Regardless of opinions about performance, would one transmission cost more than the other? If all things are equal, same steel, same bearings, would one cost more to make than the other?
It appears to me there are more bearings in the sliding gear and more gears in the planetary?
Thanks for your educated opinions,
Don't forget the T transmission includes the braking system, so you'll have to add a braking system to the overall cost of the sliding transmission. Now some may argue that the T should have had a separate braking system from the factory!
Interesting question, though.
Good point. I guess a clutch needs to be factored into the equation too.
I think it's a wash. From a gear only stand point, I would say that the manufacturing of the triple gear is much more complicated. Single unit straight cut (spur) gears are very easy to make. The added cost of the case, the shifting mechanism and extra bearings would probably negate the price of cutting the triple gears and machining the drums.
The real cost is in servicing the unit. Most sliding gear units could be removed without touching the engine and could be replace or repaired as a separate unit in a short time. Servicing the Model T trans is a much longer event involving some special tooling and machines.
What sold the planetary was its ease of operation and that has to be worth something.
Remember the early triple gears were three gears riveted together. Later they developed the single piece triple gear.
The early triple gears still needed to be timed to match up correctly. That takes some fairly accurate indexing.
You are comparing apples and oranges.
The planetary you have shown is a TWO speed (forward)and is quite fool proof to operate (as we all know).
The sliding gear you have shown is a FOUR speed (forward). Now it is a CRASH box (no syncro at all), so shifting it requires some learning and skill.
To make a 4 speed planetary is going to take quite a bit of work. I have visited to idea of making one of the 3 speed planetarys that were patented for the T. Not a easy project.
All I know is that I had a 1953 Chebby convertible and I spent half of my spare time under the car in the winter, summer and in-between swapping out the 3 speed transmission.
The fact that I bought bad transmissions for a few dollars from the junk yard, rebuilt them myself, and the shift linkage was a bit sloppy has nothing to do with their failure doesn't count.
I had jars of rollers from the old transmissions to chose from, I reused whatever grease left over from previous transmissions, and straightened the forks with a hammer so I know that I did precision rebuilds.
I finally fixed the problem by replacing the 6 cy motor with a V8 that was connected to a 4 speed transmission.
I am thinking that the real problem was the 6 cy motor -- not the transmission.
There may still be a pile of old 3 sp transmission parts under the barn
Yes, it is a four speed, from one of the larger brands of the time. I'm just comparing/contrasting the two according to cost. On another thread a poster said the planetary was a less expensive choice by Ford, and I'm not sure when comparing the "innards" of both.
I agree a three speed would be more appropriate for a comparison but I didn't have a drawing of an early three speed. I'm not trying to compare performance, just trying to determine if the two might have been comparable in cost.
Thanks for the responses so far,
For many of the T buyers,this was their first "adventure" in car driving. The T planetary was simple to learn and hard to destroy. The drawback as we all know, is only having 2 speeds. The conditions are too severe for high and way too easy for low and so a intermediate gear was what the market ultimately demanded.
And so the Ruckstell came along, but this sure cost more than making it with 3 speeds. The 2 speed thing was probably a significant contributor to Ford's loss of market dominance once the market place became more experienced.
So a 2 speed planetary made market sense and by incorporating it into the flywheel was cheap enough to make. A 3 speed planetary would have been way too costly to make.
And the sliding gear would have discouraged a lot of first time buyers in the teens.
Having more forward speeds is a great advantage in climbing or descending hills. More is better. Less is cheaper.
That's what I like, a general statement supported by no fact, with an absolute conclusion.
Where's that sarcasm icon when you need it?
While this isn't a "treatise" on planetary vs. sliding gear transmissions, I will say that having owned both (Oakland, Overland, Buick and Chebby all with cone clutches) the Ford transmission is sooooo much easier to use, and I suspect over time less expensive due to a lack of issues such as cone clutch leather going out, strain to the driveline due to "crashbox" shifting and "cone clutch jerking." I prefer the two speed planetary now, and find it to be completely adequate for my driving needs.
When I first bought our Model K, I used to tell others the two speed planetary was probably the worst part of the car. However, when I finally began to drive the car (that's key, have those who deride the planetary, or for that matter the Model K, ever driven or rode in one?) I realized the six cylinder motor is ideally suited for the two speed planetary. With the 120 degree crank positions instead of four cylinder 180, the torque is tremendous, just what is need when operating with two instead of three more gears. Imagine about the same horsepower to weight ratio as with a Model T touring, with more torque, that's what a six cylinder with planetary brings to the table.
The other thing I've noticed regarding the planetary vs. the sliding gear transmission is, almost no "slow down" due to "catching" the next gear. With our 13 Buick, if one missed the first opportunity to shift between gears, the car would immediately slow, resulting in a gear change that came too late in the rpm curve, and caused the need to shift back down or lug at too low rpm while waiting to pick up speed. The range from first to second was so minimal that on level ground I often just began in second gear to avoid the previous mentioned issue.
Would I prefer a second gear? Yes. Do I need it (Model K), probably not. As we've seen through the multitude of period articles found, the Model K was a record breaking, race and hill climb winning car, with only the planetary transmission.
Of course, these are my opinions. However, as with the Packard, my suggestion is "ask the man who owns one."
We're not the first to discuss the merits of a two speed planetary. This letter to the editor asks about the possibility of a "gearless" car in the future. Ford (six cylinder) is mentioned by "Automobile" magazine.
March 1907 letter to the editor:
It seems to me Ford and the planetary transmission were considered a good fit by this writer:
According to Brooks, the planetary was used for "cheapness of construction".
..but the way cheaper was the friction transmission, less moving parts of all.
just some facts.
Rob, lets see proof that a planetary transmission is more expensive. You can't prove that, because it isn't.
