I plan on starting a new business giving historical tours in a model T. I love the history and look of the Model T although I've never had the chance to ride in one. I'm sure others have the desire as well to take a ride in an original T and I would like to make this available. I have never owned a classic car and am not a mechanic by any means. I have read some threads and it seems the T's can be temperamental. I plan to purchase 2 that have been recently fully restored. Will there be issues with running the cars 8 hours a day 5-7 days a week? I do plan on finding a good mechanic to maintain the cars. Any and all advice is appreciated.
Jonathan, first up before you commit your self to 2 T's, do a costing on running such a business, at our end of the world the undoing before even starting, is the cost of liability insurance.
I guess if you are going to dream, dream BIG!
Re; I plan to purchase 2 that have been recently fully restored. Will there be issues with running the cars 8 hours a day 5-7 days a week? YES, these cars are around 90 years old that would be antique car abuse.
I would suggest you get some driving time under your belt before you even think about this and that includes leaning how to work on them yourself. You can't just run them to your local auto repair shop if something goes wrong. Even if there is someone close that can work on them, does not mean they can come running at a drop of the hat.
Have you sat down and really penciled out the cost of maintaining the cars, business license, insurance etc. Even renting antique cars for weddings you need the proper license and insurance to cover you and the people riding in your cars esp if you accept money for the service.
I agree with Frank. Check the cost of insurance and other expenses before you dive in. A California business rents T's for people to use in Yosemite, so your costs may turn out to not be prohibitive. Well-restored T's, as long as they're not burdened by too many modern "upgrades", should be quite reliable. But be aware that they do require more regular maintenance than a modern car.
I agree with everything said above. Even the best restored Model T's have breakdowns on tours. That's why most T owners on tours carry extra vital Parts, i.e. coils, plugs etc. and most T's driven on tours are owned and driven by their owner/restorers who have a good knowledge of how to diagnose road problems, and most tours have a vulture wagon with extra parts and a trailer to get you back home. Now, if you're just talking about driving people around a block or two, the breakdown risk may not be as great, but the other costs mentioned about still apply.
About a decade ago, there was a guy who owned two Model T's in scenic Ouray, Colorado, who did the same thing that you are proposing but the last time I went through there I couldn't locate his business. There was another MTFCA member, Cary Green, who lived in Silverton, Colorado that would give people rides in his cars, but I don't think that he charged.
I, previously, had the idea that driving a Model T on non busy streets or highways was safe until two elderly people were killed in a model A they were driving, late last year in Victoria, Texas. I have decided that from now on, all my driving away from home will be trailered unless I'm in a tour with other T's.
One other thing, there have been deaths and injuries from malfunctioning T's without a collision occurring on tours,
Get used to driving a Model T is probably a good place to start.
Get use to the idea that they are not a modern car and dont have the braking and stopping capability like the modern car you drive.
Like any thing that's older technology like Model T's you do have to maintain them a little more closely.
Insurance will be something to think about for sure. There are a lot of issues with that.
Yosemite Activity Tours has Model T's for rent, according to their website, http://www.driveamodelt.com/index.html
I realize this is not quite what Jonathan has in mind for his business venture, but I found it interesting.
Maybe a letter to the current New York Mayor for his business plan to eliminate the traditional carriages for the proposed eautomobile may be in order. It would give you additional information for your project.
"The “Horseless eCarriage” prototype was unveiled Thursday at the New York International Auto Show. It was commissioned by NYCLASS, a group advocating for a ban on carriage horses......" ( from a news release April 2014)
I'm curious how people who have never driven a model t in their life could manage that?
How about using Shay Model A reproductions with modern drive train to start with. The rumble seat will allow driver and 3 passengers. Add a T later if the business is successful.
Just a thought.
"One other thing, there have been deaths and injuries from malfunctioning T's without a collision occurring on tours,"
This is true of all vehicles antique and modern.
You really need to know T maintenance to run Model T's day in and day out. The Henry Ford does it but they have mechanics there just to take care of the Model T's, and those cars were built with many if not all new components.
Having said all that, having a successful Model T tour company would be awesome. Best of luck
Just remember.......There's a personal injury Lawyer under EVERY rock these days.
You plan to find a good mechanic to look after the cars. Unfortunately finding such a person is not easy . Most mechanics can't even drive a T let alone understand how to fix one. It's easier and safer to do your own maintenance. In my case (and yours) that involved a steep learning curve. I suggest you get some T ownership time under your belt before starting your business.
