There's always been lots of discussion on the forum and in many books about the many methods of lowering the Model "T" chassis when building a speedster.
I've noticed that over the years, it seems like old photos I've seen of original speedsters built back in the "T" era (there's another question,...just when were most of the speedsters built?) anyway, it seems like most of those old photos show original speedsters on Model "T" chassis' were not lowered at all! I'll have to admit, I usually do like the look of a speedster that has been lowered, but I really think that nowadays, it might be that too much emphasis is placed on lowering. I've seen speedsters built with stock height suspensions that look a bit cumbersome, but then again, I've also seen some that really look pretty darn good.
Okay,....my question is NOT how to lower a speedster chassis cheaply or easily,.....there's lots of available information on that because there are many methods; I'm just wondering what you guys think about back in the old days, were most of 'em lowered, or were most of them running totally stock height suspensions? I don't really think all that many were lowered, but what do you guys think,....anybody....???
P.S. Not sure why I'm thinking "speedsters", as at my age, I don't seem to be able to keep all 4 of the "T's I've got running, but I do have this nice frame, and a '27 block with standard bore........hmmmm........
I would speculate that speedsters would have gotten lower as roads improved, and also as county-fair racing became more popular, and as speed equipment became more available later in the 20s.
I really want to build an absurdly low T speedster... wouldn't be authentic, but it would be cool as heck if the top of the hood was even with the top of the tires.
Derek, Like this? Ugh.
See if Rob has any left over 36 inch tires from the Model K stuff. What would those look like on a Model T?
Lunar Lander maybe?
How not to lower the front, cutting and welding the axle, don't do it. Do not do that.
I am building a speedster now and just used '27 spindles and reverse eye main springs. Lowers the car a few inches and uses things that were available in the day. From the period pictures that I have studied it looks like most of the speedsters were not lowered much, if at all.
bring it to me and I'll do it for you. My Buck T was built to 1920's racing technology. Researched for a full year before built.
Thanks for the response Val,.....you've come to the same conclusion that I have apparently, that most of the speedsters "back in the day" were "not lowered much if at all". I think maybe that that's because so many speedsters back then were built "on a budget" than nowadays. In fact, probably no "budget" either during the depression,....just what they could "scrounge", right?
You make a good point Val,...methods that "were available in the day". Improved Model "T" spindles (and front spring with less arch) and reverse eye main springs.
Tyrone - You were typing while I was,....only faster! How about sharing some of the results of that year's research with us? Sure like your speedster/racer,....looks like you see most of it stretched out in front of you while you're driving! Fun to drive I'll bet, huh? Ever get an elbow skinned up from a rear tire? Great car & great photo,....thanx,.....harold
If you want fenders, you don't want to lower much at all.
Before I took out the lowering blocks, tires would hit the fenders hard.
No problem afterward.
Harold, there were other ways of lowering than what I picked but what I choose was to use self made Z brackets bolted to the underside of the frames crossmember along with a flatten front crossmember added. What this accomplished was to increase the wheel base by 4 inches making the car more stable in dirt track corners. This setup also created a more "underslang" frame and lower the car by 4 inches. Also took out 3 of the small springs. Still had a good ride.
A trick for the back which I did not do was many would cut diagonally the side rails back by the rear cross members, then bolt/welding the rear section of the cut area to the top of the remaining front section of the frame. Hard to explain. All I did to lower the rear to match the front was to remove 3-4 small springs. Then about 3 inches from the shackle end of the two long springs I heated and bend in a V almost touching the axle tube. This alone lowered the car 3 inches. Along with taking out the springs I lower 4 inches.
Another trick to then stiffen the spring to make the car more stable was to tightly wrap a heavy string (I used a cotton clothes line cord)around
the springs full lenght and soak the cord with a varnish type material to water proof the and stiffen the cord.
Now you will notice the engine looks farther back than normal. True, the engine/radiator was moved back 6 inches. It was common for racers to do this move more vehicle weight to the rear for better cornering traction. It was all about moving weight to the rear wheels for traction in the corners. I have seen some photos where a second wheel was attached to the rear "outside" wheel to help digging in.
I agree with you that speedsters and races typically were not lowered much if any back then. That seem to be true through my research. My guess is because speedsters and racers were typically built in the backyards by kids with few tools and or shop equipment.
