According to John Wandersee, the weak planetary transmission is the biggest problem with the Model K, and the reason it was not successful.
Wandersee is a very interesting character. He had worked with Harold Wills at a previous job, and was hired by Wills to do odd jobs around the company. At the time he was hired in 1902 there was not a Ford Motor Company. Ford was mainly building race cars under contract to Tom Cooper. Wandersee eventually became a car tester in the Model A / Model C / Model K era, and went with Frank Kulick to run the six cylinder race car in Florida during its fruitless 1906 campaign. - Note - the six cylinder racer is not a Model K.
Wandersee was a very intelligent man, and when Henry Ford decided he needed a metallurgist he had Wandersee trained to become one starting in 1907. The Model K had a number of design and material defects which no doubt were enhanced by poor choices in materials for certain items.
Like every person who knew Henry Ford personally, Wandersee also relates that Henry did not want to build the Model K, and that the $500 car for every man was Henry's goal for his company. This is of course the same story we find in books written by serious and honest historians like Philip Van Doren Stern for example.
Wandersee relates how all this resulted in the use of Vanadium steel, and why Ford later stopped using Vanadium when better alternatives were developed by Wandersee and his team.
These are only a sampling, if you truly enjoy the history of Ford Motor Company click on the link at the bottom of this posting.
It's good to see we agree.
As you wrote above "Wandersee was a very intelligent man,"
In the excerpt copied above, John Wandersee also reported "It (Model K) was the best car in the country." He also reported "They sold enough of them". Below is the paragraph, along with the text in case the copy is unclear:
I don't believe one could find a stronger endorsement of the Model K than "the best car in the country.". And by a trusted aide of Henry Ford's who was at his side from 1902 until the late 1940's.
Thanks for posting,
The 1907 - 1909 redesigned K was a fairly good car except for the weak transmission. The planetary design was not the problem, the problem was that the design was not strong enough. It could have been successful if there had been either a better material, or a larger overall set of parts. The facts that the Model K transmission was planetary design, and prone to frequent and early failure, are not related. The implementation was poor, not the concept.
I don't think you can ( well OK maybe YOU can) call the Model K Ford the best car in the country. There were many other cars of the time that were both higher quality and more durable, and just plain better in any number of ways.
I didn't say the Model K was "the best car in the country." The gentleman you wrote "was a very intelligent man" and whose transcript you copied (to begin this thread) did. Back in my law enforcement/courtroom days, we would say you are impeaching your own witness......
I do firmly believe the Model K was the best large car for the money in the country, of course that is just my opinion.
I should add, I drive a Model K almost every day through the summer. Last evening I filled up the tank with over 13 gallons (holds 15). It was the second time I've filled over the last week, and we average 11 to 15 miles per gallon. We've put on about 3,000 miles since placing the K back on the road three years ago. I've also had the good fortune of riding in another Model K, and sharing information about the model with ten other past and present K owners to gain perspective.
To the best of my knowledge, you have no hands on driving or riding experience with the Model K. It seems to me, until one does, it is questionable that one is able to rate the qualities and liabilities of the car. However, as with everything concerning my posts, that is just my opinion.
Whether a particular type of car ever was the best in the country is, of course, absolutely unprovable. Mr. Wandersee, being a Ford exec, was not in a position of objectivity and one can almost not help but be aware that public statements made by Ford office-and-desk-men had to be influenced by whatever robber-baron bosses happened to be in charge at the time (in this case, major stock-holders). As the saying goes, "The guys with the gold make the rules."
Rob is in the enviably unique position of being the 21st Century test pilot who can tell us, with practical authority, the good and bad of what it's like to own and operate this magnificent behemoth, and Packard's slogan, "Ask the man who owns one," comes to mind.
On the other hand is Royce's encyclopedic knowledge and multiple generations of experience. Makes for one heck of an interesting debate, doesn't it?
I don't really see any disagreement about the facts here. Royce and Rob both think the K was great car and both agree with John Wandersee that its weak point was an under-built transmission. That is not an insult to the K, all cars, especially ones for these early years had weak points. As far as "the best car in the country", well even Rob has only stated that it was the best car built for the price. As far as who has driven what, the only way to compare different makes of cars is to have had experience driving/working on them. If you have only driven a couple of these early HCCA type cars, it's hard to compare them to the ones you haven't had the opportunity to experience. It's too bad Royce hasn't been able to drive a K and Rob hasn't had a chance to drive some of the cars Royce has . . . maybe they could find a little more common ground . . . or maybe not.
That is the fairest, most level headed and reasonable observation that this whole Model K circus has seen.