We stayed at the Tin Lizzy Inn a few years ago and did the Yosemite tour with lunch. They are great folks, but we chickened out driving down the park road, not because of the T, but because we were afraid of backing up traffic going back up the hill (it was a busy weekend in the park), and took the T back to change to the Model A roadster. After going back down the road, found we had almost made it to the bottom in the T and probably could have just driven on! Oh well, I was/am much more familiar with the Model A, having driven them for decades, as opposed to my T experience (plus getting used to the Ruckstell, with none of my Ts have at present (that is likely to change in a few years, have one to do now)).
The response from the other Park visitors was interesting, and took many photos of other folks sitting in the car for them, especially foreigners, who I am guessing don't see vintage cars out and about much.
We were there early in the season, and it was COLD driving in an open car, so be prepared!
The Lunch they packed was wonderful, and they are great folks. I would do it again, if I could fit it in.
Like Jay said, There's a lawyer under every stone, No matter how good the release is you have them sign a lawyer will find a way around it. Now that said, I have for some time considered this myself. Giving the number of folks I have given rides I think it would be a money making adventure if you could find a way to avoid the lawyers and insurance problems.
1. I would love to see that type of business succeed. I like Model Ts!
2. Where are you planning to conduct the tours? In some very flat country with slow traffic, the T could be a good option. For example Florida is really flat. If you are talking about driving the T’s in Charlotte, I think there are many areas with hills – is that correct? Stock Model Ts have approximately 20-22 hp and do NOT climb moderate hills at 45 mph and they do not stop well going down steep hills compared to cars with 4 wheel brakes verses the T with a small brake band on the transmission that works on the rear wheels only. And if you have four adults in the car – it makes the car go even slower. For a technical explanation of hill climbing capability please see: http://mtfctulsa.com/Tech/index.htm and click on the Power and Torque article or click on: http://mtfctulsa.com/Tech/power_and_torque.htm Note in that article they discuss the T has a maximum 33-35ish on a 5% grade, or 29-32 mph max on a 6.7% grade. Note those are wide open throttle.
3. How fast is the traffic flow where you will be driving? That same article addresses that the maximum speed on the level is 42-45 – again that is wide open throttle. With the exception of the old air cooled VW bugs, I’m not aware of any cars that said it was “ok” to run the car at maximum speed for prolonged periods of time. Note the Montana 500 event has Model Ts that go wide open for approximately 500 miles at speeds faster than 45 mph. See: http://www.antiqueautoranch.com/montana500/indexnonrefresh.html Under the 2014 event there were 19 entries. The winner had an average speed of 54.69. But only 16 of the Ts finished. One withdrew (reason not listed in the chart). One lost a valve keeper and the other broke a transmission pan ear. So if you drop out the one T that withdrew that leaves 2/18 or approximately 11.1 percent of the T’s were out for maintenance in 3 days. Note – depending on what else happened, what type of spares were available etc. the valve keeper might have been an easy quick fix. The Pan Arm could have been back on the road the same day if a spare engine was available etc. But the bottom line – Model Ts require more maintenance than modern Toyotas etc.
4. I would encourage you to get some time in some Model Ts. Not the open cars as well as the closed cars tend to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. T’s can be modified with minor changes to be faster – but if that is done they also need to be modified so they stop better.
5. As highlighted above – liability insurance will probably be one of the major factors.
6. There are other cars from the late 1920s to the 1950s that may work better for you.
7. Good luck with your idea.
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Oh Boy. Maybe I shouldn't even get into this but I can't help myself. Johnathan if you knew something about T's that would be one thing. Starting from scratch with a business in mind is almost a fairy tale. First insurance: The T is about as un-safe a vehicle as any you can find. I don't think even finding a company that would cover you is possible at least without extensive mods and signed disclaimers from the passengers. I won't take my Grand kid for a ride in it because you just never know when something's going to give out with tragic results. A mechanic (if you can find one which you haven't) better be on call because when a T quits you better know your stuff. Even winching one onto a car carrier is different than a modern. Let me put it this way: Knowing what I know about the T I wouldn't invest in your idea if approached. Though it sounds like I'm trying to kick your teeth in I'm not. I'm trying to convey my opinion that you're not on to a money maker.
