Has anyone ever encountered or heard of nickel plated trim on any early cars? Say 1913 or earlier?
Sorry should say nickel plating in my subject. Thanks spell check.
Nickel plating was very common on lots of things mechanical in 1913. Not all of it car stuff. Piano hardware and especially player pianos had a lot of nickel plated parts and 1913 was right in the era of those things.
I reproduced 25 exact replica Splitdorf coils for use on early Curved Dash Oldsmobiles (CDO) and all of that hardware was nickel plated. Many early cars sported nickel plated trim but the Model T didn't have any in 1913 that I am aware of but if they did use it then Larry Smith would probably know which parts might have had it. Later black era cars did have some nickel plated radiator neck and steering gear hardware that was nickel plated.
Not from the factory but early brass trim was often nickel plated after the fact. Although the nickel does tarnish and requires periodic polishing, it remains bright long after brass has tarnished. A few examples from the collection:
The headlight and loose chimney are E & J 656 indicating late 1913 or 1914 vintage.
Many very early U.S. produced cars had nickel plating, especially electric automobiles and steam automobiles. (Note that early bicycles - both penny farthings and safety bicycles - had nickel plating long before the automobile became mainstream.)
My dad's 1900 Waverley Electric has nickel plating - some over steel and some over brass.
1912-13 was the turning point when nickel plating instead of polished brass on cars became more prominent on American automobiles, especially middle and upper end cars.
As far as nickel plated Model T Fords are concerned, there have been some surviving original examples of 1912, '13 and '14 Fords with nickel plating instead of polished brass. Around 1950, my dad purchased a rough, unrestored 1913 Ford touring from the original owner in southern Minnesota and all the brass was nickel plated. My father also had conversations regarding nickel plated Fords with Sidney Strong who was born in 1897 and, starting as a teenager, was involved in managing Strong Motors for his father, a Ford dealer in Atwater, MN. Sidney said that the nickel plated Model Ts that he saw new during that period were provided by the factory, not plated by the owners after-the-fact.
Over the years, I have also seen unrestored 1913-14 Ford headlights and side lamps with nickel plated brass trim.
Within the past few years, there was an article on an unrestored 1914 Ford touring in either Vintage Ford or the Model T Times and it can easily be seen in the photographs that the brass is nickel plated. Oddly enough, the nickel plating is not mentioned in the article.
Examples of some of the plating on my dad's 1900 Waverley:
Nickel plated tiller. Control lever sticking up through upholstery is plated. Also, nickel plated lock immediately to the left of the bottom of the tiller and the brake plunger escutcheon on the floor (plunger is not installed).
Nickel plated hubcap and oiler.
Erik, thanks for that detailed reply. I am asking this question because I just purchased a 1911 Torpedo that is extremely original and I got it from a guy who bought it in 1945 from the original owner. He had the car painted in the late 1940s and they painted over all of the brass, including the windshield etc..I started to take the paint off and to my surprise everything is nickel plated, including all of the hardware on the firewall, windshield and even the original quadrant and levers on the steering column are nickel plated. It's really odd. I have never seen this before, and the plating looks original, especially because of the extent to which it has been done
About 25 years ago I sold,or gave, a rough set of Ford script lamps to Gordon Kirwan,who some of you old timers would have known. They were nickel plated. I forget which make the lamps were, but they were '11.Gordon had a theory that if you were 'somebody' you could order plated lamps as well as other parts.
Early Edison Phonogrphs were available with the complete upper works plated. Expensive extra.
Before there was OSHA and the EPA anyone could plate anything easily and cheaply. A Ford dealer could have plated lamps or the radiator or anything else easily.
Ford did not nickel plate anything prior to 1917.
The statement above: "Ford did not nickel plate anything prior to 1917." is not correct.
The transmission shift lever for the 1903 and 1904 Model A's, and maybe other early Fords were nickel plated when new.
Royce, thanks for the reply, but nickel was actually pretty expensive early on because the process of doing it was not widely known and wasn't really mastered on a commercial or high output basis. (Until the watts formula was widely published) That's why all of the big expensive cars like Packards, pierce arrows, Alcos etc..had nickel plated brass. It was more prestigious. The cheap cars like Ford still had brass, as you know, until early 1916 because of the high cost of the process. I am curious as to what Ford dealers offered their customers to sell cars, and if nickel could have been applied because I do know that dealers did sell accessories in their showrooms and I know Henry did not approve of any accessories. It might be far fetched, but I wonder if you could actually order your car from ford (not dealer installed) with nickel plating if you were willing to pay. Anyone else have opinions about this?
