I don't own a Model T yet, I am still in the research and education phase. Although when I do purchase a Model T I would like it as close to original as possible.
But if I want a "driver" there are 2 upgrades that seem to be in order, safety glass and brakes. The safety glass seems pretty straight forward. But brakes seem to be divided between Rocky Mountain, AC, and disk.
Due to my preference to stay as stock as possible I am leaning towards either the Rocky Mountains or the AC brake systems. But I was hoping that I could get some feedback from the owners in here on their preferences.
Due to the fact there are only rear wheel brakes on a T - one just needs to drive as though you have NONE ! I have both - repro Rockies on the heavy '19 Centerdoor and repro AC on the '14 Touring - they both will minimize the impact !
For your first venture into T owning, the stock Model T is fine. Learning to drive and respect the 1908 technology as long as the antique auto that it is will be important charge.
The T is particular to driving, experience is needed. The steering is antiquated, and high stance makes for care, i.e. don't drift off on a shoulder at road speed and expect to turn the steering wheel and get back on the road. Won't happen.
Going in reverse, the steering wheel will whip around. You'll learn to take it slow, back off on throttle long before applying the transmission foot brake.
As you are slow driving at 35mph speeds or less, the stock T is fine to learn on. Many tour, as I have over the years in a stock T.
Am not inferring that accessory rear brakes aren't nice, just you don't have to make that a first change.
Going over your new acquisition and following the data on the club's tour inspection chart is needed. You'll find safety glass is required. All states require that and your insurance company will conclude you have replaced that old illegal and dangerous plate glass if your T is licensed for road travel. And other things are on that chart, like extra rear lamps, stop lamps, turn indicators as needed in your state, rear view mirrors, etc.
Later you can, as you gain need of accessory rear brakes, you can go that way. I can say for years drove a T with it's stock brakes, and had safe fun. Now have installed Rocky Mtn. brakes on our '27 main tour car and wouldn't think of removing them
As mentioned,drive as if you don’t have brakes.
That being said, all the options you mentioned are good. For a true “driver” as you describe, the disc brakes are probably the easiest to get used to. While I haven’t personally used the ones offered, they get good reviews.
Now for a true driver T , there is no substitute for front wheel brakes. And while I am developing the reproduction of a era design I don’t have anything available yet.
Defensive aware driving is essential.
All the best of luck!!
The Ford brake works fine on level ground with very light traffic, but if you live in the hills as I do, you will want to install auxiliary brakes before doing any serious driving.
The currently offered Rocky Mountain Brakes work very well when going forward but not as well when backing up or if you need to hold the car on a hill. That is why I leave the transmission brake band in place and it operates if I push hard on the pedal. I also have lined shoes in the parking brake so that I can use it to stop if the transmission brake fails. You see, the transmission brake works through the drivetrain and if anything from the universal joint to the axles fails, you will lose your brake. The Rocky Mountain brake will continue to work.
I tighten the parking brake so that it comes on one notch before the rocky mountain brake. This way, it work even when the car is moving backward.
Disk brakes will also work very well, however they are subject to the usual faults found with hydrolic brakes such as leaky fluid or air in the lines. The disk brakes are also very noticeable as aftermarket. So you have a choice of either type.
If you have a Ruckstell axle in the car, low range will amplify the power of the transmission brake and also the compression of the engine. However it is important not to try to shift while going downhill. You must shift while the engine is pulling the car but not on compression. So shift before the steep downgrade, not while descending.
After a year and a half of reading on this forum, it occurs to me that the issue of brakes on a Model T revolves around misapprehensions of the nature of the beast, the problems that attend machinery that is 100 years old or more, and a driving environment that does not resemble in the slightest way what conditions the Model T was made for, and used in until fairly (50 years ?) recently.
Don't get a Model T if you are not willing to go back in time 60 to 100 years considering an appropriate road surface, traffic density and rate of travel. Look up the physical difference between bringing a 1600# (more or less) vehicle to a full stop at 25 to 30mph as opposed to . . . 35 to 40 mph. Most Model Ts labor and run to the death at those higher (!) speeds unless equipped with "performance" accessories like balanced, stroked cranks, high lift cams, high compression heads, etc., etc.
