I grew up just outside of Detroit and when I was 15 years old my Dad took me to visit and tour the Ford Rouge Plant. While there I saw a Model T for the first time and have dreamt of owning one from that day forward. Now, at the age of 50, I finally have the honor of being the proud owner of a 1924(?) Touring Model T. I have so many questions but I'll start with just a few. First, the previous owner said it was a 1923 but the motor# is 10326859 which puts it's manufacture around Aug 15, 1924. I have attached a photo of her.
I've named her Clara after Henry Ford's wife of 60 years.
I've been calling it a 1924 because of the engine# but I realize it could have been swapped out so I imagine it would be better to determine a year by other clues. Any input in this regard would be welcomed. Secondly, Clara does not have a Title. To humor myself I called the DMV to ask how to Title and Register it and was told I first needed to contact CARB. That is the California Air Resources Board. Simply, that's insane, and not funny. The CARB folks are crazy and would probably proclaim that it be crushed into a small metal cube because it doesn't meet air pollution requirements. After reading some posts here I went and joined AAA today for the sole purpose of getting assistance from an "expert". Their "expert" in antique car services explained to me that I needed to get the VIN number off of the vehicle. I told him that I believed that the Motor# was used for that purpose back then but he insisted that I was wrong and that I would be able to find it somewhere on the frame. Everything I have been able to find on the subject says prior to 1926, Model T's had no VIN number on the frame. I printed out some info for the AAA "expert" but feedback on this would be appreciated. Third, I live in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. I was very dismayed to find out that the San Fernando Valley Model T club recently disbanded and I can't find another club for over a 100 miles in any direction. I live in LA, one of the largest cities in the nation and despite quite a few phones calls and emails, I have yet to find any enthusiasts in this area. Did I make it too late to the party? Why are clubs disbanding, I would think membership would be growing. While I'm working on getting her road worthy I would love to find someone knowledgeable that could give my T a look see and tell me everything and anything that could be gleaned. I would like to hire someone if possible. Especially a mechanic familiar with working on the motor. Any info regarding groups or individuals in my area that I could make contact with would be greatly appreciated. I could go on and on. I'm madly in love and I want to learn everything and anything I can so I'll be back. My passion in life is history and my intention is to take Clara to schools and other venues to educate children, and adults, as to the genius of Henry Ford and his masterpiece, the Model T.
I am unsure on the ins and outs of titling in California, since I have always bought cars with titles. You are correct that there is no true VIN for Model T's, in 1926 they started stamping the original engine number onto the right side of the frame underneath the floorboards, but for cars earlier than that (which yours certainly is), the engine number is the only thing you have to go by.
Welcome to the world of Model Ts; now for some sage advice from a native Californian with experience in titling model Ts and Model As.
First, DO NOT "Talk" to the DMV about your car--the less they know, the better. The AAA will likely not be able to help you either, the law is different on early cars, and most AAA & DMV clerks do NOT know this.
Your best bet is to fork over the (probably) $250 or so to have a Title facilitator do your title for you. I used to do it all myself, but the rules have changed, so my last car (a '25 T), which came from Nevada with NO paperwork was done by a pro. I figured the money was well spent, and it now has YOM plates on it even. It also, amazingly, in spite of historical documentation, has the engine number stamped on the frame. . .
Where to begin?
First and foremost. I just cannot be certain from your photo. I think your car has the higher style cowl, hood, and radiator, But am not sure. Along with the lower-front lip on the fenders near the headlamps. Those features first appeared in manufacturing during the summer of 1923. While that technically may be considered 1923 model year, they are generally considered 1924 model year. Ford called these '24 models, although some states and many people's faulty memories years ago sometimes did call them 1923. The true '23 has a lower hood, cowl, radiator, and slightly different front fenders with no lower lip. The apron/shield bellow the radiator is clearly '24/'25. 1923 and earlier had a tiny thin strip only along the radiator's lower tank.
A few more details that you will pick up along the way. 1924 and earlier touring and runabout Ts used a door hinge that opened straight out due to an unequal length double door hinge (look at yours closely). For 1925, Ford (basically for reasons unknown) changed the door hinge to an equal length double hinge which allowed the door to hang down a bit when opened. The date that change was made is unclear, and there was probably a considerable time where both types were used. This is an indicator, but not conclusive, that the car is a '24, not a '25. Another indicator is that the car has 30X3.5 demountable wheels. 1924 is the last year in which those were the most common option. The new style "balloon" type 21 inch rim, wheels, and tires were offered for 1925. While the 30X3.5 clincher type were still available, most cars sold then had the new balloon style tires.