Good points. The problem is, the Model K did not "fail." John Wandersee said he believed it to be the best car made at the time. He also said the transmission was the weak part of the car in his opinion. This thread begins by drawing a conclusion and attributing that conclusion to Mr. Wandersee, that the Model K was a failure, when in fact, he (Wandersee) said something entirely the opposite. Mr. Wandersee said the Model K sold in good numbers and was the best car made, in his opinion. And, this interview occurred after the death of Henry Ford, and after John Wandersee had retired, so there should have been no reason for Mr. Wandersee to report anything other than his recollections.
A person may have opinions as to the quality of the Model K. However, to paraphrase and mislead to advance that opinion is not an honest way to represent history, in my opinion.
The Wandersee Reminiscences are important for several reasons. One is Mr. Wandersee was with Ford Motor Company and a personal friend of Henry Ford from 1902 (1903 with FMC) until Henry Ford's death. Mr. Wandersee provides many interesting recollections of Henry Ford, the Ford family, and many associates and employees of Ford Motor Company. He also gives the Model K a glowing review (a far cry from the way his transcript is represented at the beginning of this thread).
Another reason I find this part of the oral history so important is, it's one of the few in which the interview questions are included. The oral history interviews, as explained at the opening of each transcript, were initiated with a set of questions. Regarding the Model K, it seemed strange that many of the interviewees associated with Ford (1906-1908 time frame) had an opinion about the Model K. Considering the car was only produced two and a half years and was one of nine Ford models made before 1910, it seemed unusual that so many interviews mentioned the K while neglecting many other models. I had been looking for the original questions, and finally found a complete set with this interview. The questions happened to be in the back of the Wandersee Reminiscences. The questions regarding the Model K are highlighted below (courtesy of the online Reminiscences, all rights apply):
In my opinion, questions such as "whose idea was it to produce the big, heavy Model K?" are not a good lead if an interviewer is looking for an unbiased opinion of the car, but it didn't matter in this case. Mr. Wandersee said he didn't know whose idea it was to build it, but went on to say in his transcript that he thought it was a very up to date car (and one of the best made).
As for the planetary transmission, it is by no means "under built" or made of poor materials. It is a heavy, well made planetary transmission, and when coupled with the torque provided by the six cylinder engine, makes for an easy driving, quick accelerating car. If you feel the two speed planetary in a T is adequate, you'll love the two speed planetary in the Model K.
But we've been through all this before. The K was a financial success. It was the only stock Ford car to hold a world speed record until the late 1950s that I'm aware of. Henry Ford raced the six cylinder well before producing the car, and said the six cylinder racer would race again as late as August 1909. Incidentally, the six-cylinder racer is the last race car we know Henry Ford drove for time (Detroit,1907). All these are facts. One may draw any conclusion they wish about the model, but it would be good to consider facts before reaching a conclusion.
Rob - I had always assumed that cost not quality or performance was the killer for the Model K (as unfortunately it still is for me !) One apparently did come to New Zealand and was used for beach racing in the 1920s but then disappeared -Karl
Below are two pics of the NZ K racer. Unfortunately I don't recall where the pics and story's that follow came from (contributors).
The racer is the early 1906 Model K version, so I suspect it arrived in NZ by December 1906, although I don't know this:
This article says the first six cylinder car in NZ will arrive "next week," dated December 1906:
And this news photo appeared in March, claiming the Ford pictured is the first six cylinder car in NZ. It looks as though it has the 1906 Victoria style body. This may be the same car that eventually became the racer. At least they are both 1996 versions, and it's unlikely anymore 1906 cars made it to NZ since the first arrived in mid Dec 1906. I believe Ford began producing the improved Model K in late October 1906
Concerning the price of the Model K, the median price of automobiles in the U.S. for 1907 was $2750. The 1907/08 Model K listed for $2800, so it was a mid priced car compared with all makes and models ("The Automobile" magazine, 1907).
Countries the Model K was exported to that I am aware of include NZ, Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Belgium and possibly France. I believe another poster also said a Model K was in another Northern European country too, possibly Denmark?
"Why did the model K fail?"
I don't think it did fail. I would think, that related to the realities of the automobile industry circa 1906-'08, it should be considered a success. In terms of production and sales numbers, and profit which helped to propel Ford Motor Company ahead to bigger and better things, I really do not see how it can be called anything else but a success.
I would say that the model K Ford did simply "time out". Ford had bigger plans, and it was time to move on to them. The "Universal Car", and expanding toward one of the (by then standards) largest manufacturing concerns in history, was more than enough to deal with.
But!? That is just my opinion.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
As I have read here, about the 1906 K:
Compared to the 1909 T:
Poor cooling system
No access to rods
Why didn't the Model T fail?
I agree, the K did not fail. As we now know, the K kept FMC in the black for 1906 (fiscal year) and was instrumental in Ford having their first million dollar profit year in 1907. The Model K even made about as many dollars for FMC (profit) as the Model N over the production lifetime (1906-1908).
