On, Chasing Classic Cars , today at 4:30 central time. Dish channel 246. Check your local listing.
When I belonged to the Kansas City Chuggers back in the early 1980's, we had a running Model T chassis we could assemble in a few short minutes. We called it "Instant T".
I remember testing it out driving down a loooong hill and thinking that if the drive line were to pull apart with the minimal hardware used, we would be in bad shape because we didn't connect up the emergency brakes! :D
The event starts with this announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness a spectacular event. This precision team of highly skilled aging auto mechanics will assemble the pile of junk, that you see scattered about here, into a fine running FORD truck, and drive the vehicle away, all in less than 15 minutes".
The 1926 FORD pickup truck used for this event, is normally incorrectly referred to as a car, in most ads. There were very few differences. This vehicle could not take a trip or pass inspection, but normally starts and runs well. Getting a Model T to run at all can be a problem at times. The art of assembling this one, from a pile of parts to a drive away vehicle, is an accomplishment that always draws applause from the crowd. Team members often show equal surprise at this success.
There are no records available on how many other clubs own take-apart-cars or trucks. This truck has been The Nations Capital Model T Club's most successful fund raiser for almost 32 years and still provides the club members with a lot of fun.
This article will include a short history of the team and truck, organization methods, tools required, special parts, briefly discuss the disassembly and provide a detailed assembly procedure. Some modifications will require explanation, during assembly.
The Nations Capital Model T Ford Club was an early chapter of The Model T Ford Club International, that did have charter members from Canada to support the title. Our local chapter started with six members and growth was a major concern, as with most corporations.
Model T events in this area are limited to warmer months. The club members wanted a 1966-1967 winter project. An activity was desired that would keep the members busy with their hobby, promote the Model T group, and generate an income for other club activities. A similar car owned by the Ontario, Canada chapter was the inspiration for this clubs project, the assembly car (Jenkins). "Porky" Schneider, who owns a sausage factory in Toronto, is given credit for the original concept for this car and the contests.
The project started as a giant scavenger hunt. All parts were donated by members or friends. The club members spent the winter assembling an engine, transmission, and drive train. A local Model A club donated the tires and wheels, actually from a 1928 Model A Ford. The truck was demonstrated for awhile, like most other assembly cars, without the fenders, running boards, body and pickup bed. Those items were located later and this truck became the only complete take-apart-vehicle (Jenkins 7).
An International set of rules were formulated and contests were held at the annual meetings (Pendock 10). This car has traveled as far as Greenfield Village, MI for annual contests (Mogge 5). That meet was without the body. Our club's 2 minutes and 27 seconds time was real good, but the Ontario club won by 3 seconds. A tight radiator cap got the blame (Jenkins).
There has never been tickets sold for this show, but there may be a charge to enter the event area for other activities. Sponsors normally pay our club $100.00, plus 50 cents for each mile the vehicle is towed on a trailer to the event. This is our requested fee, but all events are negotiable and some groups are very generous with their payment. These donations are our club's main source of income and allow annual membership dues to remain low.
National contest rules limit teams to five members, but our club uses six or more workers and an announcer for local events. Only two team members need any experience and four can be new each time.
Each team member is provided with a carpenter's nail apron to hold hand tools and any parts removed. The prime rule is that any part removed is replaced by the same team member. Three members work on each side of the vehicle, normally at the front, center and rear.
Very few tools are required for this event. Hand tools include a common medium sized screwdriver, a 9/16 inch open end wrench, a ratchet handle with a 9/16 inch socket, two speed handles with 5/8 inch sockets, and two speed handles with 11/16 inch sockets. The sockets should be 6 point and spot welded on the ratchets or speed handles to avoid losses that might occur in a grassy assembly area.
An original # 5Z204 exhaust packing nut open end wrench and # 2335 spark plug and cylinder head bolt wrench can be used and are still available. Those wrenches can and often are replaced by a large pair of water pump pliers.
Special tools include a 2 inch pipe T, with a T reducer to 1/2 inch pipe thread and a four inch section of pipe screwed into the reducer for engine clearance. These parts are spot welded together. The engine is lifted with this pipe replacing Number 4 spark plug and a six foot 1 1/2 inch bar through the pipe T. This bar has a small node of metal welded near the center to keep the engine from sliding sideways down the bar. The other side has a larger node attached. This one keeps the bar from sliding through the T, when used as an engine prop.
A do-it-yourself oil drain container, with a built-in funnel is suggested to collect the radiator water and keep the work area clean and slip free. This water will be put back in the radiator, after the car is assembled or three gallons of fresh water can be used. A garage style roll-away hydraulic jack and two 24 inch jack stands are also required.