A Model T in top mechanical condition will slide the rear wheels with the transmission brake. What more can you ask ?
4-wheel brakes ? There's a good reason why they did not appear on automobiles in the first thirty years of their existence. If you opt for front wheel brakes, make damn sure they are fail-safe for equalization, otherwise, they are certain death.
Hilly country ? There's a reason the accessories are called "Rocky Mountain". Generally a good idea.
Enjoy your T, be safe, don't expect it to be anything at all like any car you have ever driven before, unless your experience extends to the Holsman Auto Wagon.
I have discs on my Fordor and they are more positive than the Rocky Mt. brakes on my Runabout. Discs are more visible and subtract from originality but they just flat work. I still drive as though I have NO brakes. 30X3 1/2 tires, times 2, equals a very small footprint.
I wonder at your comment about risks associated 4 wheel brakes. I and a number of others have run 4 wheel brakes for many years on our model T’s.
Some people seem to not realize that locking up both back wheels is the best way to quickly go into a out of control skid. This is a inherent advantage of the stock T brakes. In all but extremely slippery conditions only one back wheel will slide and directional stability will be maintained.
If you lock up both front wheels you will slide straight especially if at least one back wheel is not sliding.
First generation ABS systems ONLY worked on the rear wheels as the risk associated with locked up rear wheels was widely recognized
Certainly installing front brakes on a T requires due consideration of the strength of the front axle radius rod and a few other factors. None of it is excessively difficult
Auxiliary brakes are a must if you have an auxiliary something or other in the drive line that could go to neutral...also, if an axle or anything brakes in the 100 year old iron in the drive line, the original braking system is 100% useless.
Les, I meant to point up the engineering difficulties encountered in equalizing braking force until they were overcome in the mid-1920s. Certainly misapprehensions of the nature of brakes and control were rife in those days early days. The problem is still a consideration when rigging such a system for a vehicle that never had them, though we have the advantage of another 90 years' worth of engineering experience to apply.
I wondered why a mechanical operated hydraulic brake set up couldn't be fitted under the rear drums to improve on what's there without making it too noticeable. Seems to me the master cylinder could be hidden between the frame rails.
It has been done!! Not by me personally, but I have seen it work well. I believe that some have used 55-7 Chevy drums and related parts.
All of these things require some “engineering skills “. Certainly not beyond the ability of a thoughtful person that understands the issues
I believe the shared position of people with front brakes on a T is to have BOTH hands FIRMLY on the steering wheel when braking. Which doesn’t seem like a bad policy for driving any model T!!!
Les.....can you put up pics of some front brake set ups. Im planning on some pretty interesting jeep trails this summer .
Driving in heavy stop and go traffic well lets just say, the transmission brake starts to fade real fast. The stock parking brake will stop the car but only to a point and not real fast. Not all of us have the pleasure of driving in open country with little or no traffic. I for one need all the extra stopping I can get. Skidding the tires, yes you can with the transmission brake but that is not stopping it's sliding.
Like Dan, I have gone for years with only the stock Ford brakes. So far they have been adequate, even in traffic. I do plan to install AC brakes on my touring, so I'll find out how much of an improvement they are. From what I've read, the advantage of AC brakes over Rockies is that they work in reverse, so I'm going with that.
Good posts Guys.
I worked on a speedster that had ‘53 Chev brakes on the rear wheels.
They worked quite well. The wheel cylinders and shoes were hiding inside the Chevy brake drums and didn’t look too bad.
But as I recall when replacing the shoes and cylinders there was obviously a lot of time and work spent to make it all fit and work.
I have hydraulic drum brakes on the rear of my ‘26 touring.
If I just pull the hand brake lever the car will stop just as quick as stomping on the brake pedal.
I don’t see why we need hydraulic brakes, we just need adequate brake surface.
I drove a ‘15 touring that had about 10 inch cast iron drums with a brake band around the outside and they really did the job. I have forgotten what brand they were.
The stamped steel drums leave something to be desired. A good reason to go for the new disc brakes.
