I am a new owner and drive occasionally. Just curious if anyone would think the classes offered at this museum would be beneficial.
I was given a quick tutorial by Mike Robison in his touring, and then cut
loose to either drive it or wreck it. I would have sworn we were going 75
in the open wind, but I kept it between the ditches and got it back to our
starting point. After that, I was on my own to practice on my TT. It really
isn't rocket science. More just a "feel" one gets for where to keep the
spark advance and throttle under different road conditions, think in advance
about traffic and hills, and ALWAYS be aware you have no real brakes.
Taking the class can't hurt. But just getting used to YOUR machine and
making the driving of it a "second nature" thing is the best way to become
a master of it.
I agree with Burger, the course would be okay, but like he said, getting used to YOUR machine, on your own terms, is still the best way. I went from driving it off the front end of the trailer, to not being able to remember how to get the frigging thing in reverse (helps to have the brake lever vertical!), to actually driving it 5 miles without wrecking the damn thing in the course of 48 hours! If a dummy like me can do it, so can you! Unless you're already up in Michigan, that's quite a drive for you just for a short "Drivers Ed Class". Just my thoughts.
In his later years, my Uncle John told me about learning to drive. His father (my grandfather) bought his first car (a '15) in 1917. The car agent drove the car to the house, parked it, and walked back to the agency.
My grandfather had never driven a car. Uncle John, then 12 years old, worked as a milk delivery boy. He rode with the driver in the dairy's TT, and hopped off at each house and carried a rack of bottles to the front porch. So Uncle John had observed the driver but not actually driven.
Staring at the newly acquired '15 in their front yard, Grandpa ask Uncle John, "You think you could drive that thing ?" Well, what 12 year old boy would say he couldn't drive ? So they started up the car, Uncle John got in the driver's seat, and Grandpa rode shotgun.
They drove about a mile to the end of the road and Uncle John turned around in preparation for the ride back. At that point, Grandpa said,"I think I see what you're doing. Let me give it a try." So Grandpa drove the mile back home and parked the car.
At that point they both considered themselves car drivers and took Grandma and the younger children wherever they needed to go.
Uncle John said he got his first actual driver's license 30 years later, after he got out of the Army.
A class can really help on a couple of counts - the instructor has actually though about teaching you and is not your spouse, the environment is likely conducive to practicing starting and stopping without undue obstacles or other traffic, and any other folks around are either learning or teaching and are thus sympathetic to any errors you may make.
That is all good for folks who might get flustered when all doesn't go well. It also eliminates the nervousness and or frustration that can naturally arise for student or teacher) when spouses are involved.
That said, with no mentor and the guy I got my car from being clueless, I read the little Instruction Book that was in the toolbox and taught myself how to drive in our little neighborhood. Took a little practice but it worked out. The first thing I learned was to focus and think about what I was doing.
Lang's and likely other vendors sell reprints of these little booklets.
I got my 1st T about a year ago. Unloaded it not even knowing how to start it or even if it would run. The guy I got it from knew nothing about it. My buddy has a couple Ts and started it and out the drive he went. He told me what pedals and levers did what. I learned by trial and error. The forum is the best teacher. Reading posts on how to set the timing and how to work the throttle and shift smooth and fuel mixture was priceless. Getting it running good was another learning exercise. I had never driven or even had a ride in a T. Any question I had was answered right here. My 1st drive more than a mile,I came to a stop sign and pushed down too hard on low pedal and went right into the intersection! Lesson learned and I was lucky nothing was coming as it was a blind intersection. Take it slow and enjoy it. I put about 40 miles on this weekend.
Drive safe and often
When the fancy semi car hauler brought our first i payed cash and he was gone.Through trial and error i learned how to start and drive it.twenty three years later it is still easy to see i was self taught!! Bud in Wheeler,Mi.b
I echo what Dallas said. At first I was nervous just backing it out of my garage as we had pushed it in there after it was delivered. At first I drove it around the neighborhood in low then in high. Learning to put the clutch peal in neutral while in high before braking or reversing was a learning curve as was adjusting the spark. Start out slow and practice. As you practice you gain more confidence and your proficiency will improve. Drive your T as much as you can. It's good for the car and you. Have fun. It is a great adventure.
