As a newbie, I'd like someone's advice on whether my first car should be a magneto only ignition. I always envisioned buying a post 1919 electric start as my first T (so that I can learn without the extra complication of having to hand crank start).
However, I have found an earlier (magneto only) car that I'm interested in. Can someone tell me how "finicky" a magneto only, hand crank car might be for a newbie? Is it taboo to install a 12v battery to supply the coil for more reliable starting?
First post (by the way). Great forum. I hope to be here for a while as I will have many questions.
Six volts is plenty, if you need a battery. Here's how hard it is to crank start:
Steve, if the car is in good working order, mag starting cars are no problem. I am a new t owner too and I enjoy crank starting my truck. To me it is part of the fun....getting it going. The guy I bought it from had never crank started it as he was very old. He pulled it and started it. I read the instructions in the manual and followed them and it fires up no problem.
By the way, welcome to the affliction, as the saying goes. Your state is a hotbed of Model T activity, including the Model T Museum in Richmond. I'd advise getting into one of the local Model T clubs for info, support, and activities. Here are the first parts you'll need when you get a T:
Nothing wrong with a crank-start T as your first T.
My first and only T is a stock 14 with an attitude and I can always start it although I have learned it starts easier if I turn the ignition on.
I have yet to stall the engine, I usually have lots of warning that I am doing something wrong.
One suggestion is ALWAYS BLOCK the rear wheels before cranking. You never know when the parking brake might slip and let the car chase you out of the garage. This is also the reason that I always
back my T into the garage.
I don't know if Ford made any "magneto only" cars. I believe all models had an ignition switch with a battery start option. (someone kick in here if I'm wrong!)
Many of us use a small 6 volt or 12 volt battery as a starting aid. No shame there. But as others have pointed out, if the mag is in good condition, starting on mag isn't a problem.
Buy that car and join in the fun!
Ford warned that dealers should not sell Model T buyers a battery as it would void the warranty. My grandmother drove the family 1915 touring (bought new) until 1935 in Northern Minnesota. I once asked her if they ever had a battery and she said no, and my dad also said no.
If my grandmother could hand crank a Model T every day in Minnesota winter weather on "MAG" I can't imagine why anyone else would have a problem. Provided your Model T runs right it should start as easily as a lawn mower.
I hid a small 12V battery under the back seat of my 15 touring to assist with starting, but, mostly to power the 12v bulb headlights in case I get caught out after dark. I'm very happy with this setup. IMHO the worst thing about beginning with a nonstarter car is if you have to drive in city traffic and stall. Best idea with any T is to learn to drive it out in the country, before getting into city traffic. Welcome aboard.
My 1923 touring / pickup conversion has a starter, but I hardly ever use it, I enjoy hand cranking it. It did take a little while to learn what combination of priming and mixture setting allowed it to start easiest with the crank, I suspect each car will be different. The only time I use the starter is, as Mike said, if/when I stall it in traffic and need to get it re-started quickly.
I should have said I have a non-starter T. I crank start the truck but always start it with the battery (small 6V under seat), then switch to mag. I live in the country so no problem with the possibility of a stall. Just jump out (retard the spark) and give it a half turn and it fires off again. Mike is right though....in a city or suburb, in traffic, it may not be fun at a light or something to have to hop out of the car and get it going again. Any crank starting car or tractor is inherently shy. They seem not to start when a lot of people are watching you crank it.
Cranks are cooler Steve! I've always thought it was super cool that whether you have the stock ignition (or in my case a high tension magneto) the car runs independently of a battery.
I started with a non-starter 16.
If you get one with a good magneto you'll be good to go.
Make sure you:
Get coils professionally rebuilt (I rebuild my own now but Ron the Coilman did my first set) properly rebuilt coils are essential!
Get a professionally rebuilt carb (Holley NH is what I run)
Find a good used New Day timer or buy a new Anderson type timer. My choice is the "New Day" (very little maintenance)
Most important of all!!! This could save your life!
Make sure that the rear end has new (modern) "thrust bearings" if these bearings fail, you loose your brakes.
This happened to me. Lucky for me, I was in my driveway.