The weaknesses of the 1906 version were quickly corrected, and the 1907/08 K had a beefed up frame, longer wheelbase, larger radiator capacity and higher compression by late 1906.
Again, the transmission was not "weak", and Ford proved it by winning many speed and hill climb events between 1907 and 1909.
1906 Model K:
Weak engine pan arms (always cracked or repaired)
Serious overheating problems
Henry Ford did not want to build any for sale
1907 Model K (entirely redesigned)
Henry Ford did not want to build any for sale
Model T 1908 First 900 cars
Transmission reliable but hard to operate
Water pump unreliable and leaky
Henry Ford wanted to build nothing except this car
Model T serial 900 - 2500 cars
Water pump unreliable and leaky
Transmission reliable and like all subsequent Model T's
Henry Ford wanted to build nothing except this car
All the first 2500 Model T's were sold in about 5 months. The same number of Model K's took several years to sell. Note that while the first 2500 Model T's were built and sold there were still Model K's in stock.
Questionable styling? Ford sold more six cylinder cars in 1906 than any other car maker, including Napier, Rolls Royce, Franklin, Stevens Duryea and National.
I listed the primary design changes for 1907 above.
Henry Ford held over 50% of FMC stock as of July, 1906. If he didn't wish to continue producing the Model K, he would not have redesigned it, and would not have ordered 650 more chassis from Dodge Brothers (Ford Directors minutes, October 1906).
Model R and S also remained for sale in 1909. According to FMC advertising and independent news accounts, the company was only building Model N,S and K runabouts after July 1908, and beginning production of the Model T. Judging by the FMC Branch advertisement below, it appears the company no longer had K tourings for sale.
July 12, 1908 Ford Philadelphia Branch ad:
In my opinion there are no K touring's left to sell from the factory. If I were in charge of marketing and had Model K touring s left over, I would have placed them in this ad (closeup below). The ad is quarter page paid advertising. A company should be advertising what they have to sell, considering a new model will make all existing inventory obsolete in a few months.
The "lightbulb" just came on: something that has puzzled me for some time, why were so few Model K sold in 1908? Only 119, following a banner sales year in 1907 with over 450 K sold (almost equaling the profit made by Model N sales). The primary automobile sales months were April, June and July for carmakers ("Automobile" magazine). Why so few Model K sales?
Royce, I had not put this together before, and I have to thank you for forcing me to look at advertising and news accounts, and reconsider. It makes perfectly good sense. Ford factories are beginning production of the Model T. FMC has already announced they will only produce N, S and K runabouts. The K era is over, K tourings are no longer in FMC hands, and production is winding down on N, S and K roadsters while tooling up for the Model T.
There is no push on to sell those nasty, unwanted, ugly failed K touring cars because there aren't any left at Ford Motor Company to sell.
Works for me, good night all......
The K Touring was priced at $2800 without top or headlamps (yellow arrow), $3000 with top and side curtains (red arrow):
Maybe the below site will tell us if they had used better steel[if available at the time] that the transmission size would have been adequate ?
Good film for demonstration of the planetary transmission.
Have you had any problems with the two speed on your Model K?
Now that we've raised the compression closer to original, our two speed works great, and so far I haven't found a hill that we are unable to make on high gear (although Nebraska is "hill challenged."
Interestingly, there were a few expensive, large cars that also used two speeds, the Hewitt and Simplex (article below) were two. Napier sold their car with, or without a forward speed transmission. Like Ford, Napier and Sheffield-Simplex used a 6 cylinder engine while Hewitt had an 8 cylinder motor.
Tin Lizzie by Stern was and still is imho the best early Ford book,but did Stern ever see the records where Ford made money off the model K or did he just take note of a few stories?? Bud.PS,It remindes me of our Machinery Handbook which had everything on earth in it but the 40 hour class was just how to use the book! Bud.
I believe the majority of Ford historians had little information, and took little time to investigate the Model K. After all, it was the third least produced "alphabet" car, behind Models C and B. I also suspect the interviews conducted by the Ford Oral History group influenced many future Ford historians, in part because they (transcripts) were short, accessible, and provided a quick reference to early Ford experiences. Unfortunately, the oral histories were in large part responses to interviewer questions, and I personally believe the questions were a little slanted.
I have not seen the internal Ford audit information referenced in any Ford historical work, and the only reason I found the "trail" to this information was because Trent Boggess used some audit material and referenced it in his research. Mark Herdman ultimately brought this to my attention with a page from one of Trent's students works, and further checking at Benson library led to the 1906-1909 audit information.
The audits were for internal Ford Motor Company use only, so no reason for "massaging" or "cooking the books", and they (audits) were conducted by a third party accounting firm.
What I find surprising is the pushback against the idea that Henry Ford willingly produced a quality, inexpensive "big car" from many Ford enthusiasts. For some it is sacrilege to suggest Henry Ford applied the same themes to a large car (light weight, quality metals, low priced for the intended market) that he applied to the other Ford models he designed. However, things are changing........