While you can figure it out on your own, it is a lot easier on the car, you and potentially other drivers on the road if you get a few lessons first. And then practice in stopping and starting where there isn’t traffic etc. I still like the story about the new driver that stalled their modern and couldn’t get it to start. The person behind them could have gone around but instead kept honking their horn. The new driver got out and commented to the person behind them, “If you will go start my car, I can sit here and honk the horn for you….” It is just easier to practice where there is minimal traffic and hazards.
Your T looks great. If it functions as well as it looks you should not have any problems. But sometimes a T looks really good but some parts have been installed incorrectly. And in some of those cases the parts fit fine but they do NOT function properly. Number one issue for a new driver and a new T is if the spring perch or perches are installed backwards. That will cause a negative caster for the front axle and the car will be very difficult and even dangerous to drive. Note you have the same problem with a properly set up front axle when you are driving backwards – GO VERY SLOW IN REVERSE and hold onto the steering wheel. Having someone knowledgeable about the cars can be very helpful in spotting items such as that. Not to scare you – but recommend you take a look at the safety items at the 11th posting on the thread at: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/599638/696360.html by “Hap Tucker Saturday, November 26, 2016 - 09:20 pm:
There are lots of T folks in Texas – and I’m sure one or more of them would gladly give you some driving, starting, etc. lessons.
Hap l9l5 cut off
I just did a driving class for a friend yesterday. My 2˘ is that a museum class (which I've also volunteered for) will get you pretty much the same thing as a one-on-one with an experienced driver. Basically, you learn to drive a T the same way you get to Carnegie Hall...
Another experienced Model T driver did most of the teaching while I took the pictures. The car was a 1914 Touring, which was a recent 30+ year barn find. It ran for the first time this past week. A bit of well placed MMO overnight, and this T just purred - you know, when you can hear each of the four cylinders firing equally at an idle, with no misfiring on acceleration. Sweet!
So, either way to learn, just get in it and drive.
P.S. The '14 is for sale at the Portland Swap Meet this weekend. (apologies for the added spam)
As a side reference, today I took the TT out for the first time this
year. It was too cold, but the sun and scattered clouds were too
much to resist. Anyway, being cold is a distraction (not good) and
after 6 months (truck got put away early last year, due to bad weather)
I was rustier than usual in my reacquaintance ritual of getting it going
and driving safely. But like riding a bicycle or other similar activities,
it came back quickly and I was back in the old ball game after a few
intersections and traffic obstacles. Been driving one of these tin cans
now for 3 years and it still takes a little mental "refresher" to be smooth
and confident after being away for a little while.
If its close by, why not. Its $105, take your family out to a nice restaurant and you will be out that much.
I can't remember ever having any lessons other than books and this forum. When people are apprehensive about learning to drive a Model T I like to remind them that millions of people have done it, "and you're probably smarter than at least a couple of them." Until last spring I had never driven more than about twenty miles in a single trip. So when I set out for Galva, about 125 miles north, I noticed as I drove along that I was feeling tense. I made a conscious effort to relax, but a few miles later I realized I was tense again. That evening when I returned home after a round trip of about 250 miles all of that was gone. I was perfectly relaxed. Practice.
Driving a Model T Ford 101
I'm going to oversimplify and tell some mechanical "half-truths" here, which might be helpful for a new driver to understand (and then I'll make them full truths at the very end).
The Model T Ford has two forward gears and one reverse. Each gear has its own clutch and because of the way planetary transmissions work, all the gears are always meshed, so one doesn't so much shift gears as select the clutch that corresponds to the gear you wish to use.
All other cars that have manual transmissions have two ways of disconnecting the drive wheels from the engine: You can step on the clutch pedal, or you can put the transmission in neutral, or you can do both at the same time.
