Not really , but I am a little less excited about owning a T after reading all the accounts of failures like spoke breakage, steering failures, and brake loss. I know these cars , like anything mechanical, need proper maintenance .
Lets see it!
I think you are seeing the reason for a forum like this ... a place to discuss occasional troubles and how to fix them. I have owned my T since 1982 and have never had a break down on the road. Any little quirk has been easily tweaked once I understood the mechanics. I drive mine almost every day to work and on weekends when the weather is not icy. It always starts and is a lot of fun to drive despite the idiots driving modern cars.
A couple of days ago I got back to starting on magneto ... something I haven't done in years. It was based on a post the other day. One turn of the crank. I do wonder when people seem to have a lot of trouble with their cars. Once you "are one with the T" it lets you know when a minor adjustment needs to be made which prevents bigger issues from coming up.
In the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, Forrest runs into dog droppings and a man in the bumper sticker business brings it up. Forrest says "It happens," to which the man asks "What, shit?" and Forrest answers "Sometimes."
I want to "be one with the T", meaning I would like to know everything about it. I am starting a little late in life to accomplish that, though. I'm almost 60 but in good enough physical shape, thanks be to God, to perform any repairs needed, if I know how. Mark , you are right, I have already learned a lot from this forum.
Model T's require frequent tinkering. This is why many of like them. Remember, the original wood wheels, still in use are 100years old and older. A T in reasonably good shape is really a remarkably reliable runner. If you think it is going to stop like a modern car, you did indeed make a mistake. You've got to learn to drive it the way it was intended to be driven.
This is what I have found with the 3 Model T's I have owned:
When I first buy one, it seems to have a lot of problems, but after fixing everything I can find wrong with each part I go into, such as fixing everything in the engine and transmission when I have it out, rather than just fixing what is cause of the immediate problem, or the entire rear axle assembly when I have it apart, etc. The car becomes very dependable.
Another thing I have found over the years is the closest to stock you keep the engine, the less problems you will have with the drivetrain.
On tours, we find cars with beefed up engines will lose rear axles, cars with distributors will have a problem but no one else on the tour has a part to fix it. Or alternators substituted for generator, the alternator will break down.
There are some parts which will improve the care such as auxiliary brakes, or transmission. Turn signals or other safety features.
Anyway, if you add nonstock ignition, or fuel parts, be prepared with spare parts and ability to troubleshoot and repair them, because few others will have parts or knowledge.
With the coils and magneto, you have an easy trouble shoot. Carry one or more spare coils and plug in until you find the one which is not firing. Carry an extra timer along just in case. One good thing about the later cars with starters is that they also have a crank, and will run on battery if the magneto fails or if the generator or battery fails will run on magneto, so it is hard to keep it down.
Some parts which are prone to trouble are crankshaft and original babbit thrust washers. Proper alignment of the crankshaft is important as will as not lugging the engine. The only way to be sure the thrust washers are good is by disassembly of the rear axle assembly. You can tell if they are worn by raising the wheels and checking for endplay, but waiting until you get endplay could be too late.
Good luck with your T. It is quite easy to maintain with ordinary hand tools. Only complex jobs such as cylinder rebore or crankshaft turning and valve seat replacements take professional help.
Tommy after reading your post statement about owning a T a thing to remember is that's it close to 100 year old technology.
They don't drive,stop or require less maintenance like the cars and trucks you and I drive to work and on trips frenquently. There isn't any comparison. And if you do compare you will be disappointed.
For the most part Model T's were driven on an average of 30-40 mph. That was about it. People in T's would get hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
You cant get on an Interstate highway with cars running by at an average of 65-75+ MPH. It ain't safe!
I have three that I drive around on country farm to market roads and love to tinker on them.
But they are fun to drive and once you learn that they don't have real brakes like we are use to today that's when the fun of knowing how far we have come with automotive technology and appreciate what did Henry Ford nearly 100 years ago.
Almost. 60 is still young yet, I am 78, one of my best friends is 88 and the oldest member of our Dallas Model T club is 101.
You need to get over being old at 60 and get on with your life!
I am 84 and are bringing some things to the Twin City Swap meet tomorrow at the MN State Fair grounds. 7 a.m. to about 3 p.m. I will be there at 5 a.m. helping out. My 1910 is stored for the season. I am working on my 1931 wide bed PU, replacing the rear frame member, and drive, when the weather is clear my 1931 standard roadster.
I was 66 when I got seriously into the Model T thing nine years ago. Before that I had dabbled. At that point I knew a little, but very little. Thanks to the books and the forum I've learned a lot, so maybe I'll know what I'm doing by the time I check out. No buyer's remorse here. There's a lot to learn, but that keeps it interesting.
What man can make, man can fix.
