Others have posted this type of thing in the past so I thought I'd add to it. It's a bit of a long story but, hopefully, somewhat humorous.
In honor of Father's Day, this one's for you Dad.
This is the story of my first drive in my 1926 Ford Model T. I had bought the car the previous year after falling in love with the breed at the Model T Driving School at Gilmore Car Museum. My dad had always wanted a T but never got one; my T would be a rolling tribute to him, I decided, so I made it a priority to find one. It didn't take long and two weeks after the driving class my "new" T was delivered to me by its previous owner, a local, well-known T expert who I am lucky to now call a friend.
Despite having great bones and being mostly rust free, my new T needed everything you can think of. My friend had bought the car at auction several years back. It was a true barn find, having spent the majority of the last 65 years in a Nebraska outbuilding before being dragged back here to Michigan. Thankfully the building was dry, hence little real rust. The engine wasn't stuck but was inoperable; there were mice nests made from the original interior padding in the intake manifold, no exhaust, and it was wearing a Holley Vaporizer carburetor that had seen better days. The starter motor was shot and so was the generator. It even needed a radiator cap. But I was in love with that car, faults and all and knew that, someday, she would sing again.
I named her Frieda.
I ignored all the cosmetic issues in favor of getting the car running and driving. I spent the better part of a year rebuilding coils, tracking down parts, researching, and seeking out and following advice (such as "be sure to rebuild your rear axle and replace the babbitt thrust washers!"). I'm a young man, 30 when I bought the car, and time and money were definite obstacles to progress. My inexperience with the T was a hindrance as well, so getting the car to point of running took a lot longer than I had planned but that's the way these things go and I knew the end result would be worth it. Finally, I was ready to start that motor for the first time.
It has been said that a truly stubborn man could kill himself at the crank of a Model T Ford and I was no exception. The starter motor was still out for a rebuild but, thankfully, I was born with two starter motors already attached. Despite being properly equipped, it was a comedy of errors. Choke, crank, crank, crank, nothing. Repeat as necessary until the car either starts or you drop from exhaustion. I must have cranked for 20 minutes before remembering that I had failed to turn the key on... If I had listened for the characteristic buzzing of the Model T coils under the hood I wouldn't have had a problem. The only buzz I was hearing was the staccato beat of my heart... anticipation and overexertion at a starting crank tends to do that to a man.
Smacking myself in the head, I turned the key on and immediately got what is referred to as a "free start". The cylinders were loaded with fuel from my cranking efforts and, when that spark hit for the first time, she lit off. I was able to adjust the spark advance and throttle levers, both of which are on the steering column for a Model T, to keep the car running. And run she did, producing a fulfilling sort of racket, more beautiful than anything else in the world at the time. If you've ever rebuilt your own motor, you know what I mean. After a year of work done and money spent, she had a heartbeat again.
I could wait no longer. The open road was calling, the plate was attached, and I had my Hagerty policy in place. There was nothing to stop me. I was going to drive this car that day no matter what. I stomped down the reverse pedal, backed out of the garage, and turned to head for the road. I live in a very rural area, with miles of dirt roads and farm fields surrounding my house. Perfect for T driving given that the car will only go about 40 miles per hour on a good day and is challenging in modern traffic. I was going to take full advantage of those roads that day.
I went about ten miles that day, chasing the sun, annoying the dairy cows, and thinking about my Dad and how much I wished he were there to go for a ride with me. As I was turning onto just one last gravel road before turning around and heading home, the engine stuttered and died. Frieda's sadness was palpable as she freewheeled to the grass alongside the gravel road. For you see, in my haste to drive, to taste the air of what E.B. White once called "the delirious season of the Model T", I had forgotten to put more fuel in the cowl gas tank. I had run out of that precious liquid four miles from home.
I apologized to Frieda for neglecting her, took her picture sitting alongside the road to commemorate the first drive, and called my wife to bring me the gas can. Some might consider that lazy (she sure did) but, after all, I bought the car to slow down, to enjoy the pastoral scenes and natural beauty found along the back roads of Michigan... what better way to appreciate it than by sitting on the running board and watching the show?
I always thought it was funny that I ended up next to a bean field for lack of gas.
(Message edited by zdillinger on June 15, 2017)
(Message edited by zdillinger on June 15, 2017)
A fun read Zachary, thanks for sharing. The last sentence is priceless !!