It sounds like you have an interest in old cars and that can be a good thing. You might want to buy a good running "T" to pursue your interest.
Learn to drive it by consulting someone there in Charlotte to get you acquainted with driving and basic maintenance. And remember THEY AREN'T THAT SAFE!
In this day and age it would be much safer as far as just getting out and going for a drive with a newer 'older' car built in the 40-50's.
Just some advice and not trying to discourage your interest but doing some of the things on your own and trying out a T first might be best before deciding on any business venture.
I have the ability to do this in the small town I have my antique store in. There is rarely any traffic over 10 miles an hour in my town, so traffic issues aren't an issue. The problem that arises is the cost of insurance. And that may eat you alive. I have so many people saying I should charge for rides in my T around the small Canal town, but I always bring up the insurance liability. It is just too much cost for what little people will want to pay for a ride. And the begets the other main problem, what people are willing to pay for the time in the T versus Insurance, fuel and upkeep. I have yet to understand how people can go out to eat all the time and pay 15 - 20 bucks plus for a one person meal at O' Charleys or Applebeas (or whatnot in you neck of the woods), and they think a very nice 10 dollar item in your store is way too much. Go figure..
As you can see there is a wide range of views on you proposal, Insurance will be an issue but there are people in the insurance business who do know the risks with such things and will be able to offer a premium which may be acceptable for your business idea.
Putting that aside, the Model T is a suitable vehicle for such a venture and is far from being dangerous . Unlike some I believe that the Model T is one of the most reliable and is very safe to use on roads today. To hear someone say they think the T is so bad they would not allow their grandchildren to ride in it because they never know when something is going to give out with tragic results I find amazing!!!
My children since they were born and now my grandchildren are one of the main reasons why I own Model T's, the kids love them, its one of the best activities a family can do and I'm sure 98% of Model T owners have them so they can do that, take the kids for a drive.
I have yet to find anyone who upon riding in my cars state they were scared to do so, exactly the opposite is the case the comments usually is they found any reservations they had were dispelled once they were on the road.
You are dealing with a different motor vehicle and you will need to study and become familiar with it, As mentioned, David Woodworth who hires the T's out in Yosemite Park not only has these cars for hire to anyone prepared to have a go but he risks them being abused by those drivers who may be poor drivers with all the modern devices on new cars. When new no one had driven a car when they bought their Model T.
So someone understanding the Model T taking others for a ride would have no trouble doing so. I took a Model T to the USA and drove it 15,000kms in two holidays of 2 months. No major breakdowns only the usual possible problems such as flat tires. In 50 years Model T Ford driving the worse problem has been a broken crankshaft. Things that need adjustment or wear out quickly can be replaced easily. Problems such as broken crankshafts are a thing of the past with the new crankshafts available. Worried about brakes, disc brakes can be added and would probably be a good move to make the cars less in need of servicing.
Properly built a Model T car be a very reliable vehicle for a venture such as yours. They are often the prefered period vehicle to use in films because they are so reliable, able to start easily even by hand crank if the battery is flat.
As your plans are to give people rides I would look at obtaining Depot hack type bodies rather than normal Ford Tourers. Set up correctly you can accomodate 4 to 5 passengers which will give you better returns. Fit the later 26-27 wire wheels with balloon tires use new Scat crankshafts in the motors with all new parts and your Model T's will work well.
Finding or training a mechanic may be a problem, working on these cars is an aquired taste different but simple. A young interested person would suck up the knowledge required to work on a T and tools used are few and basic. With good restored components you or others involved in you venture could easily keep the cars serviceable.
For reliability I would have extra mechanics set aside, a second motor and rear end for each car would make keeping the cars on the road a lot easier. Any problem that could keep the car from being available for daily use could be quickly fixed by replacing the engine or differential which can be done in a couple of hours,especially if the vehicles have been designed to be easily dismantled something a Depot Hack type body could do.
I have a friend who hires out wedding cars, they are not Model T's ( though he has some and a bride may choose one) he has high end cars such as Rolls Royces, but they require lots of maintainance, parts are a problem, expensive and rare and if something major goes wrong its a major problem to fix, not so a Model T.
Do some homework and best of luck.
