You see a lot of restored vehicles with the wood finished natural. But back in the day.....how much wood was painted and how much was finished natural? I have my own theory, but I will keep them to myself for now. Just curious what others thought.
All was painted, I think. But from 1925 on you could have 21" wood wheels without paint on the spokes as an option.
I see a lot of TT trucks that are stripped of paint to showcase the wood. I'm taking the paint off the stakes of my truck at the moment, but I think cabs and most other exposed wood was painted. I found on my truck that the stakes were originally varnished with a very minimal level of pin striping. But my cab was painted an apple green.
I think you see more "natural" finished wood today partly because of the change in coverings. A hundred years ago varnish wasn't nearly as durable as today's products, and now you see wood where you once would have seen paint. Also, tastes change. I recall a time when you could hardly give away old oak furniture, then it became very desirable. The current proliferation of wood-finished spokes and wide whitewalls on old vehicles is a modern phenomenon.
Not many wide whites in this 1943 parking lot.
Great photo from the Central Manufacturing District on Ashland Avenue on the South Side of Chicago.
Where did I read that natural spokes were a $10 dealer option? Can't remember. I believe, as Roger mentioned, all that came out of the factory were black. Don't know when/if that ever changed.
A paragraph in the March, 1927 Ford Service Bulletin says:
"Wheel Exchanges on New Cars
When purchasing closed cars, customers desiring to replace wire wheels with wood wheels, in either black or natural wood finish, should be accommodated without additional charge. Dealers will recover the expense of making the change through the difference in price applying on wire and wood wheels.
In the event customers desire to replace the standard black wire wheels with colored wire wheels, the dealer is justified in making an additional charge of $10.00 to cover labor, freight, etc., incidental to making the change."
Used to be, amassing an antique automotive collection of color photos was an arduous task, sort of like chasing down rare stamps, but the internet now makes that kind of thing ridiculously easy and over a few short years, I’ve grabbed a lot of old car pictures by the simple expedient of pointing and clicking. -Oh, it’s still no fun being an analog man in a digital world, but I have to admit to enjoying some of its practical advantages. -Still, I’m too dumb to deal with a smart phone.
But I digress (always wanted to say that).
By leafing (okay, scrolling) through a bunch of color photos, I find that there are fairly dependable generalities, and within these, exceptions. -It’d be neat to find hard, fast rules, but I guess that ain’t the way history works. -Anyway… one particular generality is that Brass-Era, wood spoke wheels were painted. -That was the look in vogue and though beautified wood has always been seen as more luxurious than a simple coat of opaque enamel, even the high-end Mitchells, Loziers and Pierce-Arrows went with painted wheels—pinstripes, yes—but not clear varnish.
Brass radiators went out of style around 1912 and the remaining brass accoutrements were gone by 1915 (and here again, within the generalities are a few exceptions, like Mr. Ford, who must have prided himself on being the first to be last). -At that point, there were still plenty of cars with wood spoke wheels, but of those, a greater percentage were finished with varnish, varnish over stain, linseed oil or some other clear coating of that ilk. -In this YouTube clip, Jay Leno implies that his 1918 Cadillac Type 57 Victoria was manufactured with linseed oil-finished wheels.
Out of a couple-hundred color photos of Brass-Era cars, I found a few with beautified wood wheels and I may as well post them here…
It was fortunate for me that Roger Karlsson pointed out where the online Model T encyclopedia specifies that natural wood spoke wheels became available in 1925 before I could highlight my own ignorance by claiming here that all wood spoke-wheeled Tin Lizzies came out of the factory with painted wheels. -Whew, that was close!
I stained and varnished my own wheels for a reason that would give purists apoplexy: They came back from Stutzman’s wheel shop in bare wood that looked so darned beautiful, I just didn’t have the heart to hide it behind a coat of black paint. -Sue me.
In 1943 tires were in short supply. I think most folks were happy if they could any, black, whitewall or whatever.
I was glad to see my 36 Plymouth in your photograph. Thanks for posting the photo.
Although I don't particularly like natural-finish wheels/spokes, when I got a set respoked they were so beautiful that I couldn't bear to paint them. I figured I could always paint, but making them natural again would be difficult.
Some of us are contrarian enough to buck the current trend and prefer black.
early steering wheels too, were black, but not today, most are wood finish
My late Mother always said that is was illegal to paint ladders, so you could inspect the condition of the rungs.
Most wood was painted. Many cars had varnished firewalls and some had a little bit of varnished wood trim, but not as much as we're finding on modern restorations. I have yet to see an original wood pickup or truck box that wasn't painted.
I dislike virtually all of the varnished depot hacks that I see. They just look wrong. If you disagree, watch a couple of the old silent films, like the Harold Lloyd collection. The wood bodied cars are ale painted, often in colors other than black, but never stained and varnished.
So what's the final verdict on originality? Was the 1925 natural finish a dealer installed only option or did the cars actually roll off the line that way? And if so, are there any factory photos that prove it?
I have a '13 roadster that I recently bought, and can't wait to sand down those natural wheels and paint them blue. I already painted the steering wheel black, and the hood boards too. There is room for all in this hobby, but I like things the way Ford did it. It is interesting to note that for 25 & 26 only the 21" wheels were available in a natural finish, not 30 X 3 1/2s.
I'm no purist, but I do prefer the look of correctly-painted wheels and bodies.
Another vote for painted wood. I like the original look.
I once saw a black era Fordor T that the "Restorer" had finished all the exposed wood (Like around the windows) in a natural finish. Yes, the wood was pretty, but the car? Not so much in my opinion.
Not all depot hacks were painted. There were varnished finished depot hacks. I tend to like the varnished wood bodies. And early demountable (Non-Ford) aftermarket clincher wood wheels could be had in varnished versions too
Many commercial trucks were painted, usually a dark shade of green.
Painted black or varnished natural finish demountable (1916)
Note last sentence in the right hand cut, with the $3.45 price
WOW, it pays to scan the forum. I have a '25 Fordor with 21" wheels and natural spokes. I have always thought that it was incorrect (and the 21" wheels may not be factory original and I did the change of the spokes to natural finish)but now I'll just describe them as a correct possible option on my show display plague. I'm always learning something new about the Model T world. Got to love it.