When did Smith Form-a-Truck first offer their kit for the T, and are there other prominent truck chassis kits for the earliest T's?
I have a '21 fire truck with a Union frame and chain drive rear axle setup.
Hi Charlie, I see this is your first post on the Forum....Welcome!
Ford in the USA and the UK issued stern warnings to dealers to have nothing to do with these conversions in February 1916, so it can be inferred that they probably appeared during the preceding half year or maybe year.
Interestingly, Ford issued no further such messages, and in the UK, by the early 1920s, they were actively supporting their sales and use. I guess that they had been pleasantly surprised to find that they worked - and of course, by then Ford was marketing the Ton Truck so they could hardly claim that the engine and transmission were inadequate.
To answer the second part of Scott's question, in the UK we had Olson (a Detroit company), BAICO, Eros, ETO, Rejax and Hudford (of Philadelphia).
Most of these appear to be imports from the USA (or copies of US designs). BAICO was the British-American Import Company, but I have not been able to trace the exact US origin.
Some of these companies later marketed modification kits for the TT to provide a 2 or 2.5 ton payload, usually on a longer wheelbase.
Many Thanks Gents:
An earlier MTFCA post shows a Smith technical bulletin dated November 1916, wherein there is reference to the first Smith kits having been built "four years earlier". These facts accepted, 1912 may have been the first year for Smith production, however this does not say that these first kits were made for the Ford. I think it logical that Ford would have been the primary donor car for Smith at that time, but have yet to come across documentation that supports this. Separately but related, in the course of researching T based Fire Trucks, I have yet to locate one that looks to have been a chain driven Smith/Ford chassis. Seems like a heavy duty application like a Fire Truck would be ideally suited to the Smith kit...Any T Fire Truck enthusiasts out there have thoughts on this? Hello Uncle Jack: does your early Fire Truck project have one of these Smith or other chassis kits?
Ray Miller in his article about Smith Form-a-Trucks on the page 8 of the Mar-Apr 1968 “Vintage Ford” stated: “Introduced during 1913, the Form-a-Truck enabled owners of the Ford chassis to convert that chassis, at a modest cost….”
A.J. "Art" Bell posted the link to the Smith Form-a-Truck patent: http://www.google.com/patents/US1363022?dq=truck+smiths+ford+OR+formatruck#v=one page&q&f=true While the patent was not filed for until Mar 16, 1916 there is documentation that says the first commercially delivered semi-trailer unit was built in 1914 by Fruehauf and it used a 1911 Ford Runabout. (Ref page 140 of "Model T Ford Restration Handbook by Leslie R. Henry. Photo of the car & trailer that is part of the Herny Ford Museum collection is shown at: https://books.google.com/books?id=EPIuXHxLJRgC&pg=PA136&dq=smith+form-a-truck+19 13&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQ2tbL8Z7JAhWMNSYKHSmqD-QQ6AEIOjAC#v=onepage&q=smith%20 form-a-truck%201913&f=false on page 136 Also see: http://driving.ca/ford/auto-news/news/a-century-of-hauling Note the facts are a little fuzzy as some sites show other photos of the first Fruehauf trailer and it is attached to a 1915ish Model T runabout. See: http://www.singingwheels.com/company-history.html )
If you want to construct a brass radiator Smith Form-a-Truck you could do so with any 1909-1916 year Ford chassis. Originally an owner could add the conversion to a new or used chassis. For example the 1911 Ford with the Fruehauf trailer is said to be a 1911 – which would have meant it was a used chassis when converted. If you wanted to construct one of the same year parts – that would take some additional research as I would presume that the Form-a-Truck parts evolved over time just like the Model T parts evolved over time.
Below is From the page 33 of the Jan-Feb 1992 “Vintage Ford” (used by permission):
by Edwin Hayslip
I used to think converting the Model T to a
chain driven truck was only a tiny blip in the
Model T saga. I had originally thought that only
Smith and perhaps a couple of other manufacturers
made-these conversions. After a little digging, I
discovered the following fifteen companies that offered
chain drive conversions for the Model T:
Hap l9l5 cut off
Fred Houston in Tulsa has a partially-restored Smith Form-a-Truck for sale. The chassis is mostly finished and very nice. It comes with a 1913 Runabout body built by Charley Shaver and most of what would be necessary to finish the project.
He advertised it for sale here on the Classifieds a few months ago, but I don't think it old. His email address is modeltgrg (at) cox.net.
I found the ad. Here's a link to it:
A couple Smith Form a Trucks (or similar other brands) to look at:
Hap, one more to add to your list of Form-a-truck kits and suppliers is Jewett.
Discussed on this thread:
(Can't believe I found it on my first try!)
I have always found this one of extra interest because I have a 1927 Paige sedan. The Graham Brothers started into automotive producing through truck kits before buying out the Paige from Harry Jewett, that also built the Jewett automobile. The Jewett truck conversion apparently is no relation, just a curious coincidence.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Many thanks again for this much informative response gentlemen. The Smith makes a handsome enough truck, but not a project on my radar. This is another of the many period accessories that that achieved huge success thanks to the Model T. As illustrated here, the Model T was not just a car, but rather an industry.
Thank you for the note on the Jewett truck. While not a chain drive -- it offered enclosed gear reduction rather than exposed chain drive. And yes, one more accessory truck extension.
I often wonder how much maintenance the chain drive cars or trucks required back in the days of dirt roads. I once had a dirt bike, and when riding on the paved roads or even the nicer unpaved trails, it seldom needed the chain cleaned. But if I took it off in the dirt and sand -- it collected grit quickly. And then I would clean the chain and sprockets afterwards.
Hap l9l5 cut off