And fortunately for us, the Model T is one of the simplest to fix. Especially considering the wide availability of original and reproduction parts.
In the antique car hobby this is about as good as it gets.
Our culture puts a high emphasis on "the destination" as opposed to the experience
of getting there. And while probably no one enjoys being a greenhorn or inept at any
given subject, the expectation we often place on ourselves to instantly/rapidly becoming
subject matter experts is not only absurd, but sets us up for disillusion and disappointment.
If we take the time to re-evaluate our own paradigm and expectations, allowing ourselves
the space and time to just enjoy the learning process, it becomes a pleasure rather than a
burden and the whole process becomes fun, not just the unfettered driving experience in
a "perfect" car.
It's that old "Stop and smell the roses" thing.
Last time I want to the Hershey car show I met up with my brother. He was looking for parts for an old Jeepster. At the end of the day I was loaded with great model T parts .... he had a reproduction Jeepster hat pin. :-) Choosing a model T or model A Ford as an entry level antique car to drive and tinker with is the best therapy a person can have.
The newest T is 89 years old. If you think that you are going to purchase an 89 year-old car that was designed a a replacement for a horse and buggy and not have problems, you are in the wrong hobby.
Burger - totally agree.
And I am still trying to find a way to describe the satisfaction of working on TT. It is not a "high", but getting her road worthy is an enjoyable experience I look forward to. It is a very relaxing mindset. It is a way to reward myself after I have done some of the other things I really need to do.
After 30 minutes of searching for a 9/16's open end wrench this morning I got totally disgusted and decided no more working on TT until I have totally cleaned and re-organized the garage. I dislike clean up, but the time has come. Working in a hovel is costing me time as I search for what should be readily at hand. They really should sell 1/2" and 9/16" wrenches in 12 packs.
There are a lot of things I could do besides working on T, or straightening the garage, but none that I find as rewarding. And TT is not even running yet! I can not explain the attraction, but it is what it is.
Tommy, I got started late in life on T's also. 58. 62 now. I had similar apprehensions the first 6 months, but after that and ever since, I look at, and welcome, any "T issue" (say that fast 5 times...ha ha) with enthusiasm, also as a learning experience, and with open arms. You will too. Give it time.
Per my father:
It is much wiser to take up the antique car hobby when you are an old man because you will experience only 15 to 20 years of grief and frustration versus the 70 years of grief and frustration that you would have experienced had you taken up the hobby as a teenager.
Been there, done that. Always thinking about what's going to quit next. Got very skittish about giving rides too. I just knew that's when the stuff would hit the proverbial fan. (there was a number of single car death/accidents at the time all related to critical part failures). What I needed was a break and I took one. I'm still on it. Just something less to worry about. When I faced up to the fact that if I needed to have a block re-babbitted I'd be walking for years I did one of those agonizing reappraisals.
Erik, I sure hope that swell-looking cutter and its shafts made it out of that oat-field along with the Model T . . . ?? Rest of the story ??
T's need proper maintenance, reasonable use, and a practical sense of caution. However, the lines that define reasonable use and practical sense of caution begin to vary as you learn the car and it's capabilities and increase your practice. I wouldn't give people rides until I was comfortable with the car, I was quite cautious with my speed until I'd had some real practice driving and stopping. A T is different enough to drive that you need to learn new "automatic" actions about stopping, starting, turning etc. Having experience building and driving my cars, I treat my almost completely stock '26 coupe far differently than my very non-stock speedster but I will gladly give rides in either of them. Take your time, learn from others, don't rush in to things and all will probably be fine. Oh, driving a Model T is a full sensory activity, I find that I'm always listening to and feeling how the car acts as I drive. Not a bit like the start, drive, and forget Nissan or Toyota. Learn it's sounds and it will tell you when it is happy and what it needs.
My dad got started in the antique car hobby in 1948 at age 16.
That is one of a handful of cutters that my dad picked up over the years - he paid only $2 for it. It was in the same barn as the Ford.
That's a very early 1920 Ford (September 12, 1919 serial number) that my dad purchased for $25 from the original owner outside of Cannon Falls, MN Falls. It was a plain-Jane car with no starter/generator and non-demountable wheels. Photo was taken July 24, 1952 when he purchased the car.
My dad rented a trailer and bumper hitch and his buddy Dwight Madsen went with him when he bought the car. Because the trailer had no ramps, they got the the Model T running and drove it into Cannon Falls and onto a loading platform that was even with the trailer.
My dad already had his 1917 touring so he put an ad in the Minneapolis paper and sold the car a month later for $75 to 12 year old Randy Blohm. After Randy and his father left, my dad said that a guy in a Cadillac drove up and offered him $150 for the car. My dad replied that it was already sold. He could have told Randy that he could sell the car and make a quick $75 but he never bothered to do that. Randy is still involved in the hobby.