Compare the Ford Model K to any of its competition in the $2500 and up class. Better cars have better transmissions with more than one alternate forward speed. Planetary transmissions were common in cheap cars because, well, they are cheap.
It seems if only to me lots of better cars were built.If you can't sell them why bother? Bud in Wheeler.
Just once, I would like to see Rob be allowed to ask a question and start a civilized discussion without Royce jumping in and implying that Rob is an idiot who misconstrues all the facts.
All of the drums are cast iron (cheap). The triple gears and gear portion of the drums as well as the driven gear would likely be comparable in cost with the slider. The bands would most likely be cheaper than the gear change mechanism of the slider. The Ford clutch would very likely be cheaper than the traditional clutch and bell housing casting. Bushings vs bearings would cause me to toss it towards being cheaper than the slider.
We have a member in our chapter the describes the two speed T transmission perfectly, "it has two gears, too slow and not enough power". I tend to agree with that assessment and think the reason they never developed the three speed was cost.
A six needs fewer gears than a four, as Rob explained above. Note: the low in the Six is 2:1, as compared to the T 2.75:1 . Once you have adopted crashing gears for your big fours, you would stick with them in your sixes.
The planetary is a big plus for drivability, and is easier on the drive train.
Which slings more oil?
Sorry Guys. I didn't see where Royce's first comment had any negative connotation at all. What about it is wrong? Are more gears not an advantage on a hill as he suggests? If not, why do so many install Ruckstells and Warfords?
During the development of the Model T they tried a sliding gear transmission and determined it was not as good as the planetary. I will tell you the rest of the story later.
I've been conducting a civil discussion of facts. I have not insinuated anything.
Bear in mind that the Model K transmission contains the main braking system of the car which of course is much cheaper than the separate and infinitely better braking system of a 40HP (or more) Pierce of the same model year. Also, look at the Pierce transmission's ball bearings, compared to the cheaper bronze bushings used throughout the Model K transmission.
In every conceivable way the Model K transmission is more cheaply made by Dodge Brothers (to Ford's design one would assume). Meanwhile Pierce built their transmission in the Pierce factory to a much higher quality standard.
Royce said: "Having more forward speeds is a great advantage in climbing or descending hills. More is better. Less is cheaper." I don't see the sarcasm or issue with what he said, it's just a fact. I don't see where Royce has said anything out of line on this thread, he has just stated some simple facts on power train design. The Ford system was not designed to be the best, it was designed to be a simple, light and cost effective system that combined the clutch, transmission and brake into one package. It was a very successful at accomplishing those goals but that doesn't mean that it was the best. Rob, you said "all things being equal", you really can't compare the two because Ford used a combination power control unit and the other is just a transmission. A separate clutch, transmission and brake is going to be a lot more expensive to build and considering the metals, bearings and engineering of that period, it's also likely to be a tougher and more durable. You should also consider that other than Ford, virtually no major auto maker used a planetary design after 1912 until the automatic designs in the 40's. Rob I know you love your K, but you have an "agenda" when you post here most of the time. Your K is a great car and you have debunked much of the mis-information about its history and that's great! However it is far form the best car of its class built during that period and it seems like you are trying to jam that idea that it was the best, down everybody's throat. Royce and many others have made serious comments and answers on your posts . . . many of which you have taken offense. If you are not interested in what others think, why bring it up here?
Very we'll stated, roger.
I'm sorry to hear you feel I'm "jamming" information about the Model K down the throats of those reading the threads I begin. Hopefully, the OT designation gives ample warning in the future to avoid being "jammed."
As for agenda, yes, I have an agenda. Due to my experiences, I believe the Model K has been unduly maligned. I attempt to attach proof or evidence to my threads when I feel there is information others on this forum might be interested in.
Reference your post, you mention that "virtually no automaker used a planetary design after 1912." That is true, until, as you say, the automatic transmission that today is prevalent in most automobiles, and even many commercial trucks. Is it prevalent today because it's cheaper and simpler to build? No, because it's the easiest to operate and most desired by motorists who no longer wish to use (or know how to use) a manual transmission. However, I am discussing cars well before 1912 when comparing the Model K with it's "peers".
As for the "far from the best car of it's class". I disagree. The Model K, as with the Model N and later the Model T, was in a class of it's own. Never before had a car been offered with the features the Model K had at such a low price. Some of those unique features:
1. The next least expensive six cylinder when the Model K appeared cost $4000. And that was a thirty horsepower Franklin (air cooled, less expensive to build?).
2. The Model K featured a state of the art magneto and only one other car costing less than $4000 offered a magneto as standard equipment, and that was a 27 hp foreign made auto.
3. The Model K was the only alphabet Ford production auto to hold a world record (24 hour endurance race, going 1135 miles averaging 47 mph on a one mile flat dirt surfaced track).
4. Best selling six cylinder car in both 1906 and 1907.
5. Many advanced features, such as a laminated cam gear, one piece valve, babbitt main and rod bearings, seven main bearing crank, a variety of nickel, chrome nickel, and vanadium steel.
Dean Yoder frequently told me while he was deep into the innards of the Model K engine and drive train that he was surprised how well built and solid the car was. These were not the comments I expected to hear about a Model K prior to owning and operating one.
These are just a few items that come to mind, so yes, my opinion is it was the best car in it's class. If that "class" includes cars costing $1000 to $4000 dollars more, then no, probably not, but in the $2000-$3000 class, I believe the Model K had few if any peers. And competitions of the period bore that out as the Model K won and placed in a multitude of events.
Economically, as you alluded to (I believe) the Model K made a very positive impact for Ford Motor Company during a time when the two cylinder cars weren't selling well and were being phased out and while the Model N was not ready for delivery (1906). Again in 1907, the Model K had a tremendous impact for Ford Motor Company, helping the company generate over a million dollars in sales for the first time.