There are several other "indicators" to separate '24 from '25 models. Some I know, several I don't know.
Could it be earlier? Check the hood, cowl, and radiator carefully for dimensions (mostly height) and details (check the hood for dimples where the latches hook onto the bottom of the hood, 1923 and earlier had no dimples there). Better photos here might help.
Now. One way or the other, the top is a bit messed up, and the windshield is unusual.
The top is the earlier type "two-man" top, used 1922 and earlier on USA Fords. Canadian Fords were different for a few years. A two-man top has front irons and bows that are not attached to the rear irons and bows. A one-man top, which appeared on 1923 USA Fords, has an extending front bow that is connected to the rear irons and bows.
Regardless, the top does not fit well, does not pull down properly in front, and should not be white on the underside. That last detail (white underside) may be debatable.
The windshield is an after-market accessory. It is straight up and down, like a 1922 and earlier USA model T should be. A 1923 USA model should have a slightly slanted windshield, over the earlier style low cowl, hood, and radiator. 1924 and '25 have the higher style hood, cowl, and radiator with the basically same slanted windshield as the '23. The 1923 USA is a one year only combination. And note, all that applies only to touring and runabout models. Sedans and coupes had their own set of changes and schedules.
Your windshield, at a glance, is similar in appearance to the 1922 and earlier Ford windshield. Except that the Ford windshield was in a fixed position for the bottom panel. On earlier Ts, only the top windshield panel folded for a cool breeze-in-the-face on a hot day. On your windshield, both top and bottom panels should fold.
A fairly rare accessory. Some people really like those.
Califunny and titling. There are good reasons I call this place Califunny. However, actually, they are not too bad about "regenerating a lost title". AAA may, or may NOT, be able to help. In my area, the local office won't even try. I have heard from some people in other areas that they have helped a lot. There are also a few private companies that do title services for a fee (sometimes around $300 I have heard).
More people will likely offer more advice on this. But I can start.
Talk to people that have done it. There are a number of things that help. You need to have a pretty good idea what you are trying to do when you go in. DMV offices vary a LOT! Some have someone that knows what to do? Some do not. Do NOT offer any more information than what they ask for. ALWAYS, remember that it is an antique automobile built in (1923 or 1924 whichever you decide). It has been correctly restored, and IS a model T Ford. It is not a hotrod, it is not a kit car, you did not build it, the fellow you bought it from did not build it. Hopefully, you got a really good bill of sale, explaining how long the previous owner had it and so forth.
Ford DID NOT put a chassis number on the model T before December of 1926. PERIOD. However, Califunny sometimes did. I do not know if ANY other state did that? I do know for a fact that many states did not register cars at all for many years, and thousands of model T have never been registered or licensed, ever. But even in the 1920s, Califunny did encourage car owners to switch their cars from Ford's engine serial number to a car or chassis number. There were several ways this was done. Most cars were not done this way, but some were. So look for it. Also, there was no standard location for this, so look around. Top of frame rail under floor boards was a common location. So was outside of frame rail or front cross-member. If you need more clues, you may try to contact me.
Good luck! And welcome to the affliction.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
David D! You type a LOT faster than I do.
Welcome, and do not despair!
Two very active club chapters in the area are the Orange County Model T Club, and the Long Beach Model T Club.
As a coincidence, at this Tuesday's meeting of the Orange County Club, we had a presentation by a Licensed Vehicle Verifier who discussed exactly your issues among others. There are ways to deal with them. Her name is Audrey Welch, and she said she can provide as much or as little help as needed. (714)782-7816, email email@example.com
Every Model T Ford has a true VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). It is the number stamped on the engine block. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise.
I lived in California and bought several inoperable cars with no title. The process of titling such a vehicle in California is easy if you are a member of AAA.
1. You will need to first get insurance on the car in your name, and the VIN on the insurance card must match the engine VIN.
2. You must have a notarized bill of sale from the previous owner that contains the VIN. This VIN number must match the VIN number on the engine block. The bill of sale for a motor vehicle form can be found at AAA, on the internet, or at any bank.
3. AAA can get a vehicle inspection performed for you. This may involve trailering the car to the inspector's location, or paying the inspector to come to your house. They simply check that the VIN matches your bill of sale and insurance card.