Always more to learn,
As for transmission problems---- NO -But I do treat the transmission with respect in the way that when i did initially restore the car i fitted an under drive unit in the driveline so as to only use the low gear system as least as possible. As i live in a hilly area i have found that i am in regular need to use the under drive and i'm sure has helped preserve the transmutation from having the sun wheels climb up the planetary gear and burst the drums as they were prone to do in terrane as mine.
Thanks Bob. Our tranny has the original planetary gears but has been rebushed. Since ringing and the valve job it seems capable of taking any hill in high, although I'm sure there are instances, just as with a T, that an under drive would help. Is your under drive electric?
NO - ONLY ECSTATIC
I should have put this up earlier. Evidently as of 1926 Ford Motor Company did not consider the Model K car or transmission a failure, claiming "it was so successful (Model K transmission) it was adopted for the Model T car."
Some folks think the K was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Others think it's the next best thing to dirt. I suggest we let this issue go to sleep and if it must reawaken, then it do so on the HCCA site.
Since there's no shortage of electrons, I'd like it kept here. I'd like to see more about the other pre-T Fords as well. The T wouldn't be, had not the prior models been successful.
I am for A, B, C, E, F, H, R, N and S. For me, I have had enough of K.
Others may have a different view.
Ha ha Ted........which makes me wonder (I'm too lazy to check) what the periods of construction were for all the other letter cars.
Since the A came out in 1903 and the T began production in 1908 that leaves 10 different models that were built within a 5 year span.
By those numbers it seems the K had what could be called a comparatively long production life........
I "grew up" with this forum, learning about our Model Ts as I went. Then as I realized I liked early Fords too, I was fortunate enough to acquire a Model N while still owning three brass Ts. I would post occasionally on the Model N, and of course there was no controversy, and things went along well enough.
Then, a little over three years ago we acquired our Model K, and it seems that many things I thought I knew about Ford history in general, and Model K history in particular, was turned on it's ear.
Meanwhile, I do post on The Early Ford Registry site, however that is a much smaller group of Ford enthusiasts and I don't wish to "overwhelm" the site with my threads, so I don't post there as often as on this site. I doubt many forum members on a non Ford site such as HCCA or AACA (both of which I'm a member) would have a lot of interest in Henry Ford and specific incidents involving Ford Motor Company's early history.
I always begin my threads with OT (that are often pre T Ford threads, and not always Model K related, although the majority are K oriented). While the threads may be tedious for you and many, I notice what I consider much more controversial and non hobby related threads that I personally don't care for. I simply pass those threads by. In fact, I would guess I only open 15 to 20 percent of threads, if the titles appear to be something I'm interested in.
I didn't begin this particular thread, nor the last "Model K" thread, and as you can see, they don't begin with OT for Off Topic. I have, however, commented extensively on this thread, as I suspect the author knew I would. Regardless, a total of ten forum members have posted to this thread not including you. I have no intention of apologizing for what I think or believe, and feel I've acted responsibly with my posts.
I don't recall specific threads you've authored or commented on before, however I know I've seen your name many times on posts. I did not suspect we had a disagreement, nor the you were offended by "Model K"" posts in the past. I enjoy this forum. I enjoy the friendships and acquaintances gained through the forum. I "pay my dues," research the information I present, and try to label threads OT with descriptive titles so those who don't care for the subject matter or me may avoid that thread.
It seems to me that should be acceptable. Meanwhile, if there is no interest in the threads I begin, they will quickly fall by the wayside, not to be seen again. If there is interest and comments, yes the thread will stay up for awhile.
If you, or anyone else would like, I will begin any thread with my name after OT. That way those I've offended or who don't care for my threads may make a conscious decision "not to go there." I am willing to make that concession if you or anyone else feel I should. I don't like the idea of starting a thread with my name, as this is a forum and I do hope to hear other opinions concerning my threads and posts, but I will if it will make you, or anyone else feel better.
There is no dispute that one cannot please everyone and, as Rob noted, a thread without interest will die a quick death. If a thread is of interest to a variety of people, then it will continue for some period of time. Having a variety of topics of interest or that request and receive help is pretty much the reason the forum exists. In my limited experience, this is one of the best forums out there, especially regarding the Ford Model T. I have gained much knowledge about our Model T cars and read many threads with great interest and also lightly read or by-passed threads that were not very applicable to my interest or situation.
I truly hope this forum continues being the best, as it has.
The policy is to use OT. I see no reason to use your name after the OT.
Ditto what Dave Hj said.