As for Royce, he has been civil on this thread. However, that is not always the case, in my opinion. And, as you mentioned, we are entitled to our opinions.
Fortunately for all of us, we are entitled to our opinions, and these are mine. As always, I also respect your opinion, and will consider your points more thoroughly when I have a bit more time.
Now, back to this thread. I would like to find a breakdown of the cost of parts or other method to compare the two transmissions. However, that's probably not possible, and there would probably be so many other factors involved (number produced, raw materials costs, etc etc) that even if I had numbers they may not provide any real answers. If the planetary was used because it cost less, so be it (maybe that's one of the many reasons the Model K, like N and T, sold for so much less than comparably powered cars).
Another "letter to the Editor" in the "Automobile", 1907:
It seems to me that the real problem the early auto designers had to face was the lack of suitable materials for what we call a modern clutch. They tried cork, cone clutches, multiplate, friction gears (like the Metz) and many other designs and materials. However virtually all were far from fool proof. The bands used by Ford was fairly simple to build, cheap to replace and very simple to operate. Once the choice of bands was made, three forward speeds was possible but two was more than enough.
The Ford design was based on the 1901 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, it was certainly improved by enclosing in oil but basically the same. It was tried, tested and reliable with the production technology and materials currently available in 1908.
After WW1 friction materials had taken a major step forward and sliding gears were feasible with a plate clutch. Whole new ball game.
One of the significant factors in cost savings of a planetary transmission over a sliding gear is as follows;
The typical planetary has 3 "planet" gears. The load is now distributed over 3 gears and as such 3 contact faces at any given instant. 3 teeth on the sun gear contacting the corresponding teeth on the planet gears. So for the same torque capability the gears can be about 1/3 the size.
Now a true planetary gear train also would have a outer "ring gear" . The Ruckstell axle was made this way. All your modern automatic transmissions have these external gears. This gear greatly increases the load capability of the gear train as it removes the unbalanced side loads on the planet gears. Of course it also increases the cost.
Now for some more historical perspective;
The Curved Dash Olds (CDO) and the 1 cylinder Cadillac both had "real" planetary transmissions (with the external ring gear) and were very successful cars. And of course we know that the second car company Ford was involved in went on to become Cadillac.
As you're probably aware, the 1904 CDO did away with the internal gear and had a transmission more like the Ford version.
From "Automobile" magazine, January 1907, the following cars costing $2000 or more are listed using planetary transmissions. A definite minority, but some cars in this range are using this style transmission. I'm not drawing any conclusions, just thought this an interesting list:
I was surprised to see twenty commercial vehicles (trucks) listed with planetary transmissions too.
I don't think this a complete list of all cars manufactured, and some makes and models did not have a transmission type listed.
No, I was not aware of that, as I have a 1903 CDO.
Thank you for the information
Another interesting car, the V-8 Hewitt. This 1907 "Motor Way" article says the car is offered with a slide gear transmission, however the builders recommend the planetary transmission due to adequate power to use high gear between 3 and 60 mph (much like the Ford six cylinder Model K):
One of the popular contests for early cars in addition to hill climbs were slow speed hill climb on high gear contests. Ford, along with Hewitt and some of the automotive writers claimed six cylinder cars were well suited for two speed planetary transmissions due to higher torque compared with one, two and four cyl. cars. Two contests where the Ford six (Model K) performed well and received extensive publicity were the Hartford Hill Climb and the Scottish and Irish Trials.
While the Ford six finished second in it's class (other times surpassed by the Model K are highlighted), the K easily won the slow speed in high gear contest. Model Ns tied for first (tie) and third in their class:
In the Scottish Trials high and low speed contests (on high gear) the Model K finished second in both behind a 60 hp six cylinder Napier. Many other cars were entered in the Scottish, Trials, however only ten entered these two contests. In the Irish Trials both the Model N and K entered finished with perfect scores:
I question the integrity of the Ford and Hewitt advertising claiming that a cheaper, less useful two speed planetary transmission is better.
Meanwhile the majority of engineers and manufacturers used a more robust, more useful, more expensive to manufacture sliding gear three speed transmission. Not just a simple majority, but hundreds using three speed sliding gear versus less than a dozen companies that used the inferior two speed planetary.
Are you going to admit your error calling the Ford quad on the other thread a 1910 photo, and labeling my post "dubious" as a result?
I should have added, do you question "the integrity" of the reporter listing contest results showing the Fords (N and K) clearly performing well against cars with "more robust, more useful" sliding gear transmissions?
I said what I meant and typed it with no errors.
No doubt the Model K was a good performing car when you removed the body and drove it wide open. You don't see many folks doing that today do you? It doesn't seem to have helped sales when the car was new, at least not enough to get the sales of the Model K into the top ten in its price range. I bet Henry and Frank Kulick were having a great time doing it.
Here's a pretty early 1906 K.
Front seat: Ford, Pelletier.
Back seat: Clarkson, Edsel Ford, Clara Ford.
"No doubt the Model K was a good performing car when you removed the body and drove it wide open. You don't see many folks doing that today do you? It doesn't seem to have helped sales when the car was new, at least not enough to get the sales of the Model K into the top ten in its price range."
The Model K, as all cars entered in contests, either competed completely stock, or stripped down. To insinuate that Ford ran without bodies against competitors fully stock is ludicrous.
Ford was in the top ten in it's class in sales. Number one in sales of six cylinder cars in both 1906 and 1907. While statistics aren't available (that I'm aware of, yet), the Ford Model K outsold a host of large expensive cars (and there were well over fifty makes in the $2500 to $3500 price range in 1906-1908). I have no doubt the Model K was in the top ten in it's class, model for model, in it's price range, horsepower range, or for six cylinder cars.