The Model T transmission does not have a true neutral. It only has clutches, all three of which must be disengaged if one wants to disconnect the drive wheels from the engine.
The secret of understanding how to drive a Model T is in understanding the relationship between the floor-mounted hand lever and the left pedal. The left pedal is used to select between the clutches of the two forward gears in these three operating positions:
A.) low gear clutch engaged, with the left pedal fully depressed;
B.) high gear clutch engaged, with the left pedal fully released and in the full up position;
C.) neither of the two forward clutches engaged. This third condition is maintained by holding the left pedal between the up and down extremes with your left foot. This last condition would be the equivalent of holding a conventional car's clutch pedal down to the floor while in gear and this is as close as the Model T's transmission comes to being in neutral. Though it is obviously not a true neutral, for now, we'll refer to it as neutral.
A convenient way of holding the car in this "neutral" condition is to use the floor-mounted hand lever, which operates in three basic positions:
a.) Floor-mounted hand lever all the way forward; which does nothing more than allow the clutch pedal to come all the way up and engage the high gear clutch when you lift your foot off the left pedal;
b.) Floor-mounted hand lever halfway back; which locks out the high gear clutch by blocking the left pedal from coming more than halfway up when you lift your foot off the pedal. In this case, the transmission is held in "neutral" unless you press the pedal fully down, which would then engage the low gear clutch. If you lift your foot off again, the pedal will not rise beyond the neutral position (By the way, with the floor-mounted hand lever in the halfway back position, you could also engage the reverse gear clutch by pressing down the center pedal. Releasing the center pedal would disengage the reverse clutch and the car would then be in neutral again).
Keep the floor-mounted hand lever halfway back whenever you know you don't want to accidentally engage high gear, like when you're making a U-turn, when you're in a parking lot, etc.
c.) Floor-mounted hand lever all the way back; which not only locks out the high gear clutch, but applies the parking brake as well. This is the position you would use for hand-cranking the car or waiting at a long, red traffic light.
By the way, the parking brake is used for holding the car's position when parked, not slowing or stopping, except in an emergency (unless your parking brake shoes have been modified with the right kind of linings and that's unlikely).
The right pedal is a conventional brake. Antique car brakes are nowhere near as powerful as modern car brakes.
The Model T has two small hand levers mounted just beneath the steering wheel:
The small right-hand lever (as seen from the driver's position) is the hand throttle, which is not spring loaded. There is no accelerator pedal. Pushing the throttle lever down increases power. Pulling it up reduces power. The throttle will stay in the position in which you leave it and will not return to idle when you let go of it.
The small left-hand lever controls the spark timing. Essentially, this control allows you to choose between a spark the occurs late in the ignition cycle (meaning after the piston passes top dead center), or earlier in the ignition cycle. For hand cranking the engine, you want a late spark. A late spark insures (more or less) that the crankshaft will not suddenly change direction while you are cranking and break your arm with a backwards-spinning hand crank. An earlier spark is used for driving. The faster you drive, the earlier the spark you will select. The latest (fully retarded) spark position is with the handle fully up and the earliest (fully advanced) spark position is with the handle fully down. Again, make sure the spark handle is in the fully up position whenever you touch the hand crank.
Hand-cranking a Model T is sort of like starting a powermower with a pull-cord (and at least as hazardous). The powermower needs gasoline, air and spark to start and so does the Model T. With the spark lever all the way up, the throttle cracked open, the floor-mounted hand lever all the way back and the rear wheels chocked, you're ready to wrestle this beast to life with your bare hands.
Make sure the ignition is switched off and the ignition key is out of the keyhole.
The choke is the cute little wire loop sticking out the front of the radiator on the passenger side. Hold it out and crank the engine over two or three half-turns (You'll have to push the crank in to engage the ratchet). Now, the engine is primed. Stick the key in the ignition and turn it counterclockwise, unless your Model T doesn't have a starting battery, in which case you'll instead turn the key clockwise to engage the magneto.
