OT - Any Truth to this Story?

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2015: OT - Any Truth to this Story?
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Tim Eckensviller - Thunder Bay, ON on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 12:34 pm:

Alright, now that all the snow has melted and the sun is finally out nearly every day I feel okay talking about bitter cold winters.

My family traces its history back a couple generations to a small town in rural northern Ontario, where in winter the temperature can often drop into the -40* range for weeks at a time (Fahrenheit or Celcius? Doesn't matter.) I heard this story about the coldest parts of winter and unfortunately everyone who was actually there is no longer with us. Anyways, the story goes that after coming home from work my grandfather and his brothers would remove the radiators from their "Model Ts" and line them up behind the woodstove for the night. Five or six radiators staying nice and warm while they all slept. The next morning they would re-install them, top off the water and drive to work only to do it all again when they got home.

Seems far-fetched to me considering the work involved and the idea that anti freeze is a thing. Maybe they were too poor for anti freeze; there was a depression going on, after all, but it still seems like a tall tale to me. Have any of you heard of anything like this going on?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Seth from NC on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 12:45 pm:

Based on some quick googling, antifreeze wasn't used in production vehicles until 1923, and the green stuff we are used to seeing wasn't widespread until 1937.

-40*F is pretty intense cold. I know we make some stuff now that would be okay and not freeze, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit for your story to be completely true.

Heck, at -40*F the engine probably didn't even need a radiator. With a few fins for surface area it would air cool just fine.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Charlie B actually in Toms River N.J. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 12:52 pm:

You've heard the stories about draining it out at night and re-filling with hot/warm water the next morning to prevent freezing and aid starting. A lot faster than removing the rad plus they probably used hot water to fill them anyway. Not buying it. Too much work but you never know....


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Roger Karlsson, southern Sweden on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 12:53 pm:

Anti freeze like Ethylene glycol wasn't an option back then - if available at all, it was crazy expensive. Denatured alcohol was often mixed in the coolant water - but it would slowly disappear as it boils at 173 F so it had to be renewed often to keep the anti freeze function.

Maybe it isn't possible to even keep it from freezing at such a low temperature with just ethanol?

The most practical way must have been to empty the water after driving, bring it into the house and refill it when going for a drive. The problem may have been instant freezing of the water when poured into a -40 degrees cold radiator?

Then it makes sense to bring in the radiator too. But it couldn't have been an easy life..


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Dean Kiefer - Adams, MN on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 12:54 pm:

The stories I heard from the old timers were they would drain the water into buckets and set them by the pot belly stoves.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Ronald L Babb - Tacoma, WA on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 01:14 pm:

My father was a school master in northern Indiana, his first school in '28. He said since the school was about a mile away, he didn't use water at all. He kept corn cobs soaking in kerosine at the back door so in the much below zero mornings he would put a corn cob in a pan, light it and slide it under the engine. When it warmed enough he would start the car and drive to school. He said the engine would just be getting hot about then. It would cool during the day and be ready for the trip home in the evening.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jerry VanOoteghem - SE Michigan on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 01:15 pm:

Alcohol was added as an anti-freeze but, as others mentioned, it would evaporate or boil off easily. Some folks added glycerin that would form a thin film on top of the water to "seal off" the water's surface to help prevent evaporation. It was all pretty "iffy", at best. My dad, who drove Model T's as transportation, used to drain the radiator every time and bring the water in the house in a bucket.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Gary H. White - Sheridan, MI on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 01:29 pm:

At -40 (F&C) it would be a wonder if you could move any car with the lubrication of the time.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Charles Linsenbarth on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 02:26 pm:

A friend of mine seeing the T being painted in my shop said that his grand father told him that in the good old days his grand father would put a pan of coals from the fireplace under his Model T to start it on cold days down on the farm when he would go to town. Their farm is on the Kansas/Oklahoma line half in Oklahoma / half in Kansas.
Charley


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Nicholas Lingg - Tarboro, NC on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 02:54 pm:

If you only used the hoses to support the radiator no support rod or cotter keys on the frame you can pull the radiator in less then a minute.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By stuart clipson on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 03:00 pm:

me thinks the water would freeze in the radiator before they got very far down the road.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 03:36 pm:

Nice country Thunder Bay!!! I really enjoyed the lumber camp with the huge outhouse on Shit Creek!! Bud in Wheeler,Mi.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Fred Dimock, Newfields NH, USA on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 03:50 pm:

Kenneth makes me wonder what it would be like going in the outhouse at -40. :-(


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Hal Davis-SE Georgia on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 03:54 pm:

Probably smells better than the outhouse at 100*F.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By kep on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 04:33 pm:

Not sure it would be true. The radiator would lose that heat in the time it took to install it.
Oil yes. Water yes.
When i was using my T everyday i would set a camp stove under the oil pan to warm the oil and could not turn it over on a barely freezing day. Oil would be too thick.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 04:55 pm:

