I had a look last night at a very original 1912 Torpedo. It had some 1950's repaint and upholstery done but otherwise a very low mileage car that had been retired in 1926, as the story goes. The speedometer reads 3660 miles. That could very well be true! I've never seen a tighter steering column and front end. Everything looks correct for 1912.
The thing is, it has a nickel plated radiator, window frame and firewall edge molding, as well as some other items. The nickel is definitely very old and looks very original. Anybody heard of such a thing? Obviously, it could have been done after it left the factory, and most likely was. Maybe the owner also owned a plating shop.
Sorry, I can't post photos of it. I don't have the current owner's permission.
Nickel plated Ts from the 1911-15 era turn up ever so often. I have a 1912 radiator that was nickel plated when I found it in the 1950s. Sidney Strong, who owned a Ford dealership started by his father, told me that nickel plated Ts were "common" at that time. I do not know, who or where such plating was done.
I have a original pair of E&J headlights on my '13 with the remains of original nickle plating over the brass areas (with of course black bodies).
I think the head and side lamps will give you some hints on the originality. To do it properly the lamps have to be plated somewhat apart. The nickle generally will not "take" in the riveted joint cracks very well. So to do it properly they would have the final assembly done after plating. Probably the rivets will not be plated (likely "german silver"(nickle silver)). Therefore the plating should extend perfectly under the edges of the chimney's etc and the rivets should be a slightly different colour.
I have nickle plated a steering box for a '13 and disassembled it for plating and then soldered and riveted it back together. Solder sticks very nicely to nickle plating (and you can also nicely nickle plate over solder).
It was probably done by the dealer
Brass was starting to get old by 1912, many dealers offered to plate the brass parts of your car. Cost some money, so not many were sold like that, but a number of them has survived:
Of course, Ford didn't produce them like that, but it may well have been sold new like that? Much happens between the factory and the end customer.
I have nickle plated a Livingston V radiator. The radiator would either have to be partially disassembled (remove the parts to be plated), or start with a new "pile of parts"(which I did) and get it plated at the right stage of assembly.
On "expensive" cars of 1912 I have seen nickle plating offered for about $10-15.00 more when new.
Nickel plated cars are not unusual for Australia. There is a very nice 1916 Canadian bodied tourer on the East Coast that has survived.
Duncan & Fraser here offered nickel as a standard upgrade on Canadian Fords. This 1913 C1651 when found was painted "Duck Egg" green with nickel plate as per the receipt that came with the car from Duncan & Fraser. The £6 extra cost for the nickel included the radiator, light tops & rims, horn, hub caps, basically anything brass on the car.
Here is the original radiator...
Whilst I have seen much evidence of the nickel plate here, I have seen no proof they left the factory this way but rather the Colonials in various states offering an upgrade.
I forgot to mention that the above post is for brass radiator cars from Canada. Of course the nickel comes on the streamlined version the same as in US.
My dad had an unrestored 1913 nickel-plated touring from the original family in the early 1950s. The back seat had been removed and it had been turned into a pickup. The car originally came from St. Peter, MN where he was attending college. He pulled it out of a grove but it was in good enough condition that he got it running and later he drove it 70 miles home to Minneapolis. The car did not have headlights or sidelamps when he bought it but he said that all the remaining brass on the car was plated: the radiator, windshield channel, steering gear cover, steering wheel nut, etc. He has a couple snapshots of it in his photo album.
He didn't keep the car very long but he kept the nickel plated steering wheel nut when he sold it. He still has the nut and for many years had it on his 1917 touring.
There is evidence that there were nickel plated Fords in 1912, 1913 and possibly 1914.
If I recall correctly, years ago there was an article in Vintage Ford about a nickel plated 1912. Also, I have seen unrestored 1913-14 kerosene lamps and acetylene headlamps with nickel plating over the brass.
Within the past few years, there was an article about an unrestored 1913 or 1914 touring in either Vintage Ford or the Model T Times. Although the article did not mention it, the photos showed that the brass on the car was nickel plated.
My dad asked Sidney Strong about nickel plated Model Ts. Sidney was born in 1897 - his father owned the Ford dealership in Atwater, MN and Sidney became involved in the business as a teenager and eventually took over and owned the dealership. Sidney was also involved in the antique car hobby early on and was instrumental in the founding of the Minnesota Region of the AACA. Sidney did tell my father that there were some nickel plated Model Ts made available to dealers but I don't think he recalled exactly why it was done.