And I may be crazy? But I am still enjoying the model K threads.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Ted - got an easy fix for ya - stop reading the thread. (chuckle)
Many historians have examined the Model K and reported on it without bias in the past. Let's see what an unbiased and honest opinion looks like:
George Damman, Illustrated History of Ford
Henry Austin Clark and Beverly Rae Kimes 1805-1942 STANDARD CATALOG OF AMERICAN CARS
Henry Austin Clark and Beverly Rae Kimes 1805-1942 STANDARD CATALOG OF AMERICAN CARS
Philip Van Doren Stern Tin Lizzie
Chrysler Ford Durant and Sloan H. Eugene Weiss
Let's also examine the first person testimony from Ford Motor Company employees who were there in person that each of these writers used to form the basis of true factual information for each of their books:
Fred W Seeman, Ford Motor Company
Oliver Berthel, Ford Motor Company
Charles Sorensen, Ford Motor Company
John Wandersee, Ford Motor Company
To summarize, every reliable source that we know of says essentially the same thing. The Ford Model K was produced in spite of Henry Ford not wanting to make it. The transmissions were troublesome and weak.
What is there about a planetary that a car could be too heavy for it? They could do all the math back then, and scale a planetary to take the torque. Was Wandersee an engineer?
Indeed, the six is less strain on a planetary than a four. And the planetary is almost irrelevant in direct drive.
The fact is, the Model K had transmission failures caused by inadequate design. The concept - planetary transmission - was not the problem.
The problem was inappropriate engineering selection of materials or use of materials. You can get by with weaker materials if you compensate with larger parts. You can use more expensive materials to achieve smaller size with the same strength or toughness.
How is Model K transmission was a victim of "inadequate design?"
What are the design deficiencies compared with the Models N, R and S transmissions, that sold over 15,000 cars over the same period (1906-1908)?
And, what are the differences that cause the Model T transmission, in your opinion, to be superior to the NRS and K planetaries? I should add, the only difference between the NRS and K transmissions that i'm aware of? The Model K has a wider brake band (as did the 1926/1927 improved Ford).
If it was designed properly it would not have a well earned history of failures. Different material selection or size could have made it adequate.
The last paragraph attributed to Wandersee, above, is pure hogwash. Who else called the K planetary defective?
John Wandersee became one of the most capable metallurgists of the 20th century. I don't see how you can call his first person testimony hogwash. He was there.
Here's a video produced for the HCCA with a Model K owner talking about all the various design and manufacturing defects on the Model K, including what he did to help delay the transmission failure:
Did those involved with Ford know everything at start up,or was it a learn as you go?? Did the spread sheet's provided by Rob show that Ford made money off the Model K?? Of the thousands of makes built how many are still with us?? Hind sight is 20 20 but forsight built Ford!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bud.
Royce, you said
"John Wandersee became one of the most capable metallurgists of the 20th century. I don't see how you can call his first person testimony hogwash. He was there. "
So this means you also agree when Mr. Wandersee said the following on the same page of his transcript:
If so, we are able to agree. Excellent....
.."it was too heavy for a planetary." That is pure hogwash.
It may have been too heavy for that planetary, as built.
Could convergence possibly be at hand?
Sure, of course. John liked the appearance and the powerful engine of the Model K. Who wouldn't? It was a and is a big powerful pre - 1910 car with lots of brass. It would have impressed anyone. Wandersee is simply pointing out the only thing he knew that was a problem. Since by 1906 Wandersee was one of the car testers along with Frank Kulick it would be something he should know better than anyone else.
Royce, Instead of gasping for ways to discredit Rob and the K please do some positive research. See how many tranny parts Ford sold for the K. You have a lot of great info and we all thank you for it. But you only want the world to follow your lead. I dont think you have a clue about planetary transmissions. The Ford planetary has 6 teeth engaged at all times. That is 3 times stronger than a jack shaft style. The tranny could have been made out of lower grade material and would still work fine in a 60 hp car. I make planetary transmissions that go from 1,000 hp to 8,500 hp. So please argue with me all you want. Rob has done a great job searching the web and Ford files to back up the K. You have flip-flopped and the K since the beginning. Now you say it,s a good car. Make up your mind and quit pestering Rob. You are only making your self look bad. I thank you for all the good you do but dont understand why you like to pick on others. Scott
If you have any research to offer that says anything that support's Rob's position that anything negative about the Model K must be untrue, please post it now.
In no way would I want to discredit Rob - he's made me more interested in the Model K than ever. I have to thank Rob for that. I post only what I find, positive or negative. Take a look at what John Wandersee said - he drove Model K's every day Ford made one, which was of course not every day. Mr. Wandersee probably enjoyed driving Model K's a lot.
If someone wanted to give me a K I would take it with open arms - I would be very surprised if there would be a single poster on this thread that wouldn't! Who cares if the transmission is weak or not. Is the T (which we all love)perfect ??-Karl
"In no way would I want to discredit Rob"
That's a damn lie.