With your left hand (Don't get me started), engage the crank ratchet at about the 7 o'clock position and smartly lift the crank to the 12 o'clock position. Do your best not to crank past the 1 o'clock position. If the engine starts, advance the spark lever to the point where the engine idles fastest. You may need to reduce the throttle a bit to keep from racing the engine.
Okay, time to drive. This is best done in a large, vacant parking lot without speed bumps. Pull the chocks, bearing in mind that some Model T's tend to creep forward even with the floor-mounted hand lever all the way back (and this is why it's considered bad form to hand crank a Model T with your back to a wall).
Get in the driver's seat and make certain all the doors are firmly latched, particularly if you have a touring car with suicide doors. Plant your foot on the brake and slowly bring the floor-mounted hand lever forward to the halfway position. Now, practice starting and stopping the car using first gear only. Get used to the very sensitive steering. Get used to the very insensitive brake. Don't watch your feet any more than you really have to. Take it real slow so you won't tip the car over in a turn. Practice backing up. When you back up, do so very slowly, because a Model T can be very difficult to steer in reverse at anything more than a creep.
After you've practiced this stuff to the point of confidence, it's time to try shifting from low to high gear. Start as you've been practicing and at about 10 or 15 mph, close the throttle and move the floor-mounted hand lever all the way forward. Now, add some throttle. The car might tend to shudder and lug a bit as you accelerate in high gear, which is normal. Practice braking the car to a stop with your left foot holding the left pedal in the neutral position. If you have trouble finding neutral that way, use the floor-mounted hand lever. Once you can dependably stop the car without resorting to the floor-mounted hand lever, it's time to practice starts, shifts and stops with the floor-mounted hand lever all the way forward.
Those are the basics. Yeah, there's some more stuff involving things like the mixture control and gasoline shut-off valve, but those are mostly common sense items. Okay, okay... Don't forget to turn off the gasoline after you shut down the engine. Otherwise, your carburetor, which is gravity fed from the bottom of the fuel tank, might leak out the entire contents of your tank, which, at best, will earn you a hefty summons from the EPA. There—you happy now?
Okay, now about those half-truths...
Strictly speaking, the Model T doesn't really have three clutches. It has one high gear clutch, a stationary low gear band and a stationary reverse gear band. Bands differ from clutches in that when a clutch is engaged, both ends of the clutch spin. But when a stationary band is engaged, it tightens around a spinning drum and stops it from spinning, which somehow, through the magic of planetary gears, causes something else to spin and impart motion to the car. Go figure.
Strictly speaking, the Model T doesn't really have two forward speeds. It has a low gear and direct drive.
One little correction: the instruction to have the spark lever all the way up is right for starting on BAT. For starting on MAG it should be down a few notches.
For someone who drives a modern car, driving a T is counterintuitive. It's not hard, it's just different. Last fall I offered a T-driving lesson as something to bid on in a fund raiser. A fellow in his sixties came out, along with his family that had bought the lesson as a birthday present. Everyone had a great time. I taught a 16-year-old neighbor kid with a learner's permit, who also did well. At the New England Brass and Gas tour two years ago, the club offered T-driving lessons to women. I taught the granddaughter of a national HCCA director; she was the only one of his family who cared about the cars, she was on the tour as his navigator, and he'd never taught her to drive an antique. I spent about an hour and a half with her, and she did so well that I told grandpa to get another navigator the next day; the young woman was going with me, and I was going to navigate. The next day she drove my T over 90 miles on Massachusetts roads.
Several years ago, the Stanley Museum in Maine offered a 2-1/2 -day package, one-on-one with the museum director, to learn about Stanley Steamers. I took the course, and later bought my own Stanley. Driving (and, in the case of steam cars, maintenance) lessons are a great shortcut to learning about old cars. Museum lessons, or lessons from someone who's been around a while - doesn't matter. I'd say to go for it. And, after you get comfortable at it, pass it on - teach someone else.