Steve Jelf is kind enough to host these links on his website:
These are all good fundamentals for an individual intending to purchase their first Model T Ford.
since you are in the information gathering stage at present ...I would suggest that you contact a local model T club and meet people and examine their cars and ride in ( or drive) the cars ...ask questions and examine the various examples of brakes or any other features , original or added ...my experience is that our Model T people are very open and freely share their experience ...good or bad ...always an optimist ...gene french
Everyone, thanks for all your input. I will be joining a couple of local clubs in the spring. In Michigan there doesn't appear to be much activity with any of the clubs during the winter. So for now I am reading lots of books and doing research online.
I see 3 different levels of brakes. Original transmission brake. Rear wheel brakes in various configurations. And 4 wheel brakes.
No doubt 4 wheel brakes are gonna be best when it comes to stopping quickly. However, I'll never have them. I'm just not willing to go that far from original. Rear wheel brakes (Key word here is wheel) do give you an added measure of protection in the event something fails in the driveline. It's not just the Babbitt thrust washers that can cause it. I had a differential carrier disintegrate. Luckily, no accident occurred. So, I am thinking about adding either AC's or RM's. Disks are a no go for me. WAY too far from original. EXCLUDING THE EVENT THERE IS A DRIVELINE FAILURE, I can't see how AC's, RM's or Disks are any better than original. Unless you have ABS, any of the 4 can lock the rear wheels. So, from that standpoint, AC's or RM's would be my choice.
I trust you realize that at least two different versions of bolt on front wheel brakes were offered in the T era. I am picking away at reproducing the McNerney brand because I acquired the remains of a set
Actually, I was not aware of that. But still, I'm pretty much the purist that I get accused of being. I'm just not much into aftermarket accessories. I may never do the AC's or RM's, but after my carrier failure, I am warming up to the idea.
If you install front wheel brakes beware, especially if you have an early car with the wishbone above the axle. When you slam on the brakes it could cause a change in castor which would be negative and pull the car to one side. This change could be permanent if the parts get bent when the brake is locked. So you should beef up the front suspension when you install front wheel brakes.
It is interesting that Ford, when he built the Model A from 1928-1931 built the front brakes to slow down but not lock the front wheels. The back brakes would lock the brakes. So even on the Model A with it's heavier front suspension still did not depend entirely on front brakes.
That is indeed curious Norm. I've noticed the same thing. I set my A up like the book says, but I have often wondered why they want the rears to lock before the fronts.
I think the theory is that you can turn the wheels and steer the car if the front is not completely locked. I remember many years ago when I was driving a 1953 Ford on a 2 lane road. A car a couple cars ahead was stopping to pick up a hitch hiker and the car ahead of me wanted to pass him but a truck was coming the opposite direction and he pulled back into the lane. I was the third car and slammed on the brake. I thought I was going to hit him so I turned toward the shoulder, however my front wheels were locked up and I had flat spots worn from the wheels sliding sideways which was straight ahead because the brakes were locked. I stopped about 2 inches before hitting the car ahead. Anyway, I ended up with the hitch hiker because the car which tried to stop for him got rear ended.
Norman is correct. You have to build up the front end to take brakes. The front brakes I’m building are the small 24 lined rear shoes and drums. It will use a cable equalizer and use a heavy spring in the cable so the front shoes won’t lock up.
I'm another 4 wheel Front Brake proponent. If you search the RIP Ralp Ricks you'll find his very nice Nash Metro brakes that were popular here in SoCal.
I made some front wheel brakes for my '12 Torpedo by copying the period accessory brakes available back in the day. There were several companies but most common seems to be McNearney and Big Four.
Any early car with the wishbone on the top should have an accessory one added to the bottom if you're going to drive it much.
Richard, I'd sure be interested to see what you're planning with your project. Les has a super start and might someday finish.
There were some very nice front wheel discs at Bakersfield one time as display but don't think were ever made for sale.
Les, are the brakes you are picking away on the McNerney brakes that you first mentioned in a 2009 post?
I wonder about the concept of front wheel brakes on a model T. In any vehicle the front wheels have the majority of braking effect, likely do to the inertia and weight transfer when the braking.