Thank you for the evaluation of the planetary transmission. It seems as if we learn more all the time about Ford's quality and innovation in the early years.
Below is a matrix comparing components from "Automobile" magazine's new car (1907) review. Ford used the highest grade steel for the Model K transmission of any automaker, with the next lower grade for the Model N. Vanadium steel would not appear on the scene until early 1907. It's interesting to see what the other car makers listed were using as a comparison:
Royce, When Rob started posting about his K you had piles of info about how bad a car it was. Henry hated it and 6 cylinders. All sorts of bad press and newspaper clippings to back you up. Now after Rob has filled everyone in on how great the K is you have almost jumped over the fence. Now you think the K is a good car. But you cant let go that you were wrong in the beginning. So you are down to your last straw. One man not happy with a transmission. But you claim that it is weak. Well what is breaking? You havent said. I thing that a 2 speed tranny in any car is a poor deal. So can you get your guy to spit it out as to what is weak? How many gear sets did ford sell to keep the K,s on the road? I think its just a matter of time that you make up with Rob and let him know how much you love the K and are a true believer in it. Iam sure Rob will give you a ride if you pay for the gas. I still believe in you and all that you give to many but you are the only one bashing the K. I think that all the car makers did a great job with what they had to work with.
they had there problems to. Look at gm and Toyota. There is still much to learn and improvements to be made. So lets all try to help instead of tear down our fellow man. Scott
I am fascinated by the Model K - just a few short years ago, we knew so little about it. With the advent of the internet, we are able to share so much.
The photos posted above by Rob most probably came from me. They are certainly Model K. One of those photos is taken not so far away from where you currently live - a farm just out of Marton. Yet a few short years ago, it was uncertain whether a K had come to NZ at all - rumour had it that one had arrived here. Now we can say that the car Rob has posted are all indeed the NZ Model K.
It is really important that any hatchets anyone might be carrying are dropped and buried so as we can continue to discuss such topics in an effort to find our what really happened! My project has been going on now for eight years! Asa it comes to an end, I can see that I most probably could not have done it without the help and guidance of those who knew stuff, were happy to share and to question, and just really wanted to know what really happened! The more I've learned, the more I've discovered how much I don't know.
This is not a competition (if it is, who wins? and who loses?). For a true competition demands one of each. Lets keep looking and learning together.
PS not too much togetherness from me of late, as I try to run my business AND get my project finally completed - some of you know what I'm talking about!
I thought the pics and articles may have come courtesy of you, however I wasn't sure. Thank you for sharing them. And good luck with your venture,
Indeed, Ford had to improve and redesign much of the Model K for 1907 to try and improve the dreadful reliability problems encountered with the 1906 models. No doubt better material selections helped a lot.
You need to remember that we are not making history here. It is the goal of any honest historian to be accurate and truthful. Read what Henry Austin Clark writes and understand that he is a Model K owner, who toured his Model K extensively. He only wrote his words because they were true. We are lucky to have "Austie"'s vast collection of automobile literature at the Henry Ford Museum today because he donated it after his death.
Henry Austin Clark at the 1957 Glidden Tour in his Model K
It is discussions like this that pull all kinds of good information from the woodwork.......nice job everyone.......
I don't agree with the argument that a planetary transmission won't handle a heavy vehicle. TTs used the same planetary transmission as the Ts. The TT rear end is different. Ford knew what needed to be changed to enable the truck to haul heavy loads. It was not the transmission.
Royce, When you invite someone over for lunch its nice to put something between the slices of bread. Two slices of stale bread is a poor lunch. You used to have laundry list of complaints against the K. You are down to one.
When you say weak transmission can you spell it out a little more clear? Did the gears strip? Was the linings failing? Were the ratios wrong? Your letter has an opening and closing but no information in the middle. Scott
It isn't fair for a knowledgeable few to attempt to hold Royce accountable for his campaign of snide posts on Model K Fords. He simply cannot control himself; he is on a vendetta mission and will not be satisfied until he succeeds (whatever his personal version of "success" looks like).
I'm not getting mixed up in this but The last Photo posted has an error...Royce 's caption says is Henry Austin in a Model K but the caption under the photo says is a 1910 Simplex.
The only sense I can make out of the "weak transmission" argument is that two forward speeds may not have been adequate to operate a heavy car at varying speeds. Nothing to do with the planetary type of transmission per se, only that more gearing may have been necessary. When I read Austin Clark's comments, it becomes clear to me that the tragic weakness he refers to has to do with the number of forward speeds, not the type of transmission.
Richard, I have thrown out piles and piles of planetary transmission parts for the alphabet cars. Mostly gears, but also cases , bushings and drums. Very early , Ford (the dodge brothers) used just two planetary gears in their early transmissions. This was changed to three gears , but that was hardly the fix. IMHO it was a combination of incorrect metal choice, incorrect bearing choice, incorrect tolerances, and in the case of the K, inadequate size. Having said that, I doubt increasing the size would have really helped , because of the other previously mentioned problems. Metallurgy was In it's infancy, and manufacturers such as ford usually just increased the size of something when problems arose.