Of course, we have a MoToR magazine contest conducted in 1907, where the Model K came in 5th of over 100 cars chosen, as the car a contestant would choose if they won the contest (costing up to $3000). Over 6500 people participated in the contest, so a pretty good survey of the cars the motoring would like to own:
Please don't say that I am insinuating anything. I usually say what I mean in no uncertain terms.
Many carmakers didn't participate in racing, yet outsold the Model K handily. Ford was not (I hope) targeting Model K sales strictly at people who wanted to buy a six cylinder car. While you can reasonably claim that having six cylinders is a selling point worthy of note, it isn't a sales category.
Ford was competing against cars in the $2000 - $3000 price range, from 35 - 45 horsepower. Within that parameter, Ford was unsuccessful in capturing enough market share to be worthy of further production.
It's fun to see Ford winning a popularity contest among readers of a periodical. It doesn't seem to have helped sell many cars. The year that contest was held Ford sold perhaps 350 Model K's world wide.
Nowhere above have I said the Model K was a bad car. The Model K was a product of its time, not terribly reliable or perfectly conceived. It has flaws in its design element choices such as the planetary transmission. It has strengths in its design, such as the styling and number of cylinders.
I wish that you could be objective in your approach towards the Model K and its history, and portray it accurately within context that there were shortfalls and strengths. The Model K was not an engineering tour de force.
Apples & oranges indeed. As to advertisements car makers will say what they will and it's never bad. Writers might but say what they want but you're never sure whose side their on. Take that 30 year old auto testing show on TV. When they start talking about a car's turning radius their looking for some thing good to say. As to HF's 2-speed: Nobody tried to copy the T's design. Patents or unimpressive to other manufacturers?
The problem is not that you say what you mean, the problem is, you represent opinion as fact.
Of course there were "shortfalls and strengths." The same may be said of every car made at the time (or any other time for that matter).
You said the Model K was not a top ten seller in it's class. Provide proof. in fact, give us a list of five models costing more than $2000 that sold in greater numbers than Ford's Model K in 1907.
By the way, as I've documented on this forum, Ford sold 457 Model K in 1907 (not "perhaps 350"). That's significantly more cars than the average auto maker, and definitely in the top ten for models costing more than $2000. But I'll let you prove that statement wrong.
Just to demonstrate the Hartford Hill Climb wasn't an advertisement or other advertising gimmick, another magazine, "The Automobile" also covered the contest:
While finishing 2nd in it's class, the Ford six had better times than the following cars; Franklin, Knox, Pope Hartford, Corbin, Stevens Duryea, Thomas Flyer and Mercedes. The Ford also finished first in the Slow Contest, driving up the hill with the slowest speed in high gear, a test designed to demonstrate lugging power.
This closeup of the Ford car with Frank Kulick driving show the car wasn't "stripped", but was a stock Ford Model K:
As the captions says, "Kulick and the Ford "Six" were a disappointed pair." Why, because he (Kulick) expected to win the event, as he had many times in 1907 with the Model K, including setting a world record three months earlier.
I truly believe you are an intelligent person Rob. To say that the planetary transmission is anything but cheaper and less worthy of a car costing well over $2000 is illogical.
I suspect you too might be intelligent.
That is not what I addressed in the last post. Prove your comments about Ford not being a top ten selling model among high end cars, or admit you have no data to support your statement. Either you have information you are not posting, or your comments were opinion and not fact.
Let’s get back to the transmission for the T. They experimented with a sliding gear and three speed planetary gear transmission for months during the development of the T, and Henry chose the two speed planetary because he was not “sold” on the sliding gear transmission, and the three speed was too expensive.
Interesting. When I first came back to Model Ts (I had one as a kid, and thought I wanted a "bigger better" car when I could afford a old car). After owning several cars with sliding gear transmissions, coming back to Ford was a relief. I no longer had to fight cone clutch leather, jerky and grinding shifts and gears that would not mesh if I missed a gear.
I can see why people who had never operated a car would like a planetary over a sliding gear.
Do you have more info from your grandfather's story?
My 1912 Overland has a leather cone clutch. It's smooth as silk. It shifts easily IF you remember to fully depress the clutch pedal, (which stops the cone from spinning and greatly aids in shifting). If anyone would like any tips on a smooth cone clutch, PM me. (Don't want to take this thread "off topic", whatever topic that might be...)
I would say the good things about the T transmission were low cost, and ease of operation.
The bad things were only two speeds forward and the transmission brake. The transmission brake, however had a good factor in that was self equalizing.
The 3 speed sliding gear transmission good points were additional gears for going up and down hills. It also had less drag in neutral. It was also easier to remove for replacement of clutch, bearings, and gears. It was, however harder to learn to drive, and the mechanical brakes on the wheels were harder to adjust for equalization, but they would stop better and even stop with broken drivetrain.
When I was researching this thread, I noticed three 1909 or 1910 Overland models still had planetary transmissions while one had a sliding gear. Did Overland continue with a planetary for a while longer, or were all models manual shift by 1912?
Norm, I think that about sums it up. There are times I would like a middle gear, although not as often with our N or K as with a T. For some reason our N seems to "lug" so well it will crawl up about any hill in high gear. So far the K is about the same, although it's obviously a much heavier car.
Jerry, in my opinion anytime we're exchanging ideas in a friendly manner it's "on thread."
I have more than I can share on the computer. I hope to present what I have before the Old Car Festival this fall. I think you will be happy with what I have. It started with talking to my Grandmother when I was in High School in 1971, She lived to age 95, and continued on spending time with Joe Galamb’s daughter Gloria before her passing. My Grandparents were married in December 1908 just after my Grandfather left Ford and continued his career. He and Joe Galamb went to school in Hungary together, and worked at Adler in Germany before coming to America in 1903 to see the 1904 World’s Fair.