The front axle on a model T is supported by the wish bone, which is anchored to the engine pan. I can just imagine the forces applied to the engine pan when the brakes are applied. It doesn't look like the engine pan was designed with this in mind?
Maybe this is not a concern, as there are T's equipped with front brakes out there now?
Dave I can tell you that RDR has had his on his daily driver for many years. He did 2 Great Races and loved to demonstrate his panic stops which you must have your seat belt on to keep you from the windshield.
I have not heard of anyone having a problem but I've been concerned about it on my early pan. So far no problems.
If a car has effective front wheel brakes the axle must have additional support. I chose to split a Model A wishbone and anchor it to pivots on the frame rails for my speedster. Works great for me. If you are already modifying the car to take the brakes, you need to add the support for the axle or risk creating more problems (possibly catastrophic) than you prevented.
As with any modification, take the time to consider the side effects and safety ramifications.
It seems the concept of four wheel brakes took a while at Ford to catch on.
I have a 1930 model A with mechanical brakes, when I bought the car the brake components were like new however they had been sitting for years so some of the pivot points were seized.
After freeing things up I went through the steps in the model A manual for setting up the eccentrics , this involved a piece of wood with notches at various lengths. When I was finished it was pretty obvious the primary braking was done by the rear wheels, this became clear immediately when I had to stop quickly on a gravel road and the car did a 180 deg turn. Since then I have modified the brake adjusting procedure a bit.
Walt, I wonder if you might be able to post a couple photos of the split Model A wishbone setup on your speedster, ie how attached to the frame and to the axle. Thank you.
Can/does one also use the Model T wishbone in addition?
To answer Dave Eddie's question: Ours is one T sporting "front & rear cast iron drum brakes" with a power brake booster, dual chamber master cylinder under the floor and a "Wilwood Proportioning valve" to easily balance braking forces front to rear. This project I undertook with the advise of Ricks -Surf City 3 years ago. Sadly, he has since passed away. We all miss him I'm sure for his many contributions to the passion. A good bit of work but indeed do-able and worth the efforts. We've no place at home in the city for a truck & trailer, and consequently drive our T to all club events irrespective of the distance from home. Since completing the initial restoration back in 2002 we've clocked 25,600 miles. I'm very satisfied when running in modern traffic, to know that I can indeed stop safely. If you look back into the 2015 Forum under "Front wheel brakes to the Forefront again" - early February; you will find my multipage contribution to the subject including several good photos. Note: When undertaking such an upgrade on an early T, the "double wishbone" is absolutely mandatory, as well as a proper steering box such as the version that Les Schubert should have available soon. I'm actually running with a '37 Steering box, the story of which I also posted. Good luck with your efforts. Tom
Here's a thread on a T with front disk brakes.
Good lord people, 4 wheel brakes? It's a Model T! Rocky Mountain or AC on the rear wheels are not enough for 35 mph?! If you must go faster then you should be looking at a Model A. I am amazed at how many people want to modify their car from what Henry designed! Of course, it's your car to do what you wish but, know that it detracts from the value of the car! When I search for a T, I had to pass on so many for modifications people have made! Distributors, Electronic Ignition, Seat Belts, Turn Signals, Hydraulic Brakes, Modern Engines, Etc.... Some of you should look at Chevrolets. My '17 Chevrolet has outstanding original brakes with no modifications and a distributor too! Kill 2 birds with one stone!
It shares quite a few T parts as well.
These are characters of, the nature of the beast, with the Model T. People seem to want to turn it into something else?
This is simply just my view, and nothing more! I guess I'm unnerved about having to pass up on many many T's because of this? I completely get safety. I drive according to conditions and limitations to vehicles such as these. I am a history buff and will keep to the times.
Brakes on the front wheels would apply considerable stress to the front wishbone and its attachment point on the engine. -The whole car was designed to be as light as possible and strong only where strength was required (and even the front tires, upon which no braking force would be applied, could afford to be—and were—smaller than the rear tires). -The front end was not designed to withstand the kind of loads and forces that front brakes would impose.
Another one of Becky's Ts with front disk brakes: