Lovely forum you have here. Here is my question:
For my novel, I have an older Model T (something a farm family would have bought, a circa 1908 or 1910 model, I'm thinking) that has been passed on to a friend of theirs.
The book takes place in 1916. If something bad had happened, and hypothetically this character wanted to dump the car in a lake to get rid of the evidence (I know, sacrilege. Forgive me), how much of this car would have been left to find around 1986 when I'd like it to be found?
This would be a freshwater lake-- one of the Finger Lakes in NY, so there would be cold temperatures possibly helping to keep the body more intact.
I posited this question to my writing group, and can't get a consensus. I got everything from "perfectly preserved" to "nothing left but a few unrecognizable components." The temperature of the water was a big sticking point.
So I'll pose this to the experts. What do ya'll think?
Send me a copy of the book when it's done?
Tim, interesting story, but it doesn't address Laini's question, i.e. what would 70 years completely submerged do to a T?
It kinda does. Someone on the writing forum knew about a 1928 version where this sort of thing happened and they were able to change the fluids and maybe something else and got it started right up.
I guess I'm looking for a preponderance of the evidence that it would still exist where I'm planning on sinking it. The southerners say "nay nay" and the northerners think "yeah! no problem!" It's starting to look like my idea might work.
I don't think it would run too good after 70 years.
T's are also mostly wood. I'm sure after 70 years they would be recovering not much more than a few bits of rusty metal. The frame might survive, probably the engine block and axles, but not much more than that.
Now we're talking!
It doesn't need to run, I just wanted to see if there would be anything to identify it as formerly being an auto.
Love the Bugatti one. Still pretty identifiable as a car, and that's 70 years. I can take a little poetic license, but didn't want everyone reading it to think I was full of it for saying there was anything left. At least it's disputable.
The fresh water would decompose the wooden parts. The metal on t's is pretty thick. I think the car would be easily recognizable, depending on the material at the bottom of the lake. If soft mud, the car would defiantly settle in, right up to the body tub. If clear water and gravel, the car would be easy to spot though. Out here, on the coast, just down the street from me, right under the tide line are some small marine engines, that have been in salt water and exposed to the air, for some fifty years. They are still recognizable.
Less corrosion in fresh water, but its worse for the wooden components. All the brass would be intact, lots of mud and sediment. It would generally look like the bottom of the lake. The colder the temperature, the slower the decay, but lakes really aren't that cold, not like the arctic. Generally lakes deeper than 12 feet are around 4 degrees celsius at the bottom. What makes me say this? Well, before I became a boat builder, I was an archaeologist.
I'll bet that some of the guys and gals here, would be able to get it started and drive it home!
This is what it would look like (roughly).
A few years back (maybe 10) a Model A Ford coupe was discovered in Lake Coeur d' Lane, Idaho. (Coeur d' Lane is in the Northern panhandle of Idaho.) It had apparently been in the lake undetected for many many years. Divers attached a wrecker cable from shore to the rear axle and pulled it out. A minor amount of restoration was done then it was started up and driven. I suggest you contact the Coeur d' Lane press for details. At the time there were pictures of the car in the paper.
Incidentally, a few years prior, one of my charming daughters drove her mother's new MGB off a boat launch ramp into Puget Sound. A few hours later it was pulled out and when it dried it became a statue i.e. nothing worked. But that was SALT WATER. I made the mistake of buying the car back from the insurance company (total loss) and restored it. It ran but the "grounding gremlins" were always present.
Bill Rigdon '25 Fordor
A few aircraft have been recovered from the great lakes from WWII after 60 years that still had air in the tires, pressure in the hydraulic system and, in one case, a battery that would still hold a charge. These were deeper than the finger lakes, but still a good indication that things can survive that long.
For your purposes, I would think that the year and make of the car would be redilly identifiable to someone who knew T's and the engine number will still be legible.