This car works fine for our events, now that a few modifications were made. All wiring has been removed, except for the four distributor to coil wires. There is no starter or battery for starter current or a generator to charge the battery. The 1926-1927 vehicles had the coil box on top of and bolted to the engine head, instead of attached to the firewall. This is very convenient and a suggested replacement for any earlier year assembly car. A 6 volt dry cell battery is taped to the coil box. A toggle switch with a center OFF and two ON positions is used to select Battery voltage for starting and Magneto voltage operation. A short wire connects the magneto post, behind the engine, to the switch. A wire connects the battery plus terminal to ground, another wire connects the battery minus terminal to the switch. One more wire connects the switch to the coil box common terminal. This is all the wiring required to operate the engine.
The body is normally bolted to the frame with eight 2 x 3/8 inch carriage bolts, with the nuts on the bottom side. Our car uses only the front and rear bolts. They have been turned over and spot welded in place. The four nuts have been replaced with four large wing nuts, that are only hand tightened.
Most bolts have been replaced with studs that are welded into position. These are tapered on the end, like a lead pencil, only the end is rounded like a large ball point pen. There is one 1/8 inch hole drilled through the stud, for a hitch pin clip, that replaces the normal nut.
The flange that holds the drive shaft housing to the transmission normally uses four bolts. Our truck uses two tapered studs, without the pins, for alignment and two bolts. The front axle "wish bone" or radius rods attach to the bottom of the engine with a radius rod ball cap held in place by two studs, with nuts attached. Two eye bolts, that can be removed without a wrench, have replaced these.
The spark and throttle controls are part of the steering column. Engine rods terminate in right angle bends that go through a spark or throttle rod lever, under the hood. A small hole drilled through each rod end normally provides for a cotter pin to hold the rod in place. Our car uses medium sized safety pins, attached to small chains, to replace the cotter pins.
Earlier vehicles had wooden spoke wheels, that were not removed to change a tire. The 1926-1927 cars had wire wheels, like a modern sports car, with five lug nuts. Our truck only uses three lug nuts on each wheel. These wheels can be used on earlier vehicles and are suggested for an assembly car.
The six rear fender bolts that normally hold the fender to a vehicle are removed and one bolt is spot welded at the top position and one wing nut holds each rear fender in place. The four bolts that hold each running board to the running board bracket assembly are removed and not used. The front fender, running board, rear fender and splash apron remain bolted together as a unit. The running board brackets provide most of the support for this assembly.
Each front fender has a large fender bracket that bolts to the frame and these are cut off, about two inches above the frame. Another set of brackets are required and cut off, about even with the frame. These overlap, after being widened slightly. Holes are drilled for a 4 x 3/8 inch bolt to pass horizontally through the overlap area. The bolt ends are tapered slightly and attaching nuts are only finger tight.
Each headlight is set on a flange that bolts to the fender bracket. 1927 vehicles had a bar that extended between the lights, for mounting a license plate, so 1926 flanges should be used.
The Take-Apart-Car or Truck could not be disassembled in 15 minutes, so that feat is never advertised and usually occurs before a crowd arrives. The crowd normally first sees our truck as a pile of parts and the main story is how they are assembled.
Fender assemblies, seats and floor boards are removed first to make the vehicle accessible. The hood is removed and the radiator is drained and removed next. The pick up bed is functionally used to carry tools, equipment, and a large "Men Working" sign. These are all removed to lighten the load, then four people lift the bed off the frame.
The steering column is removed. A gas tank occupies a space in the top forward part of the body. A firewall shut off valve cuts the gas flow and a rubber hose to the carburetor is pulled loose.
The front two body wing nuts are removed and four people lift the body off the frame, exposing wheels, axles, and engine/transmission (a single unit). The rear wheels and axle assembly are removed and then the front wheels and axle assembly are next.
The muffler and exhaust pipe are welded together and lay on a strap across the frame. A two inch nut connects the flared pipe and exhaust manifold. This nut is removed and the muffler is added to the growing pile of parts. The engine is lifted off the frame and moved forward about four feet. Care must be take not to tilt the engine up in front to avoid spilling oil out the back end.
Addition of the frame completes the pile of parts, disassembly is now complete and the parts lie around gathering rust and comments for about four hours, while the team takes a break, has lunch, answers questions, etc.
The parts are now all neatly and conveniently positioned in a row. The line starts with a hood, radiator, front axle assembly, engine, and frame (positioned closely behind the engine). The rear axle is next in line, then the body and bed. Fender assemblies, four wheels, a steering column, seat, and floor boards are nearby. Two jack stands are positioned near the frame center.
The event starts with a standard announcement and then team members are introduced. The announcer drops his arm, starts the stop watch and assembly begins. Time is called out every minute and a running dialog is provided on the assembly progress. Average time to have the vehicle running is 8 minutes. A street legal Model T would take much longer to assemble to the "drive away" point, but this vehicle only drives about 6 miles each year.