Great. Thank you for contributing,
Automotive design is a function of compromise, balance, and prioritizing the pros and cons of every system on the car. Everything is a trade-off... weight, cost, luxury, longevity, etc. You can't have one without sacrificing another.
A heavier, or less powerful car NEEDS more gears than a lighter or more powerful car in order to accomplish the same goal.
The K, as I understand it, had a very good power/weight ratio for its class, and good torque down low, so a middle gear may have been deemed unnecessary by the designers. By sticking with 2 speeds, they could use the planetary transmission that was smoother and easier to operate, and gain a cost-savings as an added benefit (or maybe the other way around?) The downside was that they had to keep weight down, and power up and could not make sacrifices in those areas. It also may have effected the marketability of the car, depending on public opinion of the time.
Kind of a "which came first, the chicken...". I do know from experience, if one feels a two speed planetary is adequate in a T, they will be very happy with the planetary two speed in a model K.
I feel everything is working well on our K (carburetor adjusted, all cylinders firing) when on level ground, at an idle, I am able to push the shift lever forward into high gear with almost no slippage and the car starts without balking or sputtering (from an idle).
The operator's manual says to start out in low (just over idle) and then shift to high. No speeding up or throttling down on the shift, just start, shift. It's remarkably smooth and easy. This summer I'll do a few video segments to better show how smoothly the car shifts and accelerates (not accelerate and shift).
I'm very fortunate because I've also been able to ride with a good friend in his 1909 48 hp Pierce Arrow. His car is much more nicely appointed, with brass oozing from every nook and cranny. However, the ride, steering and solid feeling is no different from the Model K, in my opinion. Of course, I'm biased.
I believe that it can be argued until the cows come home as to which 'may' have been cheaper...then. I can make a case for either side as to manufacturing cost using today ways.
I don’t know about the cost then on these things when compared…but I have an analogy of opinion…
Anyone ever have a ‘68 4-banger C**vy Nova, or a stripped 6 Cyl first year Camaro with a torque-amatic transmission? (No…not two speed power-glide…2 speed Torque-drive).
It was for lack of a better word, the reincarnation of the Model T transmission behind a torque converter, and you had to place the column shift in 1st to pull away from a stop and click it into HI to find the ‘other’ gear. Made sense on paper…saved a bunch by taking vacuum and hydraulics off of the power-glide…but became a total marketing failure in use.
Why? Folks couldn’t get the hang of it and either had ‘screamers’…or ‘slingshot effect’…or chug-chug sputter at a stop sign because they would fail to drop it in low. GM kept trying to ‘educate’ it’s ‘cheap’ buyers and actually did not give up for a few years before making all power-glide once again.
In 1968 the ‘upcharge’ to go from torque-drive to power-glide was a little over 100 bucks. A 4 banger Nova went for about 2000 bucks so it WAS a 5% difference in price…probably a 2% difference in cost, but I could also argue that it was all bogus as variation, even for a days production costs something at the top that never gets included in the unit cost.
I think Ford just got beat up…somehow winding her up and letting her slingshot you if you were not careful…or stomping the pedal down while doing 40 and trying to eat the windshield became a liability in marketing…maybe due to patents, maybe not. The counter was a 3 speed crash box…which took a while to get use to…because it made horrible noises to remind you that YOU were doing something wrong? The dealer agent could always drive it smooth.
You CAN drive a 2-speed planetary Ford like that C^^vy powerglide/torqudrive (PRNDL)and not have the slingshot…but then, like now, a lot apparently just don’t get the hang of it!
Come to think about it...when I was a kid and many were still driving pre-war cars or early 50's cars many never used 1st gear in a manual crash box...and we use to have a plumber in town that would not only pick up all hitchhikers, but actually take them where they wanted to go, and he drove a 52/53 station wagon in 1960 that had already been brush painted...was a manual transmission and he never used 1st or the clutch and we as kids getting ready to drive but had learned to drive at 8-10 were amazed at how skilled Pop Bevan really was!
The Wifes 29 Town Sedan is as heavy as any Model A and i seldom use low! Bud in Wheller.
I can definitely see where an intermediate gear between low and high would have done wonders for the 20-horsepower Model T (if not for the price, of course).
But the thing that really intrigues me is the longevity of the two-speed planetary transmission. Just last week, I saw a ’63 Corvette at auction that was equipped with a small-block V-8 and a “Powerglide” automatic transmission which had only two forward gears! I guess some cars have enough power and low-end torque that for them, a 2-speed tranny gets the job done just fine.
What I noticed when driving with the 1909 Pierce (friends car). Starting out, we were quite equal. He would shift to 2nd (I had shifted to high) and pull away. Then, he would fall back when shifting to 3rd and again to 4th. Meanwhile, my low end power curve had been reached, and from there on, I was accelerating with no "fall back."
Without a doubt I would prefer a three speed. If it were a planetary three speed, that might be "the ticket." I wonder if any Cadillac planetary three speed cars have survived? And if so, still tours. The problem is there so few early "big cars" still tour it's hard to compare different makes and models.
I thought of this during this thread. How would a second planetary transmission work if placed inline? One could put a two speed planetary (because these transmissions are exposed) behind the original transmission or as a transaxle, and operate it with a separate lever, like a ruxtel. No chance of a drive line break like an auxiliary transmission, and no need for a clutch system?
I have a two speed planetary in line with the original in the ol' brass picup. It works really slick. Once up to 30-40 mph, you just close the throttle quickly and it shifts into overdrive..
The only parts of it maybe not invented by 1908 are the one way clutch, and the solenoid. The solenoid could be replaced by a lever. How about the one-way clutch?
