In a number of postings you make reference to your 1917 Torpedo Runabout. I am familiar with the 1910,11 and 12 Torpedo's. I have not ever seen reference to a 1917 Torpedo? Most all references to single seat T's refer to them as a runabouts or roadster. Do you have some original advertising showing reference to using the Torpedo description in 1917? Is yours a special model? It looks like a snappy car in the pictures with the nice wires but does not appear any different to a standard runabout! Thanks in advance for answering my enquiry!
I was wondering the same thing.
Torpedoes are worth more?
Here's the original inspection tag from my car. The car's serial number is on the tag. There is a "tick" or "check" mark next to the word "runabout". The card is ink stamped "torpedo". (some of the details don't photograph well). The car is not a special model. It is what Ford says it is.
My dad bought the car from the original owner in 1951. The tag was still attached to the seat cushion spring and tucked inside.
The original owner also gave dad an envelope with the speedometer warranty and instructions, a receipt for a replacement valve, and the car's last registration from 1925. The guy had used the car for a trip from Minneapolis to Montana in 1917. He drove home and put the car in the garage near Minneapolis, and never drove it afterwards.
The speedometer had about 1700 miles on it when Dad bought the car. It has about 5000 today, most of the miles put on it by me in the past 10 years.
Here's my dad washing the car the day he first got it. It had shiny black original paint. He wishes now he had never painted it then!
Do I understand this correctly, if a dealer stamped a tag, it is a torpedo? Even if Ford no longer made a Torpedo body style.
That seems a bit dubious.
The tag is a Ford factory tag inspection Rob. I don't know if the car was assembled in the Minneapolis branch or the Highland Park plant.
We've had numerous threads over the years on these tags. They are not dealer installed. Many other examples exist. The type on my car was used from 1915 when the couplet and sedan were added to the selection of body styles.
I used to own a 1911 Oakland. It was titled, from day one, as a 1910 Oakland. Much as I wished it were so, the car was a 1911 (different body style) Oakland, regardless of original documentation.
However, maybe you own the only 1917 Ford Torpedo. Who am I to question what you report?
I just wish the hell I was lucky enough to have ANY factory nomenclature on ANY of my cars! Especially my '25 TT Pirsch firetruck.
Any idea how long they were stamping the tags with that word?
How would those of us without tags know which model we have?
Here are a few other items that the original owner, Pat Sheehan, gave my dad in 1951. The car suffered a burnt valve (cost 20 cents) on the way back from Montana, probably through bad driving habits (keeping the spark lever up all the time) or from bad gasoline.
Notice that the state of Montana incorrectly listed the body style on the registration as "Rdstr" and misspelled Pat Sheehan's name!
As I recall, I have Ford literature referring to the runabout as a torpedo well into the '20s.
I think they were called torpedos in some of the sales literature pamphlets.
How fantastic to have the paperwork !
I did a quick search of "Ford Torpedo", and found 28 examples like those posted below. No Ford advertising, but classifieds, mostly speedster, and one in England referring ot a four passenger T as a "Torpedo".
When I search "Ford Roadster", this, over 60,000 hits:
I'm in no way an "expert", and don't have the time to research it further. However, if the term Torpedo was applied to a Ford Model (I searched 1917 through 1925) it must have been infrequent at best.
And, as I've said many times, never say never, when it comes to Ford information.
If it was only applied once, it was applied to mine by Ford. I will always call it a Torpedo Runabout, as it was by Ford when it was assembled.
How many torpedos can drive on the head of a pin?
I still don't know if I understand what the difference is between a roadster and a roadster torpedo. Is the only difference the ID tag (if present)?
Its interesting doing research and gathering information then trying to read between the lines
and connect the dots. I have found this with the Snowmobile attachments.
But as long we all shear what we find and even though our interpretation may very I don't think that we will ever know all of the facts correctly. To many things have changed and been lost for 100 percent accuracy to prevail. Keep up the good work and keep trying it is fun.
Just my take on the subject.
Great question Dan. If anyone else has the tag from a 1917 Torpedo Runabout then we can have a comparison, and answer your question. Was every 1917 a torpedo runabout, or was my card stamped for some particular reason? My guess is that every card would have been the same. Ford was building cars as fast as they could, and factory options were zero in 1917. The inspector had the responsibility to attach the proper tag to each car and tick off the right boxes, and write the serial number on the tag.
Anyone else here have a 97 year old car they can trace to the original owner and document the original mileage and service history since new?
I know this can be confusing, since there was a "Torpedo" which was a body style separate from the Open Runabouts and Commercial Roadsters in 1911 and 1912 model years. But for some reason, Ford often continued to refer to ordinary Runabouts as Torpedos for many years after that.
From research at the Benson Archives, Ford's internal messages often referred to Runabouts as "Torpedos" into the 1920's. I gather that this was just another name for the Runabout, which most folks now call a "Roadster."
Agree with you. The terms were just normally interchanged, and that is it.
Just looked at my March 1, 1920 Parts and Price List book, page 27, fenders.....