Guy's i'm not kidding! The outhouse is probably 8 X 16' and sit's over said creek!! There are spaced poles and you would think chicken coup until you give it more thought???? Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By paul iverson freeport ill. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 05:38 pm:

no point to take out radd. my dad drove a t then an overland to high school he filled the rad. with hot water from the boiler at home drained it at school then got bucket of hot water from janitor at school to start car he also would thin oil with kerosene in winter and if real cold burn coal in pan under oil pan to heat eng. and cover hood with blankits anti- freeze was very expensive. I know my dad tried salt water and kerosene for anti freeze but it didnt work well he said


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By George John Drobnock on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 06:02 pm:

I heard stories from my father during the CCC camp days and when winters were brutal about starting engines. To start trucks and tractors in the coldest winter smudge pot or road side flare lamps would be placed under engine oil pans and transmission cases to warm up the oil and the bearing surfaces.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Eric Sole - Castelldefels (Spain) on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 06:02 pm:

I read somewhere that during bitter cold the radiator and the crankcase were to be drained at night, the oil was left on or near the stove as well as the water. Both were put in their respective places in the morning before starting.

There were supposedly cases of radiators bursting while driving down the road because the water would freeze almost instantly due to the cold air flowing over the fins. A radiator cover was in order for those bitter cold days.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By John L Williams on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 06:13 pm:

Hi From Iowa: My Uncle told me when I was 10, in'55 with my first T, that he needed a fire under the pan on his T in the mid 20s plus jack up a rear wheel or he could not get it started because he could not turn the engine over fast enough! My dad was a farmer in the 30s and said that he and others around here would occsionally put kerosene in the rads of their cars and tractors so they would not freeze. He never mentioned the fire risk as being any worry? John


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chris Bamford, Edmonton AB on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 06:59 pm:

One day in December 2009 our Edmonton Airport registered the second-lowest temperature in the world (just a bit warmer than one weather station in Siberia) at -35C/-31F.

I bundled up and drove over to a friend's place for a visit. An hour and a half later the car was too cold to start even using the hand crank and electric together. I think I was probably using 10-30 oil at the time. We had to pull the car to get it started.

Winter before last I had a regular destination where I parked for close to two hours. I threw some old woolen blankets over the rad and hood and had no trouble getting started again even at -25C/-13F.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kevin Whelihan Danbury, WI on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 07:32 pm:

Don't know about Thunder Bay in particular, but in areas just to your northwest (Ignace, Dryden, Gold Rock) I've seen more horses in the old pictures than cars or trucks. My guess is that cars were probably used mostly in the summer months if they were available at all. Travel seems to have been most frequent along the rail lines and by boat where available. Even where I live in Northwestern WI, there were very few roads...and consequently very few cars until the later 1930's.

In the agricultural areas just south of here, there were lots more cars and roads. But I do remember stories told to me by my great aunt who grew up on the farm south of Hayward, who told me in winter they too used mostly horses and parked the family sedan.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Dave Wells, Hamilton Ontario on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 08:36 pm:

I realize that removing the rad would protect it and lots of water would come out of the engine too but, wouldn't there still be significant pockets of water left in the block that would now freeze?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By paul iverson freeport ill. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 08:36 pm:

My dad said in the 20s chicago only plowed the sidewalks not the streets and most people parked there cars for the winter


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By paul iverson freeport ill. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 08:38 pm:

Prestone came in a glass gallon


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Barry Fowler - Eagle River, Alaska on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 09:02 pm:

Chris: -31F is indeed cold, in fact a whole new world. It is not, however, anywhere near the second lowest temperature in the world. I have personally experienced -40F to -60F several times here in Alaska.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Roar Sand on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 10:03 pm:

We had -33C / -27F here in Bellaire, MI., this last February. That's pretty cold for being south of the 45th parallel.
I grew up around 60 degrees north. Immediately after WWII my dad drove a 1938 FIAT. It had a thermosiphon cooling system just like a T, and he used alcohol for antifreeze. It seems like he had the mixture checked at every trip to the gas station. They sucked coolant out of the radiator and checked its density and temperature, and there was a chart to convert the two to freezing point.
The odd thing about the FIAT was that it had a 12V electrical system. My dad was very popular on cold mornings as a "please come and help me start my car".
One evening we went and picked up a friend of my parents and headed for a movie theater. For some reason there was an extra 12V battery on the floor in the back seat as well as a can of antifreeze (denatured alcohol). With two people in the back seat there was limited room for my feet, so, not thinking of the possible consequences, after all I was just a kid, I placed the can on top of the battery, so I could place one foot on either side of it. Well, after a while the contact of the can with the battery burnt a hole in the can, and antifreeze leaked out. When the car jostled over some bumps, sparks flew and ignited the antifreeze. Fortunately alcohol doesn't burn all that hot, and we got out in a hurry and with our hands we shoveled snow, which right there was mixed with sawdust, over the battery and burning fluid. Big scare, but not much harm, but hard to forget. Salvaged the remaining antifreeze by turning the can upside-down, and went to watch the movie.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Tim Eckensviller - Thunder Bay, ON on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 10:23 pm:

FWIW, I'm a transplant to Thunder Bay. This story takes place somewhere North of North Bay, roughly 500 miles east of here as the crow flies. Regardless, it looks like the Nays have it. it's a cute thought to picture a half dozen brass rads lined up along the wall of the kitchen but probably didn't happen.

