 1912 Ford was making more of the car in house. One similarity with the Model N, though, was the fact that Dodge Brothers were still supplying all the engines in 1912. With the exception of the "B" serialized engines of course.
How about this as a possible smoking gun..top right hand photo..
1914 assembly line. The block clearly looks unpainted or natural as do the valve covers....
You know, in 1914 some engines were still being supplied by Dodge Brothers, while others were being made in house. Perhaps the right answer for 1913 - 14 is that some were painted, and some not? Or maybe just the cylinder head and upper block got brushed. Take a look - the top of the engine appears to be black, and not just the head.
Those valve covers look to be the same color as the block. The head and the top of the block seem to be dark, while I am sure they too are the same color. All this proves you cannot believe the color from old black & white pictures!
My opinion is the picture that Royce provided is actually a "doctored" lithograph from a book or publication.
Note how the car and workers stand out while everything in the background is muted. The chassis has been darkened and highlighted with outlines (such as outlining the front engine mount bolts) and white (such as the top corner of the frame rail) . A lot of black outlining and darkening has been done to the workers. Notice all the gray that has been added under the pan - you can't see the floor underneath.
Hand touchup and photo manipulation was common practice in the printing and publishing business. The same thing happens today but it is done digitally.
If you wanted to use that scene as a reference, you should locate the original raw negative or photograph that was used to produce the lithograph.
Agreed Erik - big difference between an actual photo and an "artist's rendition".
Why would they manipulate the photo?
here is another 1914 photo that shows the block and head unpainted
Greg Sarky did post the original photo that was used for the lithograph that Royce posted. Here they are:
While your question may be rhetorical, to quote an earlier post by Royce "I don't know why a lot of people do a lot of things, so I am not going to speculate as to "why"
I agree, but the photo in question seems to have been highlighted to focus on the workers and just the car that they are working on. Even the top of the motor is not the right shape, the added highlight makes the engine look wedge shaped....
Have fun and keep cranking.
Oops. I stand corrected. The original photo angle makes the motor look wedge shaped too. The Highlighter did a better job than I thought....
So the photos show that until at least 1914, that the transmission inspection door is black, the and the engine block and valve covers appear unpainted.
Okay, so these photos seem to indicate that the judging guidelines are correct when indicating engines unpainted and valve covers natural or zinc plated.
But wrong with regards to the transmission inspection door cover which is obviously black as opposed to natural or zinc plated.
I wouldn't commit to a black transmission cover based on that one photo alone. At that angle, a light colored flat surface can easily appear dark, acting as a crude mirror. If there are other photos, from other angles, they might help nail that particular feature down.
I've been in this hobby for a long time, and I don't think this discussion will ever end, at least it never has!
The pic showing the workers on the assembly line looks to me like a photo lit by flash. The light falls off as the distance increases making the background darker. No manipulation needed in the darkroom. The tires being very light colored are hot even in the distance. In 1914 they may have still been using the old flash powder. I hope there was no gasolene nearby . . .
Seems to be a stretch to say that.
You mean to say that somehow that appears black because of angles or shadows? So its shadowed out in the perfect shape of the transmission door?
For the most part I think we have to believe what we are seeing in the photos, if they appear to be this distinct.
It is probably worth noting that the old orthochromatic film used in this era rendered the shades of gray in a different way than the panchromatic film we are used to in the post war era. Yellows, for example, were rendered in a dark shade more like those we are used to seeing in a red.
I'm not sure how much difference this would make to this discussion about silver/black/raw steel but it is something to keep in mind.
There are folks well versed in guessing colors from old orthochromatic images and many of them are in the modeling world. The same discussions on color that we have are also common with model builders.
I wonder at what point engines, if they were painted, were painted. Would the blocks and heads be painted, if painted, before any assembly?
This photo is from motor assembly, 1913. They don't look painted at this point...