Oh, it now requires wheel brakes, but if you were starting from scratch, it would not.
The Model T is a poor example for this exercise. It sold well, better than any car before or since, dominating every price class because it had no direct competitor with similar reliability and performance in its price class. Consumers did not have anything similar to choose from any car in its price range. Falling on the heels of the outstanding Model NRS, the Model T also had a worlds best selling predecessor.
The Model K Ford on the other hand was one of perhaps a hundred brands that cost between 35 - 45 horsepower and cost between $2500 - $3500. The Model K didn't cause any sensation in terms of sales. It had one factor that set it apart from other cars in its class - six cylinders - that apparently didn't cause a rush to purchase one.
Rob, tell us just where the Model K fell in sales compared to its competitors. You've known the answer for some time, apparently it is too embarrassing for you to reveal what you know.
I suppose I prefer the transmission that came in the car.....whatever car that is. In the T, I prefer the two speed planetary. In the A, I prefer the 3 speed sliding gear transmission. Same applies to any car. I believe old cars should be EXPERIENCED, not just driven and certainly not just looked at. The two speed transmission in a T is just part of the experience. It really doesn't matter if it is superior or inferior to anything else.
I used the word "cost" one to many times above.......
"Rob, tell us just where the Model K fell in sales compared to its competitors. You've known the answer for some time, apparently it is too embarrassing for you to reveal what you know."
Royce, I don't know what you are referring to. I've posted all sales of competitors as well as the Model K that I have. You said the a model K was not a top ten seller against other cars in it's price range.
I don't have a top ten selling cars costing over $2000 list. You said it, not me, so it appears you should know. If not, say so and move on.
Nothing about the Model K "embarrasses" me. In fact, I believe there is more than enough proof that it was a remarkable model for Ford, as were the other pre Model T Fords.
I'm not sure what it is you dislike about the Model K, other than the fact I am presenting information about the model that hasn't been revealed before.
While I don't have a "top ten selling cars priced over $2000" by model (and doubt one exists), I have collected every piece of information I've been able to find concerning sales of the Model K and competing models.
Below is just one example. Stevens Duryea, along with Ford and Franklin, National and two others, were recognized as leaders in the six cylinder model class. This article says Stevens is the leader in six cylinder sales with 730 sold (two models) beginning in 1906 through the time the article is published, Dec 1907. The article demonstrates that Stevens is proud of the number of sixes sold, and consider it a sales point (or they wouldn't report it).
The only inaccuracy is, Ford has already sold over 750 sixes by this time, making Stevens the number two manufacturer of sixes.
I'm going to whack away on that same planetary nail again, but please be patient with me 'cause this is going to be worth it.
The links below lead to "Eric the Car Guy" tearing down and explaining the workings of a very average, modern, automatic transmission (out of a Toyota Corolla). The thing that amazes me (aside from it's compact elegance) is that this unit has several forward gears and every single one of them is planetary!
Good video. I haven't seen the inside of an automatic for years, and forgot what the planetary setup looked like.
Back to the start of the thread, I wonder what a planetary taken apart and side by side with a three speed manual would look like. Maybe someone has an early Buick or Chebby transmission parts list and diagram we could compare with Ford?
Thank you for posting, now, back to your rehab
Bob: the planetary is basically a non automatic automatic transmission anyway. (there's an oxymoron for you). With the the exceptions of the foot brake, no pressurized auto shifting system and a torque converter it's all auto trans stuff.
Royce, if you think that Rob is eventually going to fall on his sword and accept defeat, it ain't going to happen. He has stated time and again with written proof that the Model K's early reputation is flawed and he is right. Why can't you accept that?
The selling point of the K was its smoothness and power for the 2,000-3,000 price range. The six made that happen, so yes the six was a selling point. Could you do damage to the low band if not driven correctly with all that torque. Absolutely. Same could be said for the clutch of the sliding gear transmission. As for quantity, I believe that it was stated before that Ford had a target of 500 units per year and set up his tooling and production for that mark. The fact that he sold 457 can be considered a success.
What I have not heard is whether metallurgy and hardness of the gears had been a factor in the the success of the planetary transmissions of the various auto builders. I do know that Henry was very keen on the importance of this issue.
I also believe you are forgetting to take into consideration the type of customer that Henry was aiming for and there were a lot of them. These potential customers had no experience with an automobile. Henry needed to keep it simple. Putting someone in a car that was jerky and made a lot of noise while trying to get it to move was not going to sell the car to this particular customer.
I don't need to tell you that the sliding unsynchronized transmission is a thing that is mastered and not all can do it, even with a large amount of patience and practice.
My uncle owned a 27 Peirce-Arrow roadster with a standard 3-speed. It was a bear to shift and if you missed a gear, you would literally have to come to a stop and start over. Given enough time, any of use who tried would probably have figured it out. My uncle wasn't willing to subject the car to that learning curve, so it sat most of the time. That was a high-end car built in 1927.
Imagine that same experience in 1906-09. As a novice, would you buy the car that worked smoothly or the one that would take forever to get mastered knowing full well that all the noise you were making could not be good for the mechanicals of the car.
That was what the planetary transmission offer the customer. Was only having 2 speeds a problem? We all have our own answers to that question. Was it a wise trade-off. In the case of the K, yes, as the engine had plenty of torque to overcome the shortfall of less gearing.
As stated above, for the Model T, it was all about the customer. A very good application of the KISS theory and Henry sold 15 million cars as my proof.
The planetary transmission was the right fit for the novice driver of the time. What ended it use was a shift in what the public wanted. That was more power. As the manufacturers increased power, the foot operated planetary could not keep up. If Henry wanted to sell cars, he had to give the buying public what it wanted. Add to it that more drivers had became accustom to operating the sliding gear transmission. A change to the sliding gear transmission had to happen.