Zachary such a great story. Keep the stories coming. It reminded me of my first cranking of my model T. As hard and as much as I tried, I couldn't get her to crank and stay running. I was cranking the T so hard I could see my heart beats in my eyes. I looked like someone threw a five gallon bucket of water on me. Finally I call my mentor for help. He lived an hour away but came down to the farm to supervise my efforts. He made me slow down & go through a check list, battery charged, coils firing the spark plugs, good compression, fuel.... fuel?......fuel! 3 gallons later, varoom and off down the road. At gatherings with other hobbiest then & even now he loves to tell that story. I love to hear it.
Everything below the fenders and running boards except for the hub caps looks just like my T which I named "Harrison" in honor of Harrison Ford. Keep up the good work and soon yours will look as good as it runs.
Yesterday I went to the museum where 50 third graders were gathered. I tried to demonstrate crank starting. I first primed it and then turned on the key. Free start. Turned it off and Free start. I got three free starts in a row.
Great story Zachary, Like you I've run out of gas twice already and called my better half for help. What city in Nebraska did your car come from? Both of mine are from Nebraska.
Personally I wouldn't touch the body of your T, gives it character.
I was taking my late father in law for a ride in my first T and all of a sudden it quit!We had been running on battery and a wire broke.I knew it ran on mag but i could not crank it fast enough to start.I walked to a friends and he gave us a 10'pull on mag and away we went.I had two T's and about 8 years with them before i learned how to mag start a stem winder!!! I found what i needed to know on the forum and both T's started easily!! Bud.
Your experience is the foundation of good memories that have been enhanced by a good attitude.
I never ran out of gas in my T except for the time it stopped about a mile from my home.
I can guarantee that the tank was full when I left home and can only figure that it evaporated while driving that long mile.
I called my wife and after she stopped laughing, she was able to bring me a can with gas that was mixed with oil for the chain saw.
I poured it in the tank, started the T, and drove home in a smoky shame...
Thanks everyone. I love writing my car stories down (I've had a lot of cars and a lot of stupid ways to fix them) and may someday do a short memoir about them. My personal favorite story, other than the T, is titled "The Day I Learned Duct Tape is Flammable".
The T in question has been restored but I'm still waiting on the interior, for though I am older now, money is still not exactly falling from the skies (especially with a baby in the house).
I ran out of gas with the 22 when I started up a 10% grade. Fortunately I was able to coast backward and was able to get it turned around. No, I didn't back up the hill!. There is a gas station at the bottom of the hill.
Zachary: Fantastic story! I have 2 T'S and of the two one is a Depot Hack. My neighbor said I should get it running as there is a show nsd shine near by our house's, maybe three miles, so I got it started and was doing figure 8's in front of the house, and I thought I would take a short run around the area, and down the drive way I went. Made a right turn and down to the next stop sign and made another right turn, and low pedal speed up and went to high pedal and there was a loud "BANG " and that was as far as I was going to go. BROKE left axle. Neighbor came down and towed me home. Found the problem, as a defective axle. Now ready for another test drive.
I might add you had better figure that you will be needing a 2nd car or something to keep the first one company.
Good luck and enjoy the "T" as they can be challenge and fun at the same time.
I hope to have a first drive story in a week or two, without the running out of gas part.
Ran out of gas? Is that all you guys got? When my good friend, Jim, Model T buddy and mentor died about four years ago, his family asked me to drive one of his Ts to the funeral home on the evening of the visitation. Only about three miles. Plenty of time to get back to his garage before dark. I chose Jim's favorite and mine, a 21 touring. Just before we arrived the exhaust pack nut split and came off and let the pipe back away from the manifold about a quarter inch. She was barking pretty loud, for sure. Anyway, after the visitation we made it back to the garage with no problem other than noise. Pulled up the floor board to make sure it wasn't on fire, all was good.
Next morning for the funeral I chose a different T, a 25 with a brand new station hack body, a pretty much untried car but nice running. About a block and a half from the funeral home heard three or four thumping noises and the left rear wheel came off. Now that'll get your attention.
Managed to steer almost off the street so we weren't blocking traffic. I had some of Jim's family riding with me and they walked the rest of the way while I waited for the towing service rollback and missed the funeral.
While waiting I gathered up the wheel and all the debris and tried to assess the problem. As you've probably guessed, no cotter pin. In fact, I doubt the nut was even tightened. A guy stopped who had a floor jack in his truck so he helped me jack up the car and slip the wheel back on and snug up the nut. This made an easier job of the loading and unloading of the car onto the truck.
I told my wife later I bet old Jim's sitting up there on a cloud just laughing his a... a... a... butt off at me and maybe I'd better not drive any more of his cars.
Thanks for sharing. T's are great for making memories.