It would certainly fair better in northern NY than that T that Robert Mitchum pushed into the Mississippi in 'Night of the Hunter'. That one's probably all rotted away by now.
Thanks for all the replies, everyone. This is great!
Bill, I've actually been to Coeur d'Alene before. Guess it was easier to get a new car than a new daughter, huh? ;)
Again thanks, everyone.
There is a whole logging industry built up around old and ancient logs lifted from the Great Lakes. One of the companies involved was a darling of the New York Stock Exchange several years ago. Wood from trees that are rare or extinct today is milled and sold for cabinetry and construction. Sorry, I can't find a reference right now.
There is almost no oxygen below about 30 feet, so little corrosion. I would expect at least some of the wood to remain after 80 years, along with the car's serial number on the engine block.
Wash DC this week.
The logs are in Lake Superior. I think they are in court right now trying to determine if the lumber companies still own the logs.
Think 'Driving Miss Daisy', and remember the government agent showed up. The shoved his car into the lake and served his ribs at the diner for lunch.
Didn't they pull Commodore Perry's sloop out of Lake Erie, and that was very well preserved.
If it is deep enough down, it will be pretty well preserved. Try scuba diving in one of those lakes one time. Less than 10 feet down and you hit the thermocline. And that is cold. I know, I have done it.
"Fried Green Tomatoes" was the name of that movie, IIRC.
Once a reader becomes enthralled in a book they are usually not aware or concerned with the amount of sedimentary deposits that collect at the bottom of a lake over seventy years.
The Great Lakes were cut out by retreating glaciers some 10,000 years ago and, becauase of this, the bottom is very uneven, in some places, even forming islands in the great lakes. The melting glaciers even deposited great boulders as they retreated. Since sediments settle to the lowest areas, it is conceivable that, if a Model T were to come to rest on a higher area or a shelf made up of one of these boulders left by the glacier, the sediments would have settled in the lower areas around this high point, leaving the Model T above the sediments, making it easily recognizable as an early century Model T, thanks to the distinct shape of the brass radiator.
During the accident, the convertible top and top bows would have probably been crushed or stripped off and the hood would have also probably separated frtom the car. Assuming it came to rest in an upright position, the wheel spokes would be the first to go because of the weight, collapsing the four wheels and depositing the car on the two axles with the four rubber wheels coming to rest against the car, or on their sides. The body of a 1910 Model T consisted of a wooden frame with the body panels nailed on. The wooden body frame would be the next thing to go, depositing the sheet steel body panels where they fell around the car. What would be left would be the frame, and all the steel attached to it such as the rear differential (axle), front axle, drive shaft and under the seat gas tank. The steering wheel shaft and distinct Model T steering wheel spider (Steering wheel spokes) would be lying almost flat since it is supported by the wooden firewall, which would have dissentigrated, the cast iron engine, the radiator and brass radiator shell would have been still upright, connected to the frame in front of the engine and the distinct Model T front brass gas head lights. The rear fenders which would have been fastened to the body would have fell in place as the body wood deteriorated, but the front fenders which are connected to the frame would have survived somewhat, still attached to the frame and been recognizable, since cars back then were made of much thicker steel. The rubber tires and front axle would have survived as well.
It is debatable how much of the steel body parts would have survived. That depends on many factors including the molecular composition of the water. Deterioration is twice as slow in northern lakes as in the south because 6 months out of the year, it is much colder which slows down decay and decomposition as well as harmful bacteria growth, but for the sake of your story, if you need for the car to be recognizable as a 1909 or 1910 (1908 would not be accurate as they are very rare) Model T, then you would be safe to use poetic license and say that, while the sheet metal body pieces were heavily deriorated, they still retained enough shape to be recognizable as a 1910 Model T. Jim Patrick
A Model A has an All steel body and spokes, so would fare better than a 1910 Model T under the same circumstances. Jim Patrick
I thought the 09 had a wooden body.