I agree that draining the water and keeping it warm inside is much more realistic. Kind of reminds me of how the pioneering bush pilots would drain their engine oil into the snow on shutdown then the next morning dig out the frozen block of oil and get it good and hot in a pot over the fire. After all the water had boiled out they could pour it back into the engine and carry on. I suppose you could do something similar with the engine oil in a T but probably best to drain it into a pot.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Tony Bowker, Ramona, CA on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 10:48 pm:

My first job after college was at a research site in England and I lived on site to keep costs down. Naturally I had a car, first a Ford then an Austin, all left outside and we walked to work because it was so close and petrol ( gas) was very expensive. During the winters we would drain the water in the evening then when we needed the car running, we would fill the radiator with HOT water, from the reactors, and never had a problem starting..
Don't ask why we didn't use antifreeze, we couldn't afford it...


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Aaron Griffey, Hayward Ca. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 11:02 pm:

The day I was born in Wisconsin it was -38F.
I have seen it -35, and colder, many times in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
I have worked on cars and driven long distances in that kind of weather.
A model A or newer car would freeze the radiator solid at 40 MPH at -30 with anti-freeze good for zero. especially if it has a thermostat in it.
Without a thermostat it may keep circulating and stay warm enough not to slush-up. Some guys have used tractors that sat in the dairy barn and used them outside a while with very little anti-freeze in them.
In the model T days they used alcohol in the radiator.
I used it in my cars in the fifties because it was cheap.
It won't break anything, but it will slush up and stop circulating. I have had it happen and seen it happen to many people.
Straight water in a car at 40MPH and -30 would freeze solid and break the radiator in a few miles. I have never heard of anybody stupid enough to try it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Aaron Griffey, Hayward Ca. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 11:20 pm:

We also used SAE 10W-10 motor oil in the winter.
When it was colder than -30F most/some people that left their vehicles outside added kerosene to the oil.
In the mid fifties when 10-30 came along there was also SAE 5-20 for cold weather areas.
Straight 10 poured easier than 10-30 in sub-zero weather.
all oils were hard to pour out of the can when left outside at -35 and colder. We had to keep it inside.


My dad always put 5-20 in his Fords long about Christmas time and left it in until spring.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Aaron Griffey, Hayward Ca. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 11:22 pm:

We also used SAE 10W-10 motor oil in the winter.
When it was colder than -30F most/some people that left their vehicles outside added kerosene to the oil.
In the mid fifties when 10-30 came along there was also SAE 5-20 for cold weather areas.
Straight 10 poured easier than 10-30 in sub-zero weather.
all oils were hard to pour out of the can when left outside at -35 and colder. We had to keep it inside.
My dad always put 5-20 in his Fords long about Christmas time and left it in until spring.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Chris Bamford, Edmonton AB on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 11:33 pm:

Barry, you are completely right that -35C/-31F is nowhere near the record coldest temperatures in the world.

What I tried to say was on that particular day in December 2009, the Edmonton International Airport recorded the second-lowest temperature worldwide. I'm sure you get colder frequently in Alaska, and we see colder a few times a year even down here.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Royce in Georgetown TX on Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 08:01 am:

Prestone was invented and marketed beginning in 1927.

Ford recommended using a mixture of alcohol and water during winter months. That is a nasty, corrosive mixture, and not a good idea now that we have had Prestone available for almost 90 years.

Ford recommended "Light" grade motor oil year round for the Model T. In today's oil rating system this is SAE 20. A good modern oil for your Model T is 5W-30 for summer time. If you plan to drive in Thunder Bay this winter you would need a lighter oil for winter operation, perhaps 5W-20 or 0W-30.

I spent some time in Goose Bay about 15 years ago during January. Night time low temperatures were often -30C or a bit colder. We spent as little time out doors as we could!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Redelman, Kouts, IN on Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 04:49 pm:

My Dad drove Model T's when they were new and what he did was remove the oil and alcohol water and brought it into the house at night or until he needed to use the car again, he put the oil behind the coal oil heater in the parlor and left the alcohol water mix in the kitchen, in the morning he would jack up one of the rear wheels and then replace the oil and then water. He said it took a while at night and again when he needed the car but it was a hell of alot easier that way to start Lizzy in the cold! He even parked the car in the horse barn at night.

He would sit in an old chair and watch me restore the first Model T I owned but he mainly just slept but he told me many stories about the old days and how they kept the Model T's running as that is all they could afford. I have great memories of he and I back in 1960's.


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