I agree with Michael about everything except the professionally rebuilt carburetor. No need to spend a Benjamin. The Holley NH is pretty simple and all the parts are available. The MTFCA carburetor book tells you what to do.
Here's an explanation of the rear axle thrust washers: http://dauntlessgeezer.com/DG79.html
Make sure you pay close attention to how the current owner sets the mixture rod during cold start, hot start and after parking for about 20 minutes. Turning that rod slightly in the right direction at the right time can make a big difference to how it starts and runs. I rarely use the starter on my 1919 car. The crank is half the fun.
My only T is a crank-start '13. It's fun and easy. But I agree having to get out and crank when you stall in traffic is a pain. I had polio, so holding the clutch halfway in at a long light gets tiring. In heavy stop-and-go traffic, I generally pull the handbrake partway on to the neutral position. Clutch in to creep; clutch out to stop at a light or a jam. It works, but you have to train yourself. Lots of things about a T are counterintuitive to people trained on modern cars.
I've taught a lot of people to drive my T. An early reaction, when they see me drive it but haven't tried it themselves yet, is: "It's too complicated! I could never learn to do it!" My response is: "Henry made 15 million of these things. There must have been 50 or 60 million people who learned to drive them. I'll bet you're smarter than SOME of them!" Get's 'em every time!
My 19 does not have a starter.
I use an automotive 12V battery when starting it and switch to mag when running.
The 12V battery is there by default because I am cheap and I have a few extra ones in the garage.
When they all die I will most likely purchase a lantern or rechargeable toy battery that takes up less space.
Like many I think that cranking a T is 45.5678% of the fun and learning to set the mixture correctly adds another 10.3456%
Like Steve says (after awhile you will learn to pay close attention to what he says) the Holy NH carb is simple and easy to work on.
I agree that good coils and timer are important and the bronze rear end thrust washers are essential.
Driving a T is like riding a bicycle.
I learned to drive a T when I was 16 years old and after 50 years it all came back in just a few minutes.
Has anyone killed it on a parade route and had to hand crank start again? I suspect you could do it pretty quick if the engine was warmed up.
Welcome to the forum.
ALL of my drivers have magneto and coil ignition. ALL of my cars use the Armstrong starting system.
: ^ )
I do have a small battery tucked away. I usually cranks start mine on battery.
If your car has a good engine, good magneto, good coils, and a good carburetor, you should be set.
Yes, people in a parade LOVE to see you crank start a car.
Starter motors and generators just make things complicated!
: ^ )
I am guilty of killing the engine when the stoplight turned green. It was in a '15 Touring, so there was no "cheater" alternative to hopping out and tugging on the crank. Of course, when the engine is warm, the tugging part takes only a split-second. But I can tell you that having my wife get out first, then my getting out and running to the front of the car and back to the seat, and having her get back in, all takes exactly the same length of time that a green light stays on. I didn't kill it the next time.
I wouldn't worry too much about owning a hand crank only Model T. Here's my boy showing how hard it is to crank start a well maintained car:
More important than starter vs non is running vs project. I made the mistake of project. It took 15the years to get the 15 ready to drive. I missed out on a lot of touring when the family was young. But we still love this one best!
You don't need no stinking starter! Starters and generators are highly overrated! Two more things to go wrong. "Armstrong" starter for me!
Dale - For me, project vs running wasn't a factor. The 1919 Speedster that has been in my family since 1927 had been almost completely disassembled and stored in a barn for 34 years until last spring when I started working on it. I expect to have it road-ready in a few months. For me, it was all about being motivated.
That said, I am a little anxious about stalling it at a light with no starter except the crank...
The battery in my 21 is getting old so I hand crank her to save the battery. I do use the starter if Nellybell is being cranky or kill her at a stop light.
Val's right, "don't need no stinking starter!"
My '18 TT has a '23 engine with a starter. Since I was a little boy and my grandfather had the truck the starter never worked, so he always cranked it. When I got the truck about 12 years ago and went through everything to get it going again, I didn't even put the starter back in place. I installed blank plates instead. Wouldn't have it any other way.