I have considered the same venture. I've not pursued it very far. Only far enough to discuss with some friends who tell me it can't be done, yada yada yada, much like the guys on here. Guess I'm too dumb to believe them, because I still think about it from time to time. Maybe for retirement income? Who knows? I did not dig into the insurance thing. I know that it COULD be cost prohibitive, but I would certainly check into what it would REALLY cost before deciding that it is too much based on the opinions of others who have not checked into themselves. The obstacles for me were where to base the operation and the hours. I would want a garage type building to store and maintain the vehicles close by the downtown area in which I would want to operate them. That is going to be hard to find and expensive when I do. Trailering to the area each day would get old fast and securing a place to park a trailer is no small feat either. The other thing is weekends and holidays would be when I would get the most business and those are the days I would least like to work. So for now, it's just an idea, but not one I'm giving up on.
The Tin Lizzy folks have a large garage under the house, and he does all his own mechanics, if that helps any. He has also solved the insurance deal, so you might want to contact him to see if he will share. You're far enough away that you won't be competition!
As Tom Strickling said, "The Henry Ford (Greenfield Village) does it, but they have mechanics there just to take care of the Model T's, and those cars were built with many, if not, all new components".
As far as "being curious how people who have never driven a Model T in their life could manage that" (I assume you mean driving), I'm sure any place that rents Model T's checks out the driver for knowledge; asking him if he's ever driven a Model T and perhaps demonstrating his proficiency. Owning a Model T, even if it is just driven by the owner, requires correct driving habits (mainly relating to the use of the transmission) as well as routine maintenance and major repairs.
The problem I see is that if you transport people for hire, you are going to have to modify the cars to comply with safety regulations and in some states emission regulations, You will probably have a better chance of getting permission for such a venture if you start with a modern car and modify it to look like a T. and that probably will not pass either, so that leaves painting the modern car black.
I know the kind of focus and attention is required of me when I drive my Model T. I cannot imagine giving someone a tutorial and cutting them loose. On a closed track course, yea maybe. But in public with traffic? You're out of your mind.
The only way I would consider this as a viable business model is if I had dedicated drivers who could also fix them. Would also have to be the right kind of place to drive them - few hills and fewer cars.
In short I imagine that greenfield village is one of the only places this could be successful.
Well, I used to work in the county that contains Charlotte . Alot of the road signs on secondary roads probably still have MJC Sign 1055 written in number 2 pencil on them."My initials and truck number" And from the experience of driving in that part of the state,in a modern,I would be Scared to death to drive a T in Charlotte.Maby I am a bit fuddy duddy.
Jonathan, I would suggest looking up the Tar-heel T's website and ask 1 of the members about coming up and operating a T that a club member has.
My father ran an identical business out of their antique shop in Jonesborough, TN for years. He had a 1919 Depot hack that he gave tours throughout their town between 1983 and about 1998. He also had a 1932 model B bus that he and I restored in St. Petersburg, FL in the mid '70's. That bus is now ferrying people from parking lot to museum at Greenfield Village. His first commercial trip in the bus was to take a load of screaming cub scouts into the mountains, up a forestry road to the beginning of their hike. Road was too narrow to turn around, so he had to back down the road for quite a way. He thought it took 10 years off his life, but he's 84 and still going strong.
At the time, he had standard insurance on the car. He quit shortly after taking some dignitaries on a ride, where one of them, in golf shoes, decided to sit sideways on the seat, and the cleats tore up the seat cushion. No appologies or remuneration...just tough luck.
So, it's been done before...in "the good old days" in a small southern town that had not yet been discovered by lawyers. Best of luck to you!
Contact Owl's Head Museum in Maine. They offer model t rides.
Several years ago I owned an 80', 2 story houseboat which I lived on full time for 6 yrs. My insurance ran me about $680 yr. I had a wedding for my niece on the boat one summer with a 9 man band. We had about 50 people on board for the event. Everything went well since alcohol was not allowed on board due to my standards. Alcohol and boats do not mix well. My wife and I decided to start a business giving rides on weekends and hosting special events. The quotes from 4 different companies jumped to $3250 year. Since the season was only 6 months and fuel was $4.50 gal and mpg = 1,the chances of keeping it booked for 6 months and making a dollar were slim. Insurance is always the killer. It's strange that I could haul 50 or more anytime as long as I didn't charge a dime and be covered under my regular insurance. One insurance agent told me I could accept donations and still be covered. I could imagine someone leaving $20 for a 40 mile trip which would cost $180 in gas alone.
Insurance will kill your idea of a profitable business in a model T. Best of luck, Bob