4. You march into the DMV with the bill of sale, insurance cars, and vehicle inspection report. You will need a check book, or credit card because the state is about to tax the living daylights out of you. Patience and humility will be assets that are invaluable, similar to a body cavity search.
By the way, Craig's car seems to have a Canadian windshield, and the top bows are way too tall. Most Model T's are a collection of parts from various years. It is up to you whether it stays that way.
One minor correction: “Motor number was first placed on frame side member R.H. on Dec. 12, 1925. Motor No. 12,861,044. Information obtained from Mr. Burns, Final Assy., Highland Park.”
It is possible that a previous owner was quite tall and changed the top to give more head room, however, the piece above the windshield would block vision of a very tall person. Maybe he wore a top hat while driving? Anyway, both the windshield and the top are unusual. That is not the "one man top" which came with the 24 T. And it doesn't have the usual diagonal supports between the front and second bows. The windshield posts also look different.
Otherwise the body and chassis looks quite standard
Does your top fold down?
Many aftermarket parts were manufactured for the Model T and maybe the top and windshield were made by some other manufacturer for a Model T.
Your car appears to be at least a 1921, as it looks like it has the L arms for the top to ride in while down, plus it has a two man top, and something is going on with the windshield. I'd get a copy of The Car That Changed The World, and start sorting things out.
Craig: Welcome to the the World of Model "T". If you have one you may want another one.
As to "TITLE's. Neither of mine had titles as they were a complete ground up builds, the other was a ground up assembly. Let's start on my "19 Touring, it was a mass of pieces, that I had to figure out. When it was road worthy I loaded it on my neighbors trailer and drove 32 miles to the Red Bluff CA, DMV. Having the bill of sale in had I started on the title,and they never asked price or how much was invested and I never told them, and I had YON license plates in hand. About three weeks I had the title, and opps I forgot one thing in my case I had to have the CHP verify the engine number.
Now in the Wood one , a Depot Hack, ordered the body from New York, had it road worthy and to the CHP i went engine verified, to the Red Bluff DMV,and applied for title,again they never never asked a lot of question. Applied for plates to read "MYTHACK" and in short time had the plates and title.
Since you have a complete car you got it made. Take your bill of sale and go to a small DMV office, as they are most likely easier to deal with, and make your tip towards the end of the week, Thursday or Friday afternoon,
Good luck and welcome to the club and as somebody always said, Go out and enjoy the ride.
There may be typo's here in
Unfortunately things have changed in California since Royce was here. I know my local AAA office can offer almost NO help in unusual registration processes.
Wayne, I don't type faster, I just typed less words!!
I would STRONGLY recommend you contact Ms. Welch before you do something that will make your T titling a bureaucratic mess that will cost you time and $$$ and maybe even a court date--it happened to a friend of mine with a Model A that was currently titled in another state. Took over a year to straighten out the mess, including one upset judge who considered the whole thing a "wast of the court's time"--the court date was instigated by the CHP, who wanted to confiscate and destroy the car due to a "Fraudulent VIN number" Long story, won't go into it, but trust me, USE the Verifier service!!!
BTW, My friend did not take my advice, and was going the route you suggested, which caused all the mess. He thought there wouldn't be any problem. . . . I tried to warn him. . . .
Bill's message came in while I was loading mine. Bill's experience is NOT usual. My friend took his A to the Chico CHP office, and that's where his problems began. Young officer, out to make a name for himself, took it upon himself to prove the engine number was not "authentic". This was a complete, restored, licensed & titled in Utah car--should have been NO problem.
Recently the CITY of Oroville decided to re-register their 1922 Buick--mind you, they had the pink slip, they had the documentation of ownership and the Horseless Carriage plates--the car had been on display in their museum since someone in the city back in the 1970s decided to save money and not pay the annual registration fees since the car wasn't running. Due to a clerk in the DMV office here, this process took over four months and the title was messed up. It was finally straightened out when Sacramento got into the picture and sent the city to the local office manager, who admitted the problem was all started by her clerk, a known trouble-maker (and he sill has his job!).
So how to avoid this pitfalls? Use a service!!! You will be glad you did & this is coming from one who is known to be a cheapskate & used to do his own titling, but won't anymore!
BTW, I have no financial interest in any titling service, just a satisfied user!
Craig, you look organized with all those boxes on the shelves. I built a new garage a few years ago and put in shelves like that and have about 20 boxes that size on my shelves. Every body thinks I am so organized but the fact is there is not a damn thing in any one of them yet. It is driving my wife nuts.