You are right Vince. That completely slipped my mind. The 1910 body was made of wooden panels over a wooden frame, but the fenders were steel. Jim Patrick
Chris, doesn't water/ground temperature depend on the latitude? The Karchner Caverns east of Tucson are 72F year round, and the water coming out of our well in SoCalif is about 70F.
The Finger Lakes are 42-43 degrees north. What's the temp there?
Fabulous breakdown, Jim. Thanks! It's like watching Titanic again!
So was the Model A available in 1910? It sounds like an A would be the way to go if I wanted more to be around when they find it.
Due to my guy's financial circumstances (basically poor), I wanted him to have as plain vanilla a model as I can get away with. And obviously that wouldn't have been a brand spanking new 1916 model or even one of the more recent ones. That's why I was trying to see if I could get him something that was at least 5 years old.
I just found this site about Cayuga Lake. I'm wanting to place it there, not too far north of Ithaca:
Says the lake can get up to 435 feet deep.
And here's a better one about conditions:
No. The Model A that Jim refers to came out in 1928. Well actually, probably late '27 as a '28 model. Some of them had a fair amount of wood themselves, but it was mostly supporting framework. None to be seen from outside the car.
Check it out with the satellite view on maps.google.com . If you want it deep, best to find a bluff with a clear shot.
Would there have been a ferry service across the lake in 1916? He could borrow the ferry in the night, drop the car, and nobody would know.
I was thinking of sending it off a cliff on the western side of the lake on modern day 96, which heads up toward Trumansburg, but I'm thinking that might be too much of a fall (ie..too much damage).
Perhaps the more shallow area near Myers Point where he could start it and just let it drive itself after hurling himself out the door. But then a boat would have hit it in the intervening 70 years. : /
Sorry, it's actually 89. I've driven up 96, and I know there is a very perilous curve coming down into Ithaca.
I haven't been on 89 or the road on the east side of the lake.
This site has a really great encyclopedia that will enable you to educate yourself on the various Models from year to year by clicking on each year which shows a picture and describes all the features of each Model. It even tells how much each sold for when new.
For instance, if your hero was driving a 1910 Model T touring car, you could not say he jumped out the door, because they did not have doors and in 1916, just about anyone could could own a new Model T because, thanks to mass production, there were so many of them made that Henry Ford, in an effort to make the Model T available to the masses and corner the market, lowered the price to under $400.00. An affordable range for the common man. He realized that he could sell millions of them for a few hundred dollars apiece and stll make millions in profit. Between 1909 and 1927 over 15 million Model T's were made. That is why it is called "The Universal Car". Jim Patrick
The keys to underwater survival of most any manufactured item are the water temperature, available oxygen and light. Saltwater is harder on things than fresh but there is lots of WW II material around in the oceans. Organisms eat wood if they can but very low temps and low oxygen can inhibit them. Many years ago a naval vessel of the war of 1812 was recovered from Lake Champlain between NY and VT with wooden masts still standing. Thick mud on the bottom will often add extra protection. There are lots of variables but lets not submit any T to an experiment to see what happens ! [smile]
Ricks, you are right, I only know about where I live. No surf city in Reddeer AB where I grew up!
I forget that there are many places down south where the water doesn't get all funny and stiff.
Now I live near Victoria BC, its much warmer, but lately, the fresh water here has gotten all funny and stiff as well.
I'v dived Lake Ontario many times. On her bottom lays many wood wrecks from the 1800's that are still in good shape. Rule of thumb, the deeper you go the less O2 content. The less O2 the less rot you get. If the T was over 150Ft down it may still be in good shape. But to get it to a spot that was that deep you would need to drop it off a boat.
Tim, Now that I think of it back in the mid 70's my friend and I found an old boat engine on the bottom of Star Lake in NY in about 20ft of water. It was under the mud with only the handle sticking out. We had it running the next day. It took a while but we found out the engine was lost in the early 1950's.The only things we had to replace was the gas line and the coil. My sisters husban still uses it today.
