Model T, 1907-1909, hood formers, firewalls and things....

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2017: Model T, 1907-1909, hood formers, firewalls and things....
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 09:34 am:

Rather than "hijack" the other thread, a few pics, thoughts and speculation regarding the beginnings of the Model T.

My thought is that the first Model T had an aluminum hood former. It appears either aluminum or brass in period black and white photos. While looking at these photos, also notice the firewalls. I believe there is a good chance the first T also had body colored firewalls, just as NRS and Model K did prior to the T. Lastly, an early T drawing notecard. There are many cards like this at THF, Benson Library, depicting parts for the first Model T drawn in late 1907.

As with the coupe depiction below, look at both the hood former, and firewall. I find it hard to believe the firewall on this car was to be anything other than body color.....

This Model K photo appeared in an Oct 1908 Ford Times. It's posted as a comparison of how the aluminum hood former appears in a B&W Ford Times photo:

This drawing, early 1909 Ford Times, shows two windshield drawings. Notice both the hood former, and how one filler board appears to be "body colored" and one wood, or other color than the firewall of the car it's placed on:

Feb 1, 1909 Ford Times. Look at the hood former, and again, while not very distinct, the firewall looks too dark for natural wood finish to me?

A November 1907 Model T drawing reference card. The part is labeled "Obsolete" in May, 1908. If someone ever takes the time, it would be interesting to segregate all the 1907-early 1908 Model T drawing reference cards:

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Scott Rosenthal in Cincinnati Oh on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 10:53 am:

Hello Rob:
The hood former per the Coupe image absolutely looks lighter, as if not painted the body color. I would not make this assumption per the Landaulet image....this could be light reflecting off a dark painted surface. I'm not seeing a reliable distinction between what could be a dark stained wood dash finish versus dark paint finish, per these monochrome photos.

I question whether this Coupe image is a touched-up photo or an artist conception. You will agree there are multiple early Ford brochure images that are likely charcoal drawings, where the image may not accurately depict the car as it was sold.

Besides Ford, were Aluminum hood formers common among other makes of the period? As per my earlier comments about hard-wood forming dies, I'm curious whether this could be an example where material of construction may have been driven by manufacturing technologies of the day?



Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Trent Boggess on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 12:10 pm:

Hi Rob,

I found the first photo of Model T #1 in June 2003 while going through a box of file folders that The Benson Ford's archivist Terry Hoover, asked me to look through, and give him a report on (what is it, what is its significance, and what should we do with it). Finding the photo was shear serendipity.

I understood the significance of that photo immediately. But it showed only a view of the car from the right front. My hat is off to you for your ability to turn up information and photographs from old period news papers and articles. You found another photo taken at the same time, at the same place, and of the same car but from a left front perspective. Wow!

One of the first things I noticed in the photograph was what appeared to be to be a brass plated hood former on car #1. This was news to me. I have a good friend, a frequent contributor to this form, who owns one of, if not the best, intact Model T with a serial number under 500, and I checked with him reqarding the hood former on his car. His response was that the hood former on his car was body color and showed no evidence of brass plating.

Since I was already at the BFRC I also checked the early hood former drawings and Record of Change cards. I could find no documentary evidence that the early hood formers were anything but steel, and no evidence that they were brass plated. My findings on Model T#1 were published in a Vintage Ford article soon thereafter.

After working with the engineering records on all the early Ford cars, I have reached the conclusion that there are some things about Model Ts that are always going to be unknowable. Sometimes the records we are searching for are missing. Other times, especially early in Model T production, the Ford Engineers did not document all of the many and rapid changes they were making in the car. Reluctantly, I have had to put the mystery of the "brass" or "aluminum" hood former in the "unknowable" category.

From the two photos of Model T #1 I did notice that the car did have many features that were unique to the very first Model Ts, and were documented in the Ford Engineering Records. Again, I did not find any reference to plating on the hood former, or making it instead out of another material. This is not to say it did not happen, I am just saying that I could not find documentation on that feature.