Craig, The California DMV can be daunting unless you know the game. As Royce pointed out A bill of sale from the former owner on CA's DMV's form will start the ball rolling. I've never had to have one notarized, but I guess it wouldn't hurt.
DMV's official bill of sale will become the only form that determines the year, so make sure it is what you want! The Model T VIN is the engine number, but since DMV has no way of researching its validity for a given year, it is what the paper works says it is. Remember, the DMV only cares about the paperwork, and the less you confuse them about the car the better.
The only time the car gets involved, is for them to confirm the VIN number. This will be done by a peace officer or A DMV inspector. In either case the ASSEMBLED car will have to be trailered to the inspector.
Here in Paso Robles, The CHP and Sheriff's office will no longer do the inspections, so the DMV is it.
Two important thing to remember: 1. Find a friendly DMV office, Change DMV locations until you do. 2. DO NOT say any more than you have to. They do not care why you got the car, they do not care how nice it is, they do not care how you happened to come by the car, they do not care if the engine is wrong for the year model other than what the paperwork says. If they start to take you down a path that seems stupid, (ie. ARB etc.) then thank them and start over at a different office. The DMV paperwork stays with you during the whole process, and nothing gets recorded until DMV is satisfied, so you do have some control over your car's fate.
On my '16 (registered as a '15) I purchased a reproduction I.D. plate and stamped the VIN (engine # )on to it, then attached it to the correct location on the firewall, with the correct rivets/screws. When the DMV inspector asked to see the VIN I showed him the plate. There was no discussion about the engine # being the VIN, nor did I show him the # stamped on the engine. Once he saw that the Paper agreed with the VIN plate, I paid my fees and walked out with a new set of plates.
There is a Ventura model t club if you interested. We meet at the IHOP restaurant off Borchard rd in Newbury park the 2nd Thursday of each month.
Some of our members also belonged to the now defunct San Fernando chapter.
When I registered my TT in about 2007 it had been off the books since 1941 (it still had the '41 plate). I knew that it's an '18 but it has a '23 engine. I decided to take the path of least resistance with the CA DMV. I took my copy of Bruce McCalley's "Model T Ford, The Car That Changed The World" with me to the DMV. With the book in hand I was able to show that the engine number proved that it's a 1923 truck. That seemed to satisfy them, and with a Statement of Facts registering it was not too difficult.
Of course, I don't care what year is on the title as long as I'm "legal". Some folks do care for a variety of reasons.
P.S. The truck was acquired by my grandfather as ranch equipment in 1946. There was no title, bill of sale, or anything else. It was just included with the ranch. Later, in 1965 it went to my uncle upon the passing of my grandfather. No paperwork this time either. Then, in about 2001 it came to me upon the passing of my uncle. Still no paperwork. I wrote a statement on a DMV form and with Bruce's book it worked just fine.
I had the same experience as John Semprez with a reproduction ID plate on my Packard. Nobody asked about whether it was original, and I didn't volunteer anything. All they care about is seeing a number where they think there should be one. As others have said, the less information you volunteer the better off you are.
Hi Craig, welcome .... I am thinking your top may be part of a "California Top" or some other special winter top. The windshield post look strange to me at the hinge area. There was a T on e-bay not too long ago with a "California Top" on it. Maybe someone has some photos. The style top I am thinking of will have glass side windows that hinge up for storage above your head. That may be the reason for the extra height... If it turns out to be an accy style top. It may be the rest of it is where you bought the car. The windows would look like small house windows and be mistaken for trash... Anyway good luck with the title process and have fun ....
Nice car. Have fun.
My DMV problems were with a CA car with CA title that came to FL were solved with the McCalley book, "The Car That Changed The World". And a clerk that would listen. First read all available information, understand it, take all documentation and find an intelligent clerk. Point out the facts in the book regarding motor numbers and years. It worked for me.
Criminy I hate it when I make a glaring error and miss it on several proofreds, Uh, poof reads, ur, puff-rudes.
Steve, J, thank you for politely correcting my error. I had MODEL year '26 in mind, KNEW it was December, and wrote it WRONG!
Bang head on desk.
Bang head on desk.
Bang head on desk.
Still. Great car! I look forward to more posts clearing up its exact year and any other issues. I am curious which top it should have, and want to see better pictures of that windshield. I have only seen a few like it. And I like them.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2