Will - You reminded me of an excellant TV program that I watched rcently about Bob Ballard, the guy who found the Titanic. One of his expeditions had to do with a shipwreck that they had located on the bottom of the Black Sea. I believe the vessel was approximately 1500 years old! A good part of the program had to do with a unique characteristic of the Black Sea in which there is a layer of water that is almost completely oxygen-free. Anyway, this shipwreck find was fascinating in that after 150 years, the wood was all intact, including the fact that the masts of this upright vessel were intact and still standing!
Oops,....missed that typo,.....second age reference should read 1500 years.
Right Will. One of the greatest archaeological finds ever was the Swedish battleship Wasa (Vasa), that sank in the cold waters of Stockholm harbor during its' maiden voyage in 1628. It was found in 1956, raised in 1961 and floated to a drydock where it was restored. It is currently on display in its' own museum in Stockholm.
If the 1910 Model T were in waters that stayed cold year round, I see no reason why it could not be fairly well preserved after just one century.
There's a 1200 year old wooden Viking ship in a museum just west of Copenhagen.
Oldest car I saw today was the 1903 Winton that was the first to cross the US. It's in a nice display in the Smithsonian.
Jim, Very nice write up on the Vasa, Thanks for the link.
The Viking ships are in Roskilde. Sunk in the Fjord. 5 ships. 1 is 75% recovered, 1 is 60%, and 2 are 50%. Pretty good preservation.
This is salt water, but it is probably somewhat brackish from the rivers around it.
So the T might not have to be in very deep water, as long as it is cold. I think tannins preserve wood, too. So if the lake is surrounded by oak trees, the water could have a lot of tannic acid in it that would help to preserve the car.
If we keep this up, we are going to write a whole chapter about the car.
Very good, Dave H. I was just going on memory from a visit to Roskilde in 1986, and I remember only one on display.
I believe the 28 Ford A that was referred to earlier was not in wonderful shape. It sank when the ice melted and landed on its left side. This was in the early thirtys when the car was rather new. When it was recovered the left side of the car that was in the mud was missing. Rust had eaten the spokes off on the wheels, the remains of the fenders were just that...remains. The right side fared much better as it was in fresh water. The engine was made to run again (and run well as I recall) but the car was nothing to restore.
you mite look at this. it may help.
In Kansas City there is a museum with the remains of a paddle wheeler that sank in the river and was recovered a few years ago The "Arabia".
See site below
It was buried in silt and over the years the river changed direction and it ended up in a paddock next to the river. but it required a mammoth effort to recover due to the water flooding the site as they tried to dig it up.
The paddle wheeler had supplies for the people along the river everything from tools to clothing and food.
Virtually everything was in fabulous condition the only thing which rotted away was cotton as in stiching in boots etc. Most of the wooden steamer was there to, they have it as the center of attraction along with the remains of a mule left tied up on the deck.
Timber, cloth, metal, leather, paper remained in perfect or near perfect condition just needed to be washed and dried. Even preserved fruit in jars were OK.
If the Model T was to sink in to silt one could be sure it would be in great condition after years submerged.
I'm sure there is a site on the net somewhere about it.
Many years ago here in England, a chap heard that there was an old car sunk into a duckpond near where he lived. He got a skuba friend to pop in to see, who confirmed there was an old car there. My friend had a word with the local fire department, who sent out a couple of trucks, one to take the water, and the other to pump it out of the pond. As it progressed and the water level fell, tha car gradually emerged. It was still all there, even the windscreen was still standing up, and although the upholstery had rotted from the eons of ducksh*t that had fallen on it, all else was preservable. He got the car, a Hupmobile, out, and restored it over a couple of years and used it at many gatherings.
About twenty years ago Jack and his Hup just vanished off the face of the earth. Noone knows what happened to him. Perhaps we should go look in that pond again.
How about the guy they found in the bog over there? There was enough left to see just how he had been murdered about 2,000 years ago.
