Over 50 years ago I had a wonderful three year affair with Lizzie. She was a rusted, worn-out hulk and we went through at least three body configurations, always incomplete. Never did get rear fenders on her, or floor-boards. Just about everything that could go wrong with a motor did - lost rod bearings when band lint clogged the oil line, crankshaft thrust was imaginary, and once, the flywheel came loose from the crankshaft. One by one we overcame these mechanical challenges, and I learned a lot.
Meanwhile, when she was running, life was sweet. Just like a good horse, she'd lope along dirt roads through the sagebrush all day long at a steady pace, but one 50 mile journey we took down a straight, paved highway was torture. She hated it. So did I. The monotony made me think she'd throw a rod at any moment, but she was tougher than that - she just didn't like it.
With rather sketchy bodywork and the fact that the passenger load was never much over 290 pounds, I never felt the transmission brake was inadequate. She could lock her rear wheels and slide to a stop like a good roping horse. Good thing, too ! I never got the cast-iron "emergency" brakes to work.
Fast forward to the present. As I flirt with realizing my decades-old dream of owning a "brass" T, I find most offered for sale fitted with conventional distributors, starters, alternators, Ruxtells, Rocky Mountain brakes, and/or any number of retrofit modifications which owners who tour seem to think are "necessary" in order to enjoy a model T.
I have a feeling part of this necessity may come from taking Model T as Henry conceived her out of her natural environment. She was meant to travel meandering dirt roads, and prevail in sand, mud and over rocks that would challenge modern ATVs, even making her own road through the brush and tules if needs be. Straight, smooth paved roads and traffic are anathema to the soul of a Model T.
I realize how this "natural environment" has steadily disappeared since I roamed the dusty backroads of my youth, but is it really entirely impractical to drive a Model T in the 21st century without resorting to newfangled auxiliary brakes, electronics and extra gearing ? Speedsters are another breed of cat, and I appreciate them for what they are, but I kinda like Lizzie just the way she was originally built . . . with all her faults, I love her still.
There's plenty that do run bone stock, but very few in the mountains. Exceptions may be noted in following posts. I've read accounts on here over the years of of said exceptions .I wanna say Dave Huson may have run stock cars in the mountains before but they were in tip top shape and he really knows how to drive them in such terrain .
I have a nice, quite authentic, tour-proven '13 runabout for sale for $13,000 FIRM. Correct color, wheels, coils and magneto, no water pump, no Ruckstell. I do have Rocky Mountain brakes, which you could remove if you wanted to make life more exciting.
I sorta like a model T like it came myself. Just something about the simplicity of the machine of that time period. Just my opinion Tim
Rich, i completely agree with your sentiments, but unfortunately times have changed, and all we can do as modern T owners is adapt. Some of the great people here live in regions of the Country with the roads you describe, unfortunately some of us are not so fortunate. I describe myself as somewhat of a purist..(deplorable) when it comes to my T, keeping the original ignition system is morally paramount in keeping with how a T should be run. I did add R/M's, blinkers, and brake lights so i wouldn't get run over. Just my 2 cents, I'm sure others will chime in on what they think is necessary or not.
Gilbert, I'm very interested, sent you a PM.
Dexter - "Deal !" ?!? you already bought it ?
Tim, I reckon it's the simplicity that invites the tinkering ?
John, I don't think a feller should have to apologize for being a purist, and of course, we live in the times we live in, so concessions for safety are only sensible . . . thanks to you all for your posts
Modifications I like are reasonable and sensible. Modifications I don't like are silly and superfluous. The first category includes safety glass, AC brakes, a battery with magneto charger, FP pinion bearing, Gates fan belt, bronze trust washers, balancing engine & transmission, bronze suspension bushings, and accessory LED tail lights. In the second category are 12 volts, disturbutor, water pump, and "natural" wheels. End of 2¢.
If I were to have a T here I there is 1 road where the cars travel 45, once you go 5 miled in one direction anything under 55 and you are a hazard. In the other direction you can make it 2 miles before the speed increases. Locations are given as per mile marker and which side of the road. In my mind there are 3 different kinds of "improvements" when working with a brass T. These are safety, driveability, and comfort. Outside brakes, better lighting etc are good safety upgrades. Driveability are usually performance upgrades (heads, ruxtel, carbs, etc). Comfort are things like electric start, heaters, and many of the accessories available later in the T's life. Most "upgrades" are not correct for when a brass T was built but then the same is true today. Most any new car is not modified until it has been used for a number of years and the warranty has expiered. Looking at things from this perspective a Model T is a time capsule of a particular date. Perhaps you have a '14 that is as it may have been owned in '23 with a few upgrades.
Speedsters are an excellent example of this and the Santa Clara endurance run has worked to maintain this. Maintaing that each speedster should be a time capsule of a year no later than '27. For example a '15 speedster with torpedo fenders most likely would never have seen the road in '15 but instead was assembled in say '18-'25 and explains the electric starter, ruxtel, overhead, etc. Is it still a '15? Yes, just as the kids '98 honda down the steet that has been lowered and modified is still a '98 honda. The question is what year do you wan't your car to represent if it is not as it came off the assembly line?
I am with Steve. I still need to do safety glass, and I plan to someday emulate Tom C's
blackout brakelight/turn signals. To this T guy, aesthetics and the "Suddenly it's 1934!"
period appearance are paramount. Being a truck guy, the silly natural wood with clear
coat is my one pet peeve of no-go. No TT owner with a lick of sense was going to run
his truck back in the day in high maintenance natural wood. It just looks silly, like someone's
wood shop project, not an old farm truck.
Want a simple answer Rich? (you won't like it). It's no. The car is not suitable for driving on today's roads. Your youthful memories might be a bit glossed over but your T experiences are what it was actually designed for. A slower lifestyle. The development I live in is the only place I can actually break the speed limit. Posted 25. Outside the gate it's 55 so they do 60 normally. You're as "in the way" as an Amish wagon or a back hoe doing 30 MPH and you'll get treated as such. As to an original brass T: I've seen a heck of a lot of them with starter engines (could have been done 50+ years ago) and plenty of T's with distributors. Neither would put me off a sale. It's too common to be odd or a negative. Honestly most of the extras you mention are not a problem for me. (actually an alternator is out). Most actually are improvements, excepting the distributor because coils work just as well. Necessary? No. But nice to have.
I guess my query made it sound as if I'm oblivious to the realities of driving these days. I'm not. Interstate limit locally is 80, (up from 75) which means now most of the traffic moves along around 90 (up from 85). This summer alone, I-15 was closed or re-routed no less than four times because of catastrophic wrecks, just in a 50 mile stretch between Idaho Falls and Pocatello, Id. !!
Without any experience on my part as to how improved ignition, auxiliary gearing and other "hot-rod" modifications (such as eliminating the flywheel magnets, overhead valves, etc., etc. ) actually affect Model T performance, I find it hard to believe that they make a T fit to run fast roads in modern traffic conditions. Do they ?
I've been a little amazed to see some very beautifully restored early brass cars offered at top dollar with post-starter blocks, and numerous modifications. It would seem the performance gained has become more valuable to many than the authenticity. I'm probably schizophrenic on that point, historical accuracy is great in a museum, but if I can't drive a car and enjoy it, I shoudn't want to own it !
Seems to me my Model T "dream" would best be realized the same way I enjoy my ponies. Load 'em up in the trailer and haul 'em to the hills.
Many of the modifications mentioned, like turn signals and safety glass I'd think would be very advisable even to drive around in a housing development where the speed limit is 25 !
Thanks for taking the time to visit, I much appreciate it. This is bar none, doubtless the best forum on the "winternet" !!