About 40 years ago, long before the internet, this was one of the subjects that got discussed occasionally at model T club meetings. At that time, I did see an original era newspaper ad that someone in the club took to a meeting. The ad was from about 1914, and offered nickel plating instead of brass trim on new Fords. The ad did not say whether the dealer was doing it, or if they would order it that way. But it was a local Ford dealer ad.
Over the years, I have had one side-lamp that had original nickel on it. I have seen a couple brass era cars with lots of nickel on them, and appeared to be original.. I have seen a couple Ford radiators and maybe a half dozen other Ford lamps for sale at swap meets, all appearing to be original.
All that and a dollar would buy you a donut. Out of all the stuff I have looked at over the years, all that isn't very much. But it is enough to make me accept that it was done, although not common.
Interesting that your new torpedo may have been that way!
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Duncan and Fraser in Adelaide offered nickel plating on cars they sold. I cannot recall if the price I saw advertised was 6 Guineas or 10 Guineas.
[That's 1 pound 1 shilling/ guinea. or $2.10]
I have seen nickel plated side and tail lights and have a nickel plated front panel from a radiator.
Allan from down under.
Ford did not offer any nickel plated anything on Model T's prior to 1917.
Ed, that ad is really cool. Golden hill street is literally 2 min away from my shop in Bridgeport, CT. Thanks for posting that.
Also, I agree with you Royce that Ford didn't nickel anything, but I wonder what dealers offered to sell their cars. And just like that ad says you could get everything nickeled to update your car yourself. That link to the other discussion has a lot of great info. Thanks for that as well Ed.
Nickel plating was quite common in the first decade, the tiller steering of the 1901 Oldsmobile CDO was plated. Also the gear shift lever and the ignition timing control. As I remember the foot controls were painted, but the hand controls were nickel plated.
Tony, yes you are correct. I have an all original 1898 Riker Electric that came from the Henry Ford Museum in 1977 and that car is nickel. My dad has had many very early cars with nickel plating like early Locomobiles for example. But in terms of Model T Fords, I don't think nickel was something offered by Ford by I am almost certain that Dealers offered nickel plating as an option to sell more cars just like they sold so many accessories right in their showrooms that were unapproved by Ford.
I should mention that the tire valve stem hardware and dust covers were all nickel plated, on every brand of car. This was likely a carry over from the bicycle industry. The reproduction stuff is bare brass, but back in the day it never was brass, even on the lowly Ford.
Many things on the typical "restored" Model T's that we see at high end car shows have brass items that were originally not shiny polished brass. For example carburetors, they were never as nice as they are when Stan Howe gets done with one originally. Murphy fasteners were painted black as early as 1912. Stewart speedometer drives and early stamped steel wheel gears were originally dull brass plated. The average car show judge either does not know or care when brass items are over restored to make them more shiny.
I've been collecting tire valves, and dust covers for many years, and I have a lot of them that have no trace of nickel plating ever.
I just removed a pair of 17" red inner tubes with nice metal valve stems (still hold air nicely). No sign of nickel plating either.
On my '13 T I have nice original pair of E&j headlamps that have the remains of nickel on the brass parts. I can only assume they were made new that way as the black steel parts have no evidence of nickel plating. Either that or way back when they were new someone took them apart, plated them and put them back together all with the correct rivets.
Now my car was assembled from pieces, so I cannot attest to their origins, but they are unrestored.
I'm sure over the years I've seen era advertising for these lights like mine are.
Isn't the knob on a 1915 headlamp switch nickel plated. Yes Ford purchased them from outside suppliers.
I had a 1909-10 radiator that had been nickel plated, probably done thru the dealer as a demonstrator or by owner request.
I've never seen a Model T with a 17" inner tube.
Live and learn Royce!!
Teach us Les - I've seen a 17" wheel on a 1935 Ford. Also, if you don't mind, a photo of such an unusual valve stem would be interesting to say the least.
I've got hundreds of metal valve stems from the T era, 99% of them are either Dill or Schrader. A very few are Michelin, perhaps from some foreign built cars. All show traces of nickel plating, or are entirely nickel plated still.
Why do you suppose someone put a 17" wheel on a 1935 Ford when they came with 16" wheels from the factory?
The 17" wheels were factory equipment on 1933 and 1934 Fords.
Sorry it was probably a '34. In any case it was not a Model T.
Alex: "Nickel Plating on Early Cars"? I submit that all brass Neverout bale handle lamps on CDOs were nickel plated.