There is a man in Detroit who has spent the last 60 years rebuilding these early transmissions. I would say he rarely, if ever, reused an original gear or bearing. Often the cases and drums themselves are replaced, as that is much easier than repairing what survives. I can say from talking with him, the K transmission was a HUGE problem. Next to the dodge brothers, he has probably made the next most K transmissions.
I'm not going to debate the use of a planetary drive that we know and love, and Henry didn't invent that anyway. Remember, the F transmission that you know very well, was very nearly the size of the model K.....the F is 12hp, the K is 40hp. The. N transmission is smaller than the F... Does that make sense? Only because the metal choice, and tolerances were getting better. Take apart ANY original transmission from any alphabet series car, and it would be extremely unusual if all the gear teeth are not very pointy, and bushings all worn out. I've seen a couple of original N's , likely running original transmissions, that need to be pumped full of stiff grease before each use.
The T was eventually just so much better in all the above points, and that is why they do not have the same problems.
Tim, Thank you for this info. Its what we were asking for. Could the oils back them have caused some of the problems? Did other car makers have the same problems? Scott
I think, personally, it was everything. Poor metals, inadequate or improper lubrication, ( remember , all the alphabet cars were total loss oil systems. You had to take a small screw out of the transmission drum and fill with oil. You had to fill either the exhaust or mechanical powered oiler with oil before starting the car. If it started running rough, you would open the petcock on the bottom of the pan and drain oil out as it probably had too much ! ) Roads were unbelievably rough, where even passable. All this crap ended up in the wide open transmission drum and bands. We have no concept today of how bad it was .
I am not one to ask about other cars, and how they compare.
It's not surprising transmissions, two speed planetaries or otherwise, are "worn out" on 105 plus year old cars. The question is, how did they perform "in the day" relative to competing types of transmissions?
Two examples. First, a letter from a K owner posted in the Kansas City Star, saying the owner had over 6,000 miles on a Model K the first year. It appears the car, including transmission performed flawlessly. And going by the date of the letter, this is the 1906 Model K version maligned earlier:
An even better example, the following Model K lived a long and useful life.
R. L. Hall is mentioned driving this Model K in 1927. The Model K is being driven from Ponca City OK to Kansas City, and Mr. Hall reported that the car is all original, down to the red paint (and two speed planetary?). This Model K is reported to have over 220,000 miles at the time.
Two years later, the same Model K again makes a local newspaper. This time, it is being driven from Ponca City (Tulsa area) to Manhatten KS when it suffers a breakdown, broken drive shaft (not tranny ). We also learn more about the car. Mr. Hall, a Packard dealer, is the second owner, and has owned the car since 1919:
However, does it have the original two speed transmission?
Posted on "This Old Motor" this is presumably Mr. Hall with his 1907 Model K in 1934. The car obviously has it's two speed transmission by the fact the two speed shift lever is still in place:
And, in 1940, this Model K appears to still running, as Mr. Hall is the first registrant of the year, registering his "35 year old jalopy:"
Next time we have the transmission off the car (and we will at some point, it still has the original gears), I'll weigh and take measurements. It is a heavy transmission, much larger than our N (I guess I could take outer dimensions this week). So far, with over 3,000 miles since we've owned it (odometer reading), the transmission has been up to the task.
Great work, Rob. The articles give new meaning to the old phrase "ask the man who owns one." Although not about a Packard, the articles you posted strongly suggest that the Model K was a reliable vehicle considering the technology used.
You make good points, Tim. Most all the gearboxes I see on the alphabet Fords are worn badly, not so with Model T transmission parts, so there is a world of difference. However, I don't see the same complaints about the transmissions of the other alphabet cars that are aimed at the Model K in this thread. I suspect the transmission of the Model K was probably no better or worse than the others. As you know, that style of transmission was used on many cars of the day, and probably represented the state of the art in automotive engineering at that time. Its probably unfair to isolate the transmission of the Model K as being weak or defective when the same transmission was used on so many cars and very few have survived in usable condition.
Tim, Is the K tranny a sealed unit? Or does the oil leak out? I can see that if it is an open unit it can run low of oil. It does not matter what type of tranny you have if its run low or out of oil it will fail. The T tranny is flooded with oil and it lives just fine. It may have been a lesson learned from the letter cars that the tranny needed to be enclosed. Part of the learning curve? Scott
Robert, if you or anyone else thinks the model T takes a lot of maintenance and upkeep, it is nothing compared to the pre-t cars. The T was revolutionary. 4 cylinder cast together, transmission runs in it own oil bath, makes it's own electricity, no more batteries to buy all the time.