Where the plating was done and whether it was factory authorized is a mystery. My opinion is that the plating was done prior to the assembly of the components (ex. the radiator, lamp parts, windshield channel, etc.) and the cars were delivered to the dealers already plated. For example, it makes more sense to me that the radiator panels and tank were plated prior to the assembly of the radiator rather than taking apart an existing radiator, plating the parts and reassembling it.
The 1912 nickel plated T that Walt Rosenthal had was purchased from a local T guy not far from here. He used the money to buy a new '57 Ford Ranchero, which I remember well. As I recall, he found the T in Iowa somewhere. I have a couple of pictures of it taken in 1952 by my mother in law. He was getting it cleaned up for a parade. It had an accessory brass front bumper(also plated). Unfortunately, the pictures are black and white. Dave
This nickel belonged to a late, local classic car insurance agent, Dennis Polan:
In the second photo, notice that only of the cap of the steering gear cover is nickel plated. The spark and gas lever quadrants are also not plated.
I have an old original Jno Brown model 115 tail lamp for 1913-14 that has a nickle plated top cap and the upper part of the oil fount. I think that these parts must have been plated at the Brown factory before they were crimped together.
I do not recall what maker it was, but years ago I also had a '13/'14 sidelamp that also looked as if it had been manufactured that way. This was another subject discussed at length at SCVMTFC meetings about forty years ago. Several local advertisements were shown that showed local dealers offering new Ts with nickel in place of the brass. Unfortunately, I cannot give any definitive answer to whether Ford factory had anything to do with providing this option or not. It was suggested during these discussions that for a fee, some things such as lamps may have been exchanged with the manufacturer for ones made with nickel. Some pieces may have been removed by the dealer and plated locally. The radiator would be a bigger question. The radiators could have been plated intact (although probably not a good idea due to some loss of cooling effectiveness). If someone has access to one with decent original plating, it may be possible to tell by looking closely.
I did see an original nickel radiator at a swap meet once, but that was many years ago. There is enough evidence that some number of brass era Ts were sold new or upgraded new with nickel over the brass trim to accept it as era correct. They look kind-of neat that way. But I think I actually like them better brass.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Man, I just cannot get used to that. It just looks wrong.
Wow, great input here guys! I really wasn't thinking anyone else ever heard of this and figured this was an aftermarket, one-off kind of thing. Thanks!
Well, it is an aftermarket thing. Remember, there was no EPA or OSHA back then. Anyone could set up a plating shop anywhere.
Certainly there's not a shred of anything that indicates Ford ever sold a nickel plated 1916 or earlier Ford to anyone.
I think it's really cool! I especially like the front bumper shown in the first of Ralph's two photos.
There is also not a shred of evidence that Ford never sold a nickle plated early T either.
Well, yes there is. There's no replacement part numbers listed for nickel plated parts. To me, that's a shred of evidence that they didn't come from the factory that way.
I shouldn't have used the term aftermarket. What I meant was something that could have been, and maybe was, offered by some dealers to customers who wanted to set their T apart from the others. Versus, some guy who went to the local plater and had his T stuff plated. I think the argument for the former, being that so many examples have been offered here, just by our group of forum members and just in the last few days. It kind of suggests there's even more examples out there and that it wasn't just an isolated oddity.
I agree that Ford probably never offered such an option.
That matte nickel in Ralph Ricks' post doesn't help the appearance any. If someone shined it up with Simichrome polish it might be pretty snappy. We're along way from tastes of the T era and I think its hard to beat the that shiny brass.
The accessory bumpers could be with painted, brass, or nickel plated bars.
And aftermarket radiators for the '16 and earlier could be had in nickel plate too. Will find a adv. to post later. Here is one, note that nickel shell could be extra option.
And the later T accessory aftermarket offerings had fancy nickel shells with or without bars!
Just to follow-on about aftermarket, if the owner or dealer didn't just want to buy new accessory nickel plated T parts for the early brass T's, there were concerns that would do it for you...and advertised this too.
Motor Age 1913
That's fantastic. You really have a photo for all occasions don't you!