4804D - Rear Fender Iron, right and left 1913-20 Touring.
4804E - Rear Fender Iron - Right 1913-1920 Torpedo & Couplet.
So here is an example for the runabout or roadster fender iron called a 'torpedo' fender iron
It is interesting to look at the sales numbers for the different models between 1908 and 1919. During some of the years they list sales numbers for all three models :Roadster, Runabout and Torpedo. In 1908 they show Roadster, by 1917 it's just the Runabout. I always thought that roadster and runabout were the same?
According to Brooke's:
The Automobile Handbook
Torpedo. This is a touring car having the body small and low as possible, while seating the number of passengers desired. The body is of the form that offers the least resistance to wind pressure and is called 'streamlined' in shape.
Runabout. This is an open body seating 2 passengers, mounted on a comparatively small, light or low powered chassis for use in towns and city travel and short country trips.
Roadster. This is also an open body, seating 2 passengers, but mounted on a chassis whose size, weight, and power fits it for heavy work and long distance driving.
My 1923 body parts list it as "Torpedo" on one page then "Roadster" on the next.
I think I might be able to shed a small bit of light on this. I have read some original manuscript info provided by employees of O.J. Beaudette company on the ocassion of the funeral of Mr. Beaudette in the early 1940 era. One employee said that starting in 1911 they built a roadster that HENRY FORD called a torpedo and from then on Henry referred to all of the 2 passenger cars as Torpedos. Most of the Ford company documents start 1911 with official series called "Torpedo and Open Runabout" as the 2 cars we now call officially 1911 Torpedo for the former and sometimes "Torpedo with doors" for the latter but usually we call it "1911 Open Runabout". Those cars were never called just "Roadsters" but I think you can appreciate that if Henry himself referred to all 2 passenger open cars as torpedos then nobody is going to "correct" him and that is exactly what happened. I suspect any document that went past HF himself and got something changed to "torpedo" just stayed that way.
Seems to me its a question of 'loose' terminology people used and still use. I have a 1919 Runabout that I began restoring over 30 years ago and finished in about 4 years.
Going to meets and buying parts for it people mostly called it and others like it Roadsters.
I didn't know any different until I started following this website years ago that its supposed to be a 'Runabout'.
There is some addition good discussion on Roadster vs Runabout vs Torpedo at the thread at: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/331880/398047.html?1383417392 Where it shares some of the early Ford advertisements and Price List of Parts where all three terms are used basically interchangeably.
And Roadster vs Runabout similar discussion at: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/331880/340619.html
Coke, Soda, Pop …..
Hap l9l5 cut off
Semantics. What I see is a torpedo goes faster in a straight line whereas a runabout scoots all over the landscape. Depends on the driver. (just couldn't resist.)
Semantics. What I see is a torpedo goes faster in a straight line whereas a runabout scoots all over the landscape. Depends on the driver. (just couldn't resist.)
I wonder how this thread would have gone if someone else wrote that they owned a 1917 Torpedo, and Royce didn't?
Just thinking out loud......
I runabout in my torpedo over all da roads der are.
Thankyou all for your comments and observations about my question. I was curious because Royce's runabout is the only one I have ever heard of as consistently having the Torpedo name attached. I thought that perhaps Ford may have used that name again in the 1917 Model year but so far in the absence of any Ford advertising or promotional material, I think not! Royce ,I don't really think the Montana Motor Registration Branch made a mistake on your cars registration papers, they just called it what Ford called it, a Roadster! It appears you are the lucky owner of the only 1917 Ford Runabout/Roadster/ Torpedo in existence! Enjoy.
Thanks, I have been enjoying it all my life, and it will be with me until my estate sale.
Forgot to post the picture. From the 1920 Ford parts catalog:
I think if the truth were known, Royce actually owns a Ford Roadster with a "WATER PUMP" called a Torpedo. OOH THAT HURT
Just returned from a ride in my runapedoster. Sure got a lot of looks...
I think I got this figured out. They originally called the car a "Runabout" because the car would run about on the rutted trails of the day. Later, they actually had real roads and they called it a "Roadster". "Torpedo" refers to the cylindrical tank full of explosive fuel that sort of looks and acts as a torpedo. The tanks was changed to an oval shape in 1920 thus making 1919 the last year for the torpedo models. Someone please tell me I'm right.
When did the torpedo become what we know it as today?
The long sleek things moving through the water that our submarines carried during WW2.
During the Civil war a torpedo was a bomb on a stick. Some time from then and the 1930's it's definition changed? I don't think that Henry was saying that his Runabout, Roadster was a Bomb.
One of our members here in NZ has picked up a heap of rusty parts with the intention of turning them into an acceptable vehicle for parades and the like. The front is from a roadster, the rear part of the cab is the rear portion of a tourer using the rear doors as "suicide" doors and there will be a pick-up bed made from experienced weathered wood. As the thing is being assembled from pretty crappy parts he will register it as a "Turdster". I'd love to see the look on the face of the Government wallah when this is offered up!!