It has been said that Henry got his vindication with the advent of the automatic transmission. A variation on the Model T transmission, but using hydraulics instead of our feet to apply more pressure to the bands and clutches and a torque converter to keep the engine in is proper power band.
I think you also realize that it took some time before someone actually added a third gear to those early units and one manufacturer that I will not name ran 2-speed units into the late 1960's.
I believe on of the people giving Ford Reminisces at Benson Library (The Henry Ford) said Henry Ford experimented with a sliding gear transmission while designing the Model K, but decided on the planetary. I'll try to find it.
I'm traveling from Missouri through Kansas today, and pulled over when I was near Lawrence KS to look for some K info, and found this. It looks as though at least two Model K were purchased by Lawrence KS residents, this second one mentions the smoothness of the K six cylinder. It also says it's a seven passenger (several K were equipped with jump seats that I've encountered in old records). This car was gray, the first touring I've found in that color (colors were optional according to advertising):
Oops, make that three Model K in Lawrence Kansas. I better keep my eyes open for parts.....
That was my Grandfather Charles Balough. Here is the paragraph.
One incident that remains fresh in my memory concerns an experimental car during the development of the Model T. This model incorporated a sliding gear transmission in place of the standard planetary transmission in the earlier Ford cars. Mr. Ford wasn’t sold on this type, but he was willing to give it a trial. It fell to my lot to take the car on a trial run. There were no testing grounds, no testing tracks. All trial runs were made on the public highways.
The trial run started just before the day shift left the plant. Street cars, which provided transportation for the employees, were gathering near the Ford plant at a point I had to pass. Normally, the cars backed into a turn-around. Two were spotted there and a third was approaching. I assumed it would pull ahead and then back into the turn-around, as the other two had, and I figured I had plenty of time to pass. But the third car turned abruptly as I was about to drive past. The experimental model was completely wrecked, crushed between the street car and a telegraph pole. I escaped with slight bruises and went home. The wreckage of the car was taken back to the plant.
Naturally, I was worried about what Mr. Ford’s reaction would be and remarked to my friend, Joe, that I had better hunt another job. He talked me into going in to work the next morning at the usual time.
When I explained to Mr. Ford what happened, he said to me; “Charley, that’s the best job you ever did for this company”.
That accident, incidentally, spelled the end of the sliding gear transmission application on the Model T. At Mr. Ford’s instruction, we set to work at once on the development of a planetary transmission with three forward speeds to replace the standard two-speed. We worked on this for several months only to establish that a three-speed transmission would involve the use of too many gears. In that connection, I remember a comment of Mr. Ford’s which has become something of a legend in engineering circles. It was that “the gear that gives you no trouble is the one you never use”. It was an expression that typified Mr. Ford’s thinking. Another expression of his that kept coming back to me through the years was: “Keep it simple and trouble-free”.
I don't think anyone above has mentioned the "Ford o matic". I had a 53 Ford Sunliner Convertable with the last year of the flat head V8. My friend had a 6 cylinder Coupe the same year. His 6 had overhead valves with a 3 speed column stick shift. He could do circles around me.
Thanks, I recall reading his reminisces. You have a tremendous legacy and it's great to hear about your Grandfather and his experiences while at Ford Motor Company. When possible, would you please give me a call, I have a few other questions? 402-643-0235 Thank you for the post.
I don't give much credence to the idea the two speed was a cost saving measure, especially with the Model K. The Model K was one of only two cars sold in 1906 for less than $4,000 that had a magneto. This includes Thomas, Pierce, Packard, Peerless and most high end makers. Only one foreign builder provided a magneto costing less than $4000, and that was a 27 hp car. If Ford was trying to keep the car "cheap" he would not have led the market by adding a magneto. Had he believed the three speed sliding gear transmission was better, he could have substituted other innovations such as a magneto to compensate with a three speed gear transmission (if cost cutting was the goal).
The other aspect is, I've pulled apart the Model K transmission, and it is "hell built for stout." I would say it weighs more than seventy pounds (this is an exposed transmission, so no body or carrier, just drums, gears and bearings) and is heavily built, not an inexpensive appearing piece of machinery. The operator manual says the gears are all hardened, and it appears everything in the transmission is well designed and machined.
Maybe to some extent it comes down to a person's opinion of Henry Ford. I happen to believe Henry Ford was a tremendous visionary. I think he designed cars with the goal of providing light, well powered, well built cars that he would offer at a nominal profit, with the idea that increasing market share would allow business to "take care of itself". I think many think Henry Ford's primary goal was capturing market share by building the least expensive car that was still functional. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Thank's to Bruce and i really enjoyed that!!! One thing no one has yet to mention is the ability of the plantary is to quickly change direction!! If your about stuck or stuck a quick rocking action can sometimes free you!! I doubt if any of the pre teen crash boxes could best the model T trans!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bud in Wheeler.
Bud, that's a very good point. Given the conditions of country roads in the day, that would have been a very useful thing to be able to do.
A three speed planetary would have twice the number of gears as a Model T transmission. Each reduction ratio is essentially a complete additional transmission. It would literally double the cost of a planetary transmission, the four gears being the most expensive to manufacture parts.
Notice the Pierce transmission has eight gears, three shafts, and at least five ball bearings.
The Model K planetary transmission, being much simpler, has only four gears, one shaft, and no ball bearings.
The ball bearings used by Pierce at this time were being imported from Germany, because Pierce engineers found them superior to any available in the USA.
Rob, a Model K transmission is cheaper to make than any sliding gear transmission. It offers fewer ratios, thus it is inferior for use in mountainous or hilly areas. Probably just fine for Nebraska or Kansas though.