Not to mention the WWII Russian T-34 tank in German markings they drug out of a lake a few years back.
I seem to recall from time to time reading about Dutch land reclamation projects in the IJsselmeer (former Zuiderzee) that turn up WWII Allied and German aircraft that crashed into the water.
This P-47 Thunderbolt was ditched in a lake toward the end of WWII. From what I understand, it is now in the process of being made airworthy. You can find some very good pictures at this web address:
http://search.aol.com/aol/imageDetails?s_it=imageDetails&q=P-47%2CDottie+Mae&img =http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hotealee-productions.com%2Fmedia%2Fpictures%2FAviation%2FP47-T hunderbolt%2FP47%2520-%2520Thunderbolt%2520-%25202006-12-01-030.jpg&site=&host=h ttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.hotealee-productions.com%2Fpages%2FAviation%2FP47-Tunderbolt.htm l&width=137&height=91&thumbUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fimages-partners-tbn.google.com%2Fima ges%3Fq%3Dtbn%3ALYji1X8gbenclM%3Awww.hotealee-productions.com%2Fmedia%2Fpictures %2FAviation%2FP47-Thunderbolt%2FP47%252520-%252520Thunderbolt%252520-%2525202006 -12-01-030.jpg&b=image%3Fq%3DP-47%252CDottie%2520Mae%26oreq%3D2cf8dda926cb41d2b4 4e84a04f398ba7&imgHeight=426&imgWidth=640&imgTitle=Andreas+posing+with+Dottie+%3 Cb%3EMae%3C%2Fb%3E&imgSize=42276&hostName=www.hotealee-productions.com
Here is some trivia on Cayuga Lake in NY. Water temp is ~39F at 250' year-round.
Model T? in Lake Crescent:
I read the account of divers looking at cars in Lake Crescent. In 1962 the department of the interior used to have a group of fire guards stationed on Highway 101 on Lake Crescent. One of the fire quards was a diver. He found what he thought was a Model T in Lake Crescent (I am not sure if he knew a T from a corvette). The spot was the first pull off on Lake Crescent going West from Port Angeles. There is a picture in one of the ealier Horselss Carragie Gazette of a National Tour that was stopped at the pull off. I have often wondered what they would think if they know that there was supposed to be a Model T at their feet. You come down a fairly steep hill and come to a wide pull off at the lake. One of the other guards had a jeep with a winch on the front. They decided to pull the T out of the lake. When the diver got to the end of the cable on the winch it was too short to reach the T so they tied a rope to the end of the cable. When they started to pull the T up to the surface the motor fell out of the T. As the car reached the surface the rope broke and the T sank even deeper than it was and the guards gave up. Note the lake is a result of glacier action and is reported to be 600 feet deep in spots. As a side light the lake is very cold and I know of only one body that ever floated to the top and that was in a very shallow area where the water would be warmer.
Laini, even if the terrain you described did not exist, most readers would never know, however the expanse around the Great Lakes is so great that I doubt if there is not at least a few places where the following scenartio does not occur.
As we mentioned the glacier action, in creating the Great Lakes, was very erratic, creating all manner of underwater terrain, in that, it could be very deep all the way to the shore. If you had your guy driving on a road next to the lakes and the car went down an incline (but not a cliff), steep enough for the car to stay upright, it could roll down the incline into the water and continue rolling underwater until it got into fairly deep water (as deep and cold as you decide) and then come to a rest on a shelf, as the incline levels out just before dropping off into the abyss. That way the car could safely stop, upright, in cold deep siltless water, where it would stay until discovered 70 years later, in 1986, fairly well preserved and very recognizable. Jim Patrick
In the 1981 movie, "Ghost Story," a spirit is put to rest after her body is discovered in an antique car which is hauled out of a lake where it had been soaking since the Roaring Twenties. If I remember correctly, the car was a closed body Model T, with a big, oval-shaped rear window. Excellent movie, by the way, featuring a big handful of stars from the golden age of Hollywood. Does anybody remember if I'm right about the car being a Model T?