I don't remember how much he got for the cutter. But my dad is a meticulous record keeper so he does have that information.
Randy restored the car (today we would have left it original) and owned it for a number of years until he sold it to Wally Stommel in north Minneapolis where it sat unused. Wally passed in 2011 his son owned the car for a while but then he sold it a couple years ago. It is still in the Twin Cities.
Below are photos of the car on the trailer being pulled by a 1949 Pontiac convertible and in my grandparents' driveway in south Minneapolis 1952. The fourth photo is my dad posing with the same car in the fall of 2011.
July 24, 1952 - Cannon Falls, MN
July/August 1952 - Minneapolis
October 2011 - Minneapolis - same guy, same car. My dad still has a crew cut but you can't see it because of the hat.
My TT experience is just part of reliving a warped childhood, where my youth was
wasted exploring old barns, chicken farms, fence lines, mines, or anything else old
and cool. Much to the chagrin of my father, Widdo Bwudder and I dragged home
all sorts of "junk" to save it from "clean up operations" that always seemed to follow
the old farmer's passing and the kids selling off the property. Much of that old junk
is now part of my shop and the TT's (and other old farm trucks) we never did drag
home are represented by the one I have now.
Just being out in the shop is pure catharsis. There is something deeply important to
me in living and working in an environment that puts me in that baseline "happy place".
I am amazed at how many people do not find this to be a priority. Maybe I am just
weird ? I am OK with that. I was blessed to have my mind poisoned early on and
that old TT doesn't even have to run to make me happy. Just seeing it there is wonderful.
Driving it and working on it are just that much better. Especially in a shop like I've
built around it.
I think Walt and Burger pretty much summarized it perfectly. Owning a T is a journey into the past that a lot of people are unwilling to take because they think it is beyond their spectrum of abilities. The fact is that Henry Ford made a simple car for the masses that is tough as nails, and can be fixed at a very reasonable rate. Don't give up Tommy, once you you have it all sorted out, you will be a true believer.
A lot depends on the condition of the car you purchased. If it's a lemon, a non-mechanic first-time T-owner will be overwhelmed, and taking a transmission or differential apart is not for beginners. But let's assume you got a pretty nice buy and your drivetrain is in reasonably good condition. From that point on, most repairs can be accomplished by someone who has "never done it before." For instance, when my carburetor was leaking, I had never before taken one apart, let alone rebuilt one. The rebuild kit arrived with written instructions and I got a talk-through on the phone from Lang's, the outfit who sold it to me. The job turned out to be very straightforward. Most repairs will be like that and you can always get expert advice and guidance right here on the forum.
The Model T does thrive on tinkering and adjusting and after a while, you'll look at that routine stuff as being therapeutic. Cleaning and lubing a timer is a relaxing job you can whistle your way through. Same deal with changing the oil.
If you have less than an inch of play in your steering wheel, you're probably okay in that department. Do, however, inspect every part of the front end to make sure everything is secure and that all castle nuts have cotter-pins. Nothing in the steering should be loose enough to rattle. You'll find that your Model T has a tendency to pull to the right on most residential streets. That's okay; it's only trying to turn downhill from the crown of the road. If you drive the car in the center of the street, at the top of the crown, it shouldn't pull either way. If your tire treads are wearing evenly, your front-end alignment is probably okay.
The original pedal-operated transmission brake makes for abominable braking action. If you're lucky enough to be equipped with Rocky Mountain Brakes, your braking capability will have improved vastly, from abominable to poor. The highest speed from which you can give good braking action with Rocky Mountain Brakes is 30 MPH. At just five MPH faster, you'll need surprisingly additional space to stop the car. Drive as if you don't have brakes.
If your spokes creak, click or make other funny noises, you need to have the wheel rebuilt. Period. Inspect each wheel by twisting each individual spoke by hand. Hard. If you get any motion at all, have the wheel rebuilt. You'll notice I'm pretty cavalier about telling you to get your wheels rebuilt at the slightest provocation. That's for two reasons:
1.) A bad wheel can kill you dead as Elvis because when a front wheel shatters, the car can cartwheel end over end.
2.) Getting a wheel rebuilt by an expert wheelwright (Stutzman's Wheel Shop) is relatively inexpensive—about $200. It's nuts not to spend that small amount of money to know your wheel is reliable. Noah Stutzman does gorgeous work.
Remember, when it comes to Model T Fords: If it's loose, tighten it; if it creaks, oil it; if it squeaks, grease it; if it scrapes, shim it; if it rattles, adjust it; if it's wet, wipe it; if it's dry, polish it; if it drips... Oh. Never mind, that's normal; leave it alone.
Even the most high tech conveyance can experience catastrophic failure. All you can do is perform the proper preventive maintenance and keep your fingers crossed. Jim Patrick