Perhaps some researcher in the future will have better luck than I. For that matter, I hope someone turns up the reel of shipping invoices for Model Ts with numbers between 2 and 1118. It would be really ice to know how many two lever two pedal cars were really built.

Respectfully submitted,

Trent Boggess

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kim Dobbins on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 12:17 pm:

Here is a picture of my 1909 #314 back in the 1950's. it looks to be all original at the time of this photo. Note the hood former looks the same as the hood. The firewall appears to be wood finish. This is just one car, but it's hard to find pictures of cars that have not been repainted or up graded.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 12:33 pm:

Thanks for the good info men. As Trent allows, maybe some things are "unknowable." However, as long as the question exists, someone in the future may encounter an early photo or record and recognize the significance (as with Trent and the "muddy T" photo).

My suspicion is that something had to be chosen initially for a hood former. We know a few prototype Model T existed as early as November 1907 (displayed during Detroit auto show, at the Ford Branch store), and a few were sold prior to Oct 1, 1908 (Ford 1908 audit records).

So, prior to production, something was used, and my suspicion is Ford had two choices on hand, the simple angle iron style of the NRS and the more sophisticated looking (and expensive) style used on the K.

We'll see if anymore records or photos turn up. Meanwhile, it's always interesting to look at the beginnings of the car that put the world on wheels.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jerry VanOoteghem - SE Michigan on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 12:49 pm:

It would have been nothing for Ford to have cast very early hood formers in aluminum, and in very short order. However, having stamped steel versions would have required significant time in manufacturing stamping dies.

Pure guessing, but while steel may have been on the prints "officially", aluminum may have been used as stop-gap, (literally), until steel became available.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 01:26 pm:

The next time I have the good fortune to spend time at THF, I think I'll try taking pics of the early drawing cards. Now I'm curious if there are enough part/component drawings to "reproduce" a 1907/08 prototype "T" drawing.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jim Dix on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 03:23 pm:

REO used aluminum Hood formers. My 1909 has one. Recall aluminum was not in common use as it is today.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Royce in Dallas TX on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 03:59 pm:


I think it is more likely that a hood former would be formed of brass sheet than brass plated. Note that the original floorboard shield retainer angle on early cars is brass sheet, and so is the firewall trim. It would only make sense that everything on the firewall might be made of the same material.

Now I need to take a magnet to check the hood former on 904 too.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 04:35 pm:

Ford was already using brass as a hood former. I suspect polished brass would scratch and lose it's shine quickly. Aluminum, on the other hand, while soft and malleable, retains it's appearance with little or no polishing.

With time we may find a drawing or other information that clarifies why these first cars formers were different (not painted, brass or aluminum in appearance).

One interesting comment above asked the question did other cars of the period use aluminum hood formers? I don't know, and I also don't know if brass was used. Another thing to search for......

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Trent Boggess on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 05:37 pm:

I certainly cannot say with certainty what the very first Model T hood formers were made from. Brass stampings, or aluminum castings are certainly possible, although I am inclined to think they were steel stampings plated brass, because the earliest documentation I saw when researching the hood former said it was steel. This doesn't mean other materials were not used, it just means I have not found any documentation for a hood former made from a material other than steel. But there is also no documentation saying hood formers were first brass plated steel, then changed to body color. The drawings and Record of Change cards just say the material was steel.

Rob, all the parts drawings for the transmission control of the prototype Model Ts survive and are in the collections of the BFRC. The prototype Model Ts were well described in the March 1908 Model T Advance Catalog. Many of you have copies of this catalog, and if you look carefully at one of the illustrations it shows the car using three (3) pedals AND two (2) levers. Reading the description in the catalog of how the car was controlled does not read much like a driving a two lever two pedal car. The second lever on the prototype cars engaged neutral and shifted the car into high gear. The left hand pedal, which we would think of as the clutch pedal only was used to engage low gear to get the car moving.

Some of you have read comments about that illustration by people who were knowledgeable about Model Ts 60 years ago. Les Henry in his book "Model T Ford Restoration Handbook", (The red book), calls out the illustration on page 33 and states:

"You cannot rely completely on any manufacturer's catalogs for authenticating your antique car. The advance catalog for the 1909 Ford contains this illustration of a 2-lever, 3-pedal Model T which never existed! In this case it was an illustrator's error but usually catalogs can't keep up with the manufacturer's changes in the product."

Sorry Les (RIP). The illustration in the advance catalog was accurate for the prototype Model T as it existed when the catalog was printed and distributed. The parts drawings for the three pedal, two lever control system can be found in the Model T drawings collection at the BFRC. Every one of them, right down to floorboards with three pedal slots and two lever slots is there. The final nail in that coffin is the drawing of a reverse pedal. Two lever, two pedal control cars do not have reverse pedals. Instead, they have a small lever, similar to the emergency brake cam lever on an 09-25 rear axle, connected to the reverse band shaft that is connected by a series of rods and levers to the second lever of a two pedal, two lever control car. To back one of those cars up you pull back on the second lever.

However, each of the drawings for the three pedal, two lever transmission control system is marked with an "Obsolete" stamp and the date June 18, 1908. The day before, June 17, 1908, all of the new drawings for the two pedal, two lever control parts are marked as being "adopted". This tells me that the Model T went through a major design review in the middle of June 1908, and one of the changes that came out of that review was the two pedal, two lever control system. At that same time, the dash was changed from one that would use an NRS style Heinze or Spllitdorf coil box with the high tension wires running out of the bottom of the coil box and through 4 holes in the dash, to the more traditional coil box with holes for 10 insulated terminals. Boy, would I like to have been a fly on the wall when that discussion was being held.

Personally, I think building a prototype three pedal two lever control system would be a worthy project that would help us to better understand the design phase of the Model T. The prototype transmission control parts could be duplicated, and a prototype Model T could be re-created. We have the drawings, we can duplicate the parts, all it would take is lots of time, dedication, and money. I think the results would be very interesting.

Of course, if a prototype Model T was created, I think it should be kept at the Piquette Avenue plant, the birth place of the Model T. (Full disclaimer, that’s my personal bias showing through.)

Royce, I am 99% confident that a magnet will stick to #904’s hood former. As Kim Dobbins has stated above, #314 has a steel hood former, and there is no evidence that it was ever brass plated. If the very first production Model Ts had brass, or brass plated, or aluminum hood formers, by the time #314 left Piquette, the hood formers were steel, painted body colors.

I would expect that #904 has most of the typical features of a post two lever water pump car. It will have an engine block that uses a larger diameter breather pipe tube (larger that ˝ inch pipe), a dash with 10 holes for the coil box terminals, a first generation square hole aluminum transmission cover, three pedals and one lever transmission control, and of course a fish plate frame.

In my opinion that frame is really something. It probably was produced in the Parish and Bingham factory in Cleveland, Ohio, and had arrived at Piquette by the middle of July, 1908. You can find a picture of that frame, along with its 2499 other brothers and sisters, in a picture that was published in the July 15, 1908 issue of the “Ford Times”. When it arrived its side rails were made of 1/8 inch pressed steel, the same size steel as was used in the NRS frames, which are notorious for their weakness. About September 21, 1908 the Ford engineers determined that 1/8 inch steel was not strong enough to sustain the additional weight of a Model T body, fenders, engine, and so on. But they had 2500 of those frames on hand, so what did they do? They decided to fix them by riveting in two additional 1/8 inch steel plate inside each of the frame rails. We can be pretty certain of this date because the drawing for the fish plates (only 5000 were needed) is dated September 21, 1908. And they riveted those fish plates in tight. You should be able to see where the steel from both the frame rails and the fish plates is actually dimpled in around the rivet heads. It probably took a while to get all 2500 frames done.

If that wasn’t enough, at the beginning of November, they decided that the original design for the frame front end spacer did not provide enough support for the front cross member. So they had to modify all the remaining frames, replacing the original design (look carefully at the pictures of the front of car #1) with new design that is “L” shaped and has a leg that follows the front cross member and has a large rivet there.

But they still weren’t done. When the decision was made to change from the two pedal two lever transmission control to the three pedal transmission control, they had to go back and change the emergency brake quadrant on the left hand side of the frame. The old design, which extended out from the frame much farther than the design we are accustomed to seeing, was replaced with one that extended away from the frame only a short distance, like the ones that characterized the rest of Model T production.

So #904’s frame went through at least three major modifications before being assembled into a car. It deserves the respect of all of us, just as any other surviving 2500 frame does.

Respectfully submitted,

Trent Boggess

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Royce in Dallas TX on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 05:38 pm:

Pierce used brass to make the hood formers and the hood itself before about 1912. Meanwhile Pierce used cast aluminum to make all their bodies during that period.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Rob Heyen - Eastern Nebraska on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 - 06:12 pm:

Thank you, a lot of great information. I agree, a prototype T clone, created to specs, would be a worthy project, and Piquette and the prototype a natural marriage.....

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Thursday, February 02, 2017 - 03:29 am:

A bunch of interesting reading. Thank you all!
I would like to add, that I agree with Jerry V O on this. I try to interpret a lot of history by putting it in the context of its day.
As I recall, I read one of Rob H's postings on another thread that the model K used a cast aluminum hood former. And that it was similar to the model T's early hood former. I realize, that there are significant size and shape differences to the hood, and that some of that would carry over to the shape of the former itself. Still, if the cross-cut is similar between the K and the T, it would be a simple change to modify to match the shape of the hood. Any good pattern maker or mold maker (those are distinctly different professions, although many people trained and were experts at both), could easily make those changes. Given the state of the industry at that time, I would expect it would have been a minor task to have made a dozen or two cast aluminum hood formers which likely would have been used only on the early prototypes and maybe the first dozen or so cars produced. By the time real production was under way (by 1908 standards), they likely would have had the steel stamping dies made, and both could have been used in no particular order for a couple months.

The modern history of aluminum is in itself, interesting. Although it is one of the most common elements, its practical use did not become common until only a few years before the automobile industry. Among the leading users of aluminum casting, were the companies behind the Franklin automobile. They began pushing to cast many metal products, including automobile parts.
IT HAS BEEN SAID, that "the Franklin Automobile company used more aluminum in the first decade of the automobile industry than all other automobile manufacturers combined." It has been said, and is an interesting quote, although I do not believe it is quite true (but then again, I am not the one that originally said it (and I cannot recall where I read it)). From the beginning of the Franklin automobile, they did use a lot of aluminum. However, by 1906, a lot of automobiles were using a lot of it, including Ford. They had their own foundry by then, their own pattern and mold makers, their own experimental department, and could have easily made a short run of special hood formers.
Steel stamping, however, was preferred by Ford for mass production. For large numbers of production, it was faster, and cheaper. It makes sense that Henry would have wanted that part made in that way very early in the model T process.

Other cars did use aluminum, and some brass, hood formers. It was the technology of the day. I am not going to try to remember which were which of all the cars I have seen over the years. Often, they were painted to match the body or hood color (which may or may not have been different. Firewalls often were also painted to match the body color, on non-Ford cars. On Ford cars, the firewall is more a part of the chassis (from the model B on). On many non-Ford cars, the firewall is more a part of the body, and therefore more likely to have been painted the body's color. An interesting thought. For the model T, 1908 and 1909 calendar years, the chassis was painted "body" color. Could it be possible the firewall was painted to match?
I have seen a lot of the available photographs. And I have spent a little time looking at them with a magnifying glass. I tend to believe that at least a few of the earliest model Ts may have had an aluminum hood former. But, then I wonder a little more. Why would the firewall have been painted body color? And the hood former left bare? (I think I may need to get out the pictures and magnifying glass again?)
I don't know. Our model Ts were built more than a hundred years ago. Yet, we are still trying to figure out all the little details.
Again, I thank you all that can and do a lot of this research. It may not bring about world peace. Then again? Maybe it can. I can only hope that my minor musings can help in some way.

I do agree that it would be very interesting to build an accurate "clone" or "recreation" of one of the prototype cars. It would help to understand the earliest model Ts, and the process that made them possible. The idea of it makes me wish I lived closer to Detroit. But then, I wish that almost everyday already.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2

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