Take a good look at just the earlier cars engine sometimes. Can you imagine maintaining all those brass water fittings on the model N. Those all take string packings. Now take a look at the K engine. Every one of those brass fittings is a water leak waiting to happen. The motorist has to take a small cap off the oil reservoir, and add oil. That is how the motor and bearing were oiled while running. Same with the transmission. A small cap was removed from the drum and oil is added. The only seal you ask about is when they were new and tight. Once started to wear, they are leaky, messy little (or in the case of the K , big) things. If you give up on this monotonous maintenance just a little, they start wearing out faster and leaking more. An early motorist likely spent as much time maintaining his auto as he did driving it. Probably carried as much oil with him as he did gasoline. These early fords were all messy , crude affairs compared to the great model T. Part of the charm, for sure, but it all makes me appreciate the T more.
Tim, So it looks to me that the K tranny was large enough. But if the maintenance was not done to it, as to the other cars of the time it would run low or out of oil. The fact that we still have some running around proves this out. With todays oil and a bit more love the K should hold just fine. Long live the K. Scott
Tim has it right about the Model T design. Most all the other cars built during the 1900-1915 period required a ton more maintenance than the Model T. . . it was revolutionary. The sealed drive train protected and lubricated the mechanical components better than almost anything else on the road at that time. I love the early brass era cars but know that if you drive them much, you have to spend a lot of time on maintenance if you want keep them in proper condition.
Robert, you're readin' more than I'm writin' ........ The K did not have any of the features that helped make the big brother to the T, the N , so successful. The light construction, the ability of the frame to twist front and rear with the three point suspension, etc. the K started out with many, many problems, some corrected after the first 350 built. Throughout its production it still had a very rigid crankcase to engine mount,that couldn't take the stresses of a rough road, a weak driveshaft connection, front and especially back, and all the metallurgy problems I mentioned. A good friend of mine had a 6-40 roadster, and he told me it wasn't so much the going (after the above mentioned maintenance) but the stopping.
I cannot speak to the adequate size of the transmission, as I am no engineer , but the car is not known to be hill friendly, as a model T can be. It would make me very nervous to run one in low pedal for very long.
Now some may call this K bashing , but it isn't. It is just part of the fascinating learning curve all manufacturers were going through. FoMoCo hit a home run with the N series. They hit a grand slam with the T series.
Let's put it another way. We may have 1 K running regularly with her original transmission. We probably have dozens of model N (r,s) models running with her original transmission. We have likely hundreds or thousands of T's running with her original transmissions. Advanced knowledge and learning improves things tremendously.
1000 Model K made. 15000 Model NRS. 15 million Model T.
There at least 23 Model K remaining. For the same survival rate, there must be 325 Model NRS and 345,000 Model T.
There may be. I do know the Model K survival rate is very good compared with Pierce, Peerless and Thomas to name a few "K" peers.
345,000 Model Ts sounds very pessimistic. Hemmings recently estimated 500,000 Model As still exist and there were far fewer As produced than Ts. http://www.hemmings.com/hmn/stories/2014/04/01/hmn_feature1.html
In 2008, some on this forum estimated 500,000 Model Ts were around. http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/29/45913.html?1200933411 Judging from all the barn finds I see on this forum, I am guessing the number to be higher, not lower than 500k.
Tim Morsher is spot on with all his technical info.
Just as an addition, early 1 cylinder Cadillac manuals require the transmission oil to be checked every 50 miles. My 1905 Queen has a very similar transmission and it is a little 12 HP, 2 cylinder oil throwing machine.
I imagine with all of these early cars, the preventative maintenance was on a lot of them, minimal at best, when new. People beat the crap out of them I'm certain. We're all lucky to be driving on nice smooth roads. I think all of these cars did well with the conditions of the time, and how they were most likely treated in their first few years of existence.
Another slant on the Models prior to the T may show that Ford's business reason was to drop the K and move on with the T.
The K was a good high price car, although engineered without a sliding gear transmission that other big cars used. That may or may not have been the biggest negative on the K, could well be that rather the K was just big car.
By 1907 Ford had obtained a 35% market share, with the R and S joining the N, for production of nearly 15,000 cars, including the big-six K.
Then in 1908 sales slumped to just over 10,000 cars, with market share going down to 16%.
What was going on in Henry's mine? That he needed a boost to the "light-weight- low cost" line, that the little T would become. He just couldn't think that a big car would be the way.
With the T, sales took off, and then production was the issue. Ford and his team fixed that, and then lead the market.
And kept on going, with a stall in 1920 by economic conditions, market share drooped to 22%.
But then rebounded in 1921 as every other mfg. was having a hard time selling higher price cars, and Ford kept producing, and market share tripled to 62%. In those early twenties, half the cars on the road were the Ford.
The right car for the right time. Brilliant.