Assembly starts with the engine lifted back on the frame taper bolts. Two team members lift, while one member holds down on the front to keep engine oil from running out the back. One hitch pin clip on either side in back and two on a front bearing cap, lock the engine and frame together.
Two team members then hold down the rear frame, over the two middle jack stands, while the front axle is replaced. The two spring shackles and front wheels are installed. Shackle nuts and wheel nuts are tightened. The rear radius arm ball cap is replaced and both eye bolts are tightened. The rear frame is raised, until the two jack stands and front wheels stabilize the assembly.
The rear end is wheeled into position on the floor jack. Inserting the square universal joint into the transmission drive is very tricky. A slight taper has been ground on the end to facilitate assembly. Care must be exercised to avoid pinching fingers between assemblies. A short piece of heavy string can be looped under the square joint for raising to an alignment position. One person holds a rear hub, while another person moves the other hub to turn the square into alignment, then the axle is pushed forward. The two flange bolts and rear spring shackles are replaced and tightened.
The rear end is then jacked high enough to replace each rear wheel. Wheel nuts are tightened. Jack stands are now removed, with one being repositioned for a wheel chock and the other holding a rear wheel off the ground to reduce drag, while cranking. The rear is lowered and floor jack removed.
The lifting bar and special T nut are removed from the engine. number four plug and plug wire are replaced. The muffler is replaced and exhaust nut tightened. The body is lifted back in position and two forward wing nuts are replaced and tightened. The gas line is pushed back on the pipe, then gas is turned on. The bed is replaced and, the two rear wing nuts are replaced and tightened and the beach umbrella is installed and raised.
The steering column is first set over the dash taper bolts and then the frame bolt and hitch pin clips are replaced. The two ball cap nuts are replaced, the spark and throttle rods are reconnected and safety pinned in place. The radiator is replaced, hitch pins clips replaced on the frame taper bolts. Hoses clamps are adjusted and tightened, then water is added. The fender assemblies are replaced and the front brace bolts installed and rear wing nuts are installed and tightened. Seats and floor boards are replaced.
A team member slides into the driver's seat. One member sets the power switch to BATTERY, one chokes the carburetor, while another one turns the crank. The power switch is moved to MAGNETO. engine is given a few moments to warm up and stabilize. The announcer provides the official time to the crowd and requests a path to be cleared in front of the truck. The brake chock is removed, the truck is pushed off the other jack stand and driven away, at about 5 miles per hour. The show concludes with a thank you to the sponsor and crowd!
A Take-Apart-Car can provide a club with useful experiences and fun activities during the construction and/or demonstration process. The car can be assembled from used and donated parts, with very little cost. Our car is a collection of parts from at least 10 cars. The Model A wheels are a result of no Model T wheels being available for donation. All other parts, except the battery are genuine Model T parts. Our car has been assembled around 300 times and many bolts were replaced for a lack of threads. but club members and audiences have a lot of interesting experiences to report, from the last 32 years. One club has an all ladies team that is very popular.
Pendock, Donald. "Rules and Regulations Governing The Model T Ford
Car Assembly Contest." Model T Times May-June 1969: 10
Mogge, Robert A. "Drizzle Doesn't Dampen Dearborn Dandies." Model
T Times July-August 1969: 5
Jenkins, Cliff. "How They Do It In The Nations Capital." Model
T Times September-October 1969: 7-11
Jenkins, Cliff. Charter member of The Nations Capital Model T Ford
Club and still an active member. Personal interview. Brandywine,
MD. 25 February 1995.
This article was originally written by Jim Golden for a University of Maryland Technical Writing course, with plans to submit the article for publication in the International Club's Model T Times magazine. The author got an A on the article and course. He also got a copy of the Model T Ford Club of America magazine on the day this article was returned by the instructor. That issue had an article on take-apart-cars. This article went in the filing cabinet.
Cliff had copies of all the early magazines and had written an early article on our take-apart-car. The article title hid the real contents from the index listing. Now the author knows why Cliff just smiled when he suggested an article at dinner, while at the Annual Meeting in Canada. Cliff never mentioned that he had already written one.
I just got accepted to McPherson's auto restoration program so I hope to be on the assembly team next year, it looks like fun
Congrats Spencer and Good luck. Great Program.
Bob-thanks for the reminder. It was a lot of fun to have Wayne and the CCC crew on campus.
Spencer-Congratulations! I look forward to having another T person on campus.
If you listen closely, you see one of our forum members on this...
Some of the boys did the demo at Chickasha a couple of years ago.
Now I'm feeling nostalgic. That's me kneeling on the passenger side of the car. Had a lot of fun doing the T Build.
I was fortunate to see them assemble the touring at the Children's Museum in Santa Fe a few years ago.
James, that is a great article! Now we know the rest of the story.
Here's the YouTube video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxsw8yv4EyY