I would like to suggest that taking the course would be beneficial for several reason other than just learning how to drive the T. You would network with several others who are new to the hobby just like yourself and you would have the opportunity to get contact information from them and develop relationships that may last for many years while you all learn about these amazing vehicles.
Same with the instructor and the staff of the museum. Both good groups to have in your Rolodex or smart phone.
Practice does not make perfect if it's bad practice. Take it from an ol bagpiper. Learn the correct way and then practice on your own with your own machine to complete the process.
about 40 years ago I opened my mouth at the wrong time and was "volunteered" to drive a TT in a local parade. The truck had not run in several years and I had NEVER driven or worked on a T. I got the T running poorly, then someone showed up with a set of "loaner" coils. Problem solved. I knew enough to set the parking brake at 1/2 while I figured out how to drive it. After 10 or 15 minutes I felt I could drive it well enough.
Truck got trailered to town and we started prepping for the big event. I cranked til I was exhausted. NOTHING. Someone said "jack up the rear wheel" we did. NOTHING. Finally someone noticed that the spark rod had fallen out of the timer. Two pulls later and we were "parade ready"
That was my first experience driving a TT, but not my last.
Last year we had a joint tour with the Beaver Model A Club. Between Clay and myself we gave 8-10 Model A drivers one on one driving lessons down at the Oregon Steam Up grounds down at Brooks, north of Salem. Some years back our club, Rose City Model T Club had a field day and gave driving lessons in a large open field.
Just wanted to thank all those who responded with advice on the subject. I was considering the class this summer because I am a consultant traveling to a project in Grand Rapids weekly all year and it would be easy to get to.
For many years our San Diego club had a "Learn to drive a Model T" event. It was an annual event and very popular, especially among friends and family members of our club. Also the San Diego Automotive Museum docents were usually there. After a few near misses the club decided the liability was too great and cancelled.
I learned to drive a Model A, my first car. My dad and uncles told me how a Model T differed from an A and I used to pretend my A was a T by shifting from low directly to high and using only the hand throttle. I never actually drove a T until 1989 when I bought my first one. I was just able to get right in and drive it because of what I had learned as a teen many years before.
My wife had a hard time learning to drive and one time we were on a dry lake bed out in the desert. I let her drive. She didn't need to learn to steer. Just how to start and stop the car and how to shift gears. When she learned to do those things, she only needed to practice steering. Anyway a very large vacant parking lot or a dry lake would be a good place to learn to drive a T.
As far as driving a Model T goes, it's rather easy...learning to stop and make corrections whilst driving for every given traffic condition takes practice...and the only way to get that is by driving it in just about every possible circumstance.
The chief thing to know (besides how to start it and get it running) is how to slow and stop...let the engine work for you...the engine compression is your best ally when it comes to stopping, back the throttle off when stopping...if in high, when it lugs, stomp down to low, then hit the brake a couple of times and you'll stop. If you haven't got time to plan your stop (panic stop) just remember any two pedals pressed at the same time will stall the engine and make the quickest stop that car can make...and sometimes that isn't quick enough either, so make sure you've got someplace to steer to, just in case.
I've driven all over the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley's here and around Hollyweird too (now that's a fun drive...NOT)...one thing you learn real quick is to watch the bozo's around you...you and your car are a novelty. And as such, folks curiosity always gets the better of their judgement. So drive like you're a motorcycle rider...watch their front tires for sudden movements in your direction.
Also most of these folks don't know that your car can't stop on a dime like theirs can...sooo, if you see a sting of tail lights suddenly lighting down the line toward you, start planning your stop...quick and don't forget the "panic" stop...any two pedals and throw the handbrake in for good measure if you've no place to go to.
But the important thing is to drive and enjoy your car, relax and take in the scenery as it goes by (slowly usually), because there is nothing more fun than driving a Model T Ford, no matter where or when you drive it.