I "don't have a dog in this hunt", so am not spending much time on it. However, if I did own a roadster that I felt should rightly be called a torpedo, I'd look for examples or documentation that such a differentiation was made by Ford Motor Company.
What little I have found follows:
First, "Torpedo" seems to have been a generic title given to both roadster/runabouts and what I'd call "sport touring" cars. A couple of examples:
Next, searching the Library of Congress site using "Ford Torpedo" between 1904 and 1922, I found the following.
The first "Ford Torpedo" that appeared in newspapers digitalized by The Library of Congress was in a January 1911 newspaper article:
Even during this period, a few "odd ducks" appear, such as this classified ad for a Ford 2 cyl 16-18 hp (I don't know if this is a Model F roadster, or misidentified Model NRS) and called a Torpedo:
Between 1911 and 1913 there are about 80 advertisements and articles with "Ford Torpedo" in them.
After that, there seems to be only one advertiser, the Miller Brothers (a well known Washington D.C. Ford dealer) that still advertises "Ford Torpedo", and the last instance they refer to Ford cars as "Torpedo" is 1914:
As I said above, I don't really have a stake in the matter. If I were trying to prove that a model T body style was called "Torpedo" as late as 1917, I would probably try to find an advertisement or other public mention. I guess the other alternative is some internal Ford documentation saying the same. It's probably up to the person if a parts list or stamped shipping tag really indicate a different body style existed, or if type wasn't changed (parts list) or old tags were used that had been stamped "Torpedo". That seems open to interpretation.
Bottom line, it doesn't seem there was a separate and distinct "Torpedo" body style offered by Ford Motor Company after 1912. It does appear some parts and tags were still labelled "Torpedo." Is that enough to call a car a "Torpedo" body style?
I don't know (and it doesn't matter what I think about it anyway).
Here's another runabout on eBay:
I think I harvested this from Hap...
Here is a 1914 touring car body tag.
The tag has a location for touring body number or torpedo body number.
Personally, I always reserve the word "torpedo" to go with runabout for the car that was made in 1911 only with doors. The model that did not have doors I refer to as an open runabout.
I call my 1915 a runabout, not a torpedo, however, I also call a coupe' a "coop", not a "coo-pay."
: ^ )
The Frontenac Motor Company, web site, lists and shows the 1911 T's as separate identities, 6 models.
It seems as time went by and some models deleted, the name stuck to what was left.
It's clearly just semantics. There is enough evidence to correctly use any of the three terms to describe a Roadster. But, for the sake of being consistent with common practice, modern Model T enthusiasts typically reserve the term "Torpedo" for the '11 Torpedo. It's nice to learn that there is documentation the Ford continued to use the name beyond that year, but it's tough to change the public vernacular.
In the medical field we have a similar problem. The patients call them diapers, the nurses call them incontinence products and the manufacturer calls them briefs. By whatever name, they don't end up smelling like roses.
Good one Rob! Thanks for pampering us with that.
Is there any documentation regarding how the "Torpedo" moniker came to be?
Frankly I think it's kind of silly.......
Henry was going to call it a roadster but Clara torpedoed that plan.
^........snicker....... LOL .......
I got the straight skinny on this issue at lunch today, but I will never tell.
Ted, you have lunch with Royce?
That's the same as insider trading you know?
Which Royce would you suppose?
Is'nt it interesting that when someone else finds original documentation on their car it is taken as gospel. Royce has original documentation on his car and is challenged about it. The fact is that the original documentation for this car came from the factory, they called it for what it is. Whether you like it or not they built it, they must know what it is. If it does prove to be incorrect, and was a mistake made by the inspector, it furthers our knowledge of what happened in the past. Reference to parts for these cars by the Ford Company as Torpedo parts, and original documentation, only adds to the credibility of Royce's claim. The only people who will know for sure are long dead.
Good one Ted...my comment was meant to be cute and not 'off'....good come back!
Yes, the documentation is a good thing to have. However, I'm not sure that a parts page labeled "Torpedo" (and otherwise unrelated to this particular car) and an inspectors ticket (that is stamped, not written "Torpedo") indicate a new or different body designation. Did the Torpedo label on the parts page "carry over" from years before? Was the inspection ticket stamped and also left over from previous years?
The inspector physically checked "Runabout." He didn't cross out "Runabout" and write "Torpedo." I doubt an inspector had a "Torpedo" stamp, and stamp the ticket with the body style "Torpedo" in addition to checking "Runabout."
At the end of the day, I doubt it matters. As Royce said, the car and documentation will go to the next caretaker. Personally I would wish to see more examples of this happening before I would say Ford called the Roadster body style a Torpedo in 1917.
Again, I don't have a dog in the hunt, so all this is just speculation and opinion on my part.
Who is challenging Royce?
The facts are in.....his IS a Torpedo.
MY question is how did the Torpedo name come about.
I didn't read the question as a challenge, more rather a curiosity one, Warrick asked is there a reference of sorts at Royce's year model to support it being called a Torpedo, so a little research shows that it is, and a roadster from 1922 and on. Interesting!!