Here's what the trailer looked like:
I can't believe all the action still going on here. I got busy over the weekend and just came back to check.
You guys are fabulous!
FYI though, for everyone basing suppositions on the Great Lakes, this is a bit further east, and they're not as massive. However, they are still quite deep (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finger_Lakes)
Hi Laini. I made a small error in my scenario that those familiar with Model T's would catch. The Model T would be perfect for your story in that, unlike modern cars whereby the car would slowdown once the foot was removed from the accelerator, the speed of the Model T is controlled by the throttle lever which is located to the right of the steering wheel. The Model T has three control pedals. The clutch, the brake and the reverse. The forward motion is controlled by the clutch pedal, which has two gears. Low gear is all the way down and high gear is all the way up, so, even if your foot is not on the pedal the car will continue forward at the same speed unless the throttle is decreased, the brake pedal is applied, or the car is turned off, so if your guy stepped out of the vehicle, the car would continue down the steep incline until it hit the water, however as soon as the water reached the carburetor, which is located to lower right of the engine the engine would die and, with the car in gear, the rear wheels would seize up and car would no longer roll, however, the wheels could continue to slide down the slick, steep rocky underwater embankment, until coming to an upright stop at the bottom on a deep cold shelf as described above. Jim Patrick
Laini, look at the members' cars from the main page of this site. You will see all the body styles and years.
Wash DC until tonight.
I seem to remember an article in the Vintage Ford about a Model T lost in the sea in Holland in the 1920's. A Dutch member was there when it was pulled out during some land reclaimation, probably in the early 1970's. Those of you with the VF on CD can probably look it up.
I remember that movie, 1981 wasn't it? In any event the car in question is pictured in this clip from the movie a couple of minutes in.
Thanks, James. Well, whatever that car is, it's not a Model T. Obviously, my aging memory has a few twists in it. Still, the point is, there is precedent for a very well funded and produced story wherein an antique car is pulled out of a body of water after several decades of being submerged. That was one hell of a good movie, wasn't it?
Jim-- Thanks for that last addition. I was just coming back here to ask that! :D
Laini, If you used a 1911 you would have a body of sheet metal panels over a wood frame, which would have a better chance of surviving in the cold water than the wooden panels on the 1910. Also, if you refer to the below link to the Model T encyclopedia mentioned ealier, you will see that 1911 offered a wider variety of body styles to chose from, in case you needed a closed body car with a door, such as the coupe.
Not many people liked that movie at the time, but I thought it was OK. Fred Astaire in what had to be one of his last performances, horror films are not exactly what he was best known for, but he did OK in the role. Not sure what sort of car it was, maybe a studio mockup, hard to tell under all that mess.
I thought it was a '28 or '29 Model A ...Fordor?
Been a long time since I saw the movie also.
Larry Bohlen '27 touring
It is a model A.Go to the link that james posted and go to about 2:58
The USS Cairo, a civil war ironclad ship was sunk just outside of Vicksburg in 1861. It was covered in silt and brought to the surface in 1961 100 years after it had been sunk. The artifacts on board were remarkable well preserved. Here is a link to several photographs of the items that were recovered. http://www.nps.gov/vick/historyculture/uss-cairo-museum-exhibits.htm The key was that everything was covered in silt preventing oxidation of the materials on board including leather and wood. Look at how well the pistols are preserved, they still maintain their original bluing. So I think it would be difficult to determine how fast something would rust away, there are many factors involved.
Try 4:28 or so into this clip for a better look at the car, it's a Model A all right. You would think I would have known that being that I own one. I only hope they didn't ruin a good car making the flim.
Sorry folks,I got that one wrong, I looked it over up close, that car is a 1928 Chevy. I got glasses thick as Coke bottles, can't see a dam thing. Once I could see that grill shell better there was no missing that Chevy bowtie at the top.