Hap l9l5 cut off
Grand story Zachary! I'm so happy you cranked that thing! That is the best way to learn eh?
I'm on the cusp of finally using a "self commencer" (starter) for the first time...
You mention the staccato of your heart and the racket of the engine. That made me think of things stuck back in my brain...
The first times I had my 19 T engine running, that hollering, shaking, fire belching little demon told me he had much to say yet; tho he was already very old.
I didn't posses an exhaust manifold, a complete steering column nor rear axle yet, ran the poor thing with a Honda Civic distributor running backwards stuffed on the end of the cam with a washer welded on the end of a bolt for loosening and setting the timing and a GM radiator on the left frame rail to "cool" it. Wow, was it loud!
The engine cost me a whole $25.00 in '95 or '96!
I thought I was in hog heaven when I found some pipe here that could be crammed into the exhaust ports. Four cuts later, I had a "header".
Then a Dodge Colt radiator found me and I was really livin'! That radiator and it's mounts are very close by still.
Thank you for sharing this!
Do show your duct tape story!
I canNOT believe no one else has asked, but I will! Lol PLEASE tell us how you learned that duct tape is flammable!
Well, not my first drive, but my first drive in Barney, my '25 Barn-fresh roadster. Since others are admitting to their failures, I might as well embarrass myself (before someone else does!).
So here is how we first greeted Barney, located by a friend who was a friend of the guy from whom we bought him.
Who could walk away from such a cutie? Besides, nothing appeared to be worn out--the story was this guy bought him out of a barn from a ranch in eastern Nevada where he'd been used to "run the ditches" on the ranch.
So it was brought to our house, and delivered by the road--I needed to put him "up the hill" where the car garages are, easiest way is to drive up there! So filled the cylinders with ATF, cleaned the mud daubbers out of the valve galley and the carb intake, put on a new under the hood wiring harness (saving the old, complete with the metal Ford tag woven in it!). the next day, new battery and gas in the tank (about 2 gallons only).
About mid-day I checked the coils only by buzzing, and all seemed good, so I started hand cranking after a bit I got a cough, then another and then he was running! That ATF took care of the mosquitoes in the area!
So, after a quick check of brakes and reverse, it's off to the other driveway!
Now the other driveway is a very sharp left turn-so far the car has handled fine--but when it came time to really turn the wheel--UH oH!! No wonder the steering was tight--it's frozen!! Quick! Brakes!! Uh oh, well this little tree stops us, but we have to use the modern truck to get back up on the road, reverse wasn't strong enough.
Jacked up the front end, got the steering loosened up, and then up the road to the garage we went--only minor problem, the last 6 feet is steeper, and he started to miss, but hit the level in time and he smoothed out.
Now one thing I figured out, the sheet metal is in really nice shape, but the wood is rotten, so gotta do the wood before we drive around much more.(and the thrust washers!)
I have run out of gasoline a few times. Not very many, and rarely in a model T. Although I managed the feat in both the '25 and the '15 Studebakers and the '29 REO I used to have.
Two different people close to me in my life, made a practice of running out of gas. My dad, made a game out of it his whole life. He tried to pull into the planned gasoline station on fumes. More than a few times, he didn't quite make it. The first time I can recall that I really wanted to kill him, was I was running an errand for him using his pickup truck. I was still in high school, had only had my license for a short time, and he SWORE that there was enough gasoline in the truck to make the trip. Now, gasoline at that time was about 29 cents per gallon (remember those days?). I was about a mile from the nearest station, and had a grand total of 24 cents in my pocket. The engine coughed, and died. I wanted to kill him. I pulled the choke out, re-fired the engine, and controlled speed with the choke to about a hundred feet short of the station. A couple of hippies (yeah, THOSE days) jumped out of their Volkswagen mini-bus and helped me push the pickup the rest of the way into the station, where I put my entire 24 cents into the tank. Madder than a wet hen, but made it home.
I forgave him.
Maybe later, I can tell you about one of my longest-time best friends. Quite a knack for running out of gas.
Also, put me down for wanting the read the duct tape story!
Thanks all for the kind words and for the stories. My first ride story is nothing compared to some of yours. Frozen steering wheel!?! Broken axles!?!?
I've just posted the duct tape story in another thread, as I didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle of this. It's a bit longer, though, so I beg your forgiveness.
I have others but I don't want to drag the forum down with OT stuff, so "duct tape" will probably be the last one for now.
Loved the story, Zachary. -You spin a really good yarn. -Little inconveniences like running out of gas are exasperating when they happen, but do make for good story-telling material.