Did that mean Pierce was an auto assembler? Actually yes, some of bearings in the Pierce construction were Hess-Bright. That's what the H.B. indicated on the differential Pierce diagrams I posted on another thread.
Most transmissions of the period were three speed, including most Pierce transmissions. It happens that was the only drawing I had at the time was the four speed shown at the beginning of this thread.
Below is a Packard 30 transmission (transaxle). It was a three speed, and it looks to me as though there are two carrier bearings, bushings and six gears:
In addition, instead of the multiple clutches of a planetary transmission, the standard leather (animal by-products, remember that one Royce?) clutch:
The Ford transmission:
As I've said (and the reason for this thread), I'm no expert, but it appears there are more gears, less bearings and bushings, and a much different clutch system when comparing the planetary with a sliding gear/cone clutch transmission.
I am able to provide the cost of a Model K transmission part by part. If you (or anyone) will provide a part by part list for a period three speed, we could compare parts and prices. The only problem is, these would be retail parts so probably not truly accurate (unlikely any two companies would have the same "markup" over cost. I would like to try though, if you will come up with a parts list.
I don't know why some continue to demean the model K. I would trade any two of my Ts for a Model K. All this talk about Transmissions is over my head. As far as number of gear go the Ruckstell has 17 (count them some time) and it seems to work well. I would not own a T with out a Ruckstell!.
My only experience around a K was in Montana on a Tour. The tour left the highway and travelled 12 miles into an old mine. The road was steep in places with rocks as big as tennis shoes. If I had known how bad the road was I would have not taken my center door. There was a MODEL K along with us and it did super. The K went up the very steep hills as well or better than the rest of us. Some of us could not believe that anyone would drive a MODEL K on that kind of road. The gravel on the road was mine rock so very sharp.
I believe that the K that went with us was the K that Rob now owns. One beautiful car then and I am sure with Rob's ownership is even more beautiful now.
No one is demeaning the Model K. We are discussing the relative cost of a component, the transmission. It's not a pro or con - it is a fact.
If there were a Model K within my budget I would own it.
If it belonged to the late Cecil Church, it's our K. I know both our K and both of Elmer Bemis' (K touring and roadster) toured extensively. Ours was red at that time. Several friends have told me they rode in Cecil's K years ago.
I was just looking over some copies of things, and saw this classified from late June 1909. While one can't put too much stock in used car ads, for the most part, the Model K did well (or better) than it's peers as far as holding value. One interesting comparison is the Thomas Flyer 60 hp (the same engine that won the 1908 NY to Paris race) listed for a little less than the Ford K. It seems the two speed transmission isn't hurting the resale value at this point. Again, just one example, but still interesting:
I expect there's no reason to imagine that the condition of the cars would have any effect on the price. So you could have a non running Model K at $850 priced strictly on the basis of its superior transmission.
Meanwhile the Thomas is probably in perfect condition at $750, priced that low because, after all, it's only a Thomas.
Maybe they remembered this 1907 race:
If my memory is right the K that went up to the abandoned mine was owned by Cecil Church. The K was with us for the entire week. I will try and look up the tour in the vintage ford and see where in Montana it was and who owned the K. Part of the reason I would guess the road was so bad was the mine was not in production for a long time.
Even in 1909 i'm sure it was evident to most The Ford Motor Company was here to stay! By the way a company that was still building and using the two speed planetary! Maybe we need to think to the roads of 1906? The major thing i have found lacking in the Ford then and yet today,Snob Appeal!! Bud in Wheeler.
Thanks. It's surprising how many tours our K and the two Bemis K were involved with in the 50s through the 80s. I'm glad two of the three are back on the road again.
I've been putting together something involving a Model K in 1909. This leads me right into it (I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find anything more to post.... ).
Not concerning the 1909 post (I'll get to that later), this is a lengthy article by Victor Louhgeed that appeared in an August 1907 issue of "Motor Way." It is a lengthy article about the feasibility of a gearless car being produced in the future.
Mr Louhgeed mentions two examples of cars in his article, the Ford six (Model K) and 60 hp Napier (well known English six cylinder car). The author is suggesting less gears may be the way of the future, and points out that the Napier may be special ordered with no forward gears. The entire article, along with two letters to the Editor concerning the article that appeared in later Motor Way issues is available on the link below.
I think this interesting because the article recognizes the Ford Model K as a well known two speed planetary car, stating "already there is on the market one well known car - the six cylinder Ford - with a two speed planetary gear". Due to the extensive amount of documents available about the Model K, I am of the opinion the car was a well known, well received automobile of it's day.
Link to the story and responses:
I really enjoyed reading Bruce's story about his Grandfather, not so much for the information about the sliding gear transmission but for one more insight as to Mr. Ford's management style.
Over the years most of what I've heard is that Mr. Ford was autocratic, nearly dictatorial. But here is another instance where it appears that he accepted alternate opinions and gave people the chance to prove them out. In this case, he gave the sliding gear transmission proponents a chance show their stuff before finally choosing the planetary for production. That tells me that Mr. Ford really was a savvy manager of people.
I've read several of the reminisces recorded transcripts at Benson Library and have been surprised how warm and humorous Henry Ford sounds according to several early Ford employees. It would make an interesting thread to list some of the stories these employees and associates of HF related.
For anyone copying photos and information, I think a correction should be made to a photo posted above. It's an early model K and the poster labelled the people riding as Henry, Clara and Edsel Ford. Next to HF is correctly labelled Pelletier (Roy, Ford Marketing/Sales Manager). However, the women seated behind Roy is labelled "Clarkson" and should be listed "Mrs. Pelletier". The photo is of an early Model K:
From the other post:
"Front seat: Ford, Pelletier.
Back seat: Clarkson, Edsel Ford, Clara Ford. "