I have a speedster waiting to come in my garage for restoring. The best the owner can track its orginal build (by deceased grandfather) is back to the early 30's. The front axle was cut, short pieces of other axles added in a Z pattern to lower. The back frame was Z'ed/overlapped, some springs were removed. The worked is certainly homemade but was fairly well.
As for skinning my elbows on the rear wheels? No, Im too tall, but I did find it fun to let my hands rub on the tires as I drove the car.
Also, some T racers would use a couple springs on the front axle and u-bolt the rear crossmember to the rear axle. Doing that, I bet there was but a couple inches of ground clearence between oil drain bolt and the ground. Hemroid city for sure.
Not quite like that Gary, I'd use 30" tires so it wouldn't be that low.
In my mind it would look more like a scaled down and fenderless American Underslung.
Most all the old photos seen show the Ford 'Bugs' lowered down, and rarely at stock height. A bug Ford speedster isn't a speedster until its down from stock height!
These are mostly seen, they all are pretty much down from stock height...
Stock height T followed by the Ford 'bug', lowered down for that speed look
Like Derek K mentioned. Speedsters tend to be lowered more later as roads improved and local racing venues became available. There are many, many exceptions, of course. But I have noticed that the majority of brass era speedsters tend to be stock height. My "mostly '13" is done that way. As speedsters became more sophisticated, they tended to be lowered more for both looks and handling capabilities. In the old days, barnyard cruisers, and farm-boy builds were most often not lowered much, even through the '40s. Cars built with a real intention to be raced were usually lowered (sometimes to the extreme) whether built in the '20s, '30s, or even '40s. I have looked closely at several surviving originals of T based sprint cars from the '30s and '40s over the years. They really do not interest me much, personally. But I do admire their place in history and appreciate original examples. They tend to be lowered to the extreme.
I personally prefer cars of the '10s and early '20s, both speedsters and factory issue cars. It is an "era" thing for me. Those early steps into the modern era were unique in human history. No single-generational leap before or since has been that great.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
By the late 20's into the mid 30s, speedsters were being lowered quite a bit. I have seen a few that were built in the early 30s that were real close to the ground. The lowered speedsters were really the last gasp of low budget builds before they moved onto the 30s cars as platforms for speedsters or hot rods.
Turn the front cross member upside down.
In Australia in the 1920's you could buy your new Ford already lowered or as they called it then "underslung"
Please, if you have, show some photos of underslung Fords from the dealer, Peter
In Britain Fords were selling slow due to the horsepower tax introduced after WW1 - it was calculated on cylinder diameter and the cheap Fords got very expensive to own, only the trucks sold well since they got lower rates. In a vain attempt to regain sales Ford of UK lowered the chassis 3" for 1925 to keep up in style with the competition, but it didn't help sales much. Drop frame chassis and body parts were used in all of the rest of Europe as far as I know. Most of the drop frame parts were continued during 1926/27. To avoid the problem with tires rubbing the underside of the fenders Ralph writes about above, fenders were different and swept up higher in the drop frame cars. Did the lowered Australian cars also have modified fenders?
Here's a 1925 drop frame Tudor project car from Sweden:
Here is the only one I have that is a proven an original conversion. A bit hard to see but the front axle sits in front of the chassis cross member. The guards were made to allow for the lowering.
This Body was built by one of the many secondary body builders who produced them for second hand Fords or new Fords called "Propert"
There was a large industry supplying alternative bodies for the Model T. It was such a cheap car many were prepared to spend extra money to have the reliable chassis but hide it a s being a Ford.
Automobile Trade Journal, 1918, gives advise on lowering or underslinging a Ford Speedster. The advise is the speedster (Ford Frame) can be dropped 4 to 5 inches, more will cause the Ford crankcase to be closer to the road. "…on rough roads there is a danger of striking the crank case and tearing the motor out of the car." From the literature review the period of lowering or underslinging the Ford speedster began 1917-1918. See Motor Age March 1917. "If the car is to be used for fast track work by all means lower it. But if you want it for other work too, you will probably have to leave it up in the air, and sacrifice some efficiency."
Okay. Anyone reading this thread, if you haven't seen this video before? You really must watch and enjoy it!
Pay close attention to the end.
I do hope the link works.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Thanks Wayne. That was really fun.
Awesome. I need to do that.