1912

The 1912 Fords must qualify as the most varied and perhaps the most interesting of any of the Model T styles. There were at least five different “1912” Touring body types.

Ford’s 1912 fiscal year began October 1, 1911. At that time they were producing the typical 1911 style Tourings; the ones with the “step-side” body and the open front compartment. Cars built during October, of this style, could be called “1912” Fords. By December, 1911, (approximately) this same body was supplied with the add-on front “fore doors.” The two-piece firewall (dash) continued, and the front door sections “dipped down” to match the lower firewall. These cars could be also be called “1912” Fords. During December (again, approximately) the firewall was changed to the one-piece design, and the fore doors no longer had the dip at the front. These cars could be called “1912 Fords.”

In late December or early January the new “1912” body appeared. This is the style with the smooth sides, the rear-opening rear doors, the one-piece firewall, the top-support strap which now hooked to the windshield, and with the fore doors. There were at least two of this style: one with outside rear door handles, and the other with inside handles. These two models definitely were “1912” Fords. To add to the confusion, there were numerous variations in these bodies, and it appears that the “1911” style was also used in early calendar 1912. In addition, the “1913” bodies appeared in late 1912, but these are never called “1912” Fords. For the purposes of this study, it is the smooth side, rear-opening-door model that we will call the 1912 Ford.

The Model T Ford for 1912 is perhaps one of the most interesting models produced by Ford. It truly marks the transition from the “old” to the “new” in the evolving Model T. The 1909 through 1911 cars were all open-front models; there were no doors to enclose the front seat passengers. The 1912 Touring Cars were supplied with “fore doors” as standard equipment. The driver’s side did not open on the Touring Car but the passenger side had a door as a part of the add-on assembly. Thus began the three-door style that was to continue until mid-1925, ending with the introduction of the “Improved Fords” for 1926. Interestingly, the Town Car was also given the fore doors but the Runabout (now called the “Commercial Roadster” continued the open-front body of the 1911’s. Even more interesting is the fact that there were doors on both sides of the Torpedo Runabout.

The changes which marked the beginning of the 1912 models began, perhaps, in August 1911 when Ford began using the right-front steering arm with the integral hole for the speedometer swivel, and referred to it as the “1912 arm.” According to factory invoices, the “1912 rear axle” was first used in June 1911. (This is the so-called “clamshell” twelve-rivet rear axle of 1911-12.) Still another clue was a reference to “1912 rear fenders” on some production of the runabouts, also during September 1911. Ford’s fiscal year, at the time, was from October 1, 1911 through September 30, 1912, and Ford generally referred to cars made after September as “1912” Fords.

Cars of that period were carryovers of the 1911 models except for the “1912” parts. The 1911 style Touring Cars continued until about December 1911, and then began evolving into the 1912 style, apparently by mid-January 1912. The December 1911 cars generally had the one-piece dash (firewall) and have generally been referred to as the “early 1912” style. Since Ford’s records indicate 1912 production began with about engine number 70,000* on October 1, 1911, it seems reasonable to call these 1911 cars “1912s.”

* Ford records show the first number of 1912 production to be 69,877 but invoices show numbers above 70,000 built in September 1911.

The last of the 1911-built “1912” Touring Cars used the typical 1911 body with the “step“ in the side panel and the front-opening rear doors, but with the one-piece dash. They retained the 1911 top support straps which extended forward to the front of the chassis. The new 1912 Touring body had the relatively smooth side panels, with rear doors that opened at the rear. As noted, the front compartment was enclosed with matching but removable panels. Similar fore door assemblies were used on the late 1911-style bodies to “update” the older style. With these panels in place, the 1912 Ford took on the general appearance that was to typify the Model T for the next decade or so.

Interestingly, the 1912 catalog, dated December 1911, illustrates the 1912 Touring with the smooth sides but with front-opening rear doors. While this style may have been produced, it must have been quite rare. More likely the catalog illustration was an artist’s creation, and he just put the door handles on the wrong side. The same catalog illustrates the 1911 Runabout. The Town Car is shown with the fore doors, and the Delivery Car, then new, is pictured. The new Torpedo Runabout, based on the standard Runabout body, completed the line.

The new 1912 Torpedo was announced in a letter to the branches, dated October 27, 1911. This car replaced the earlier Torpedo and Open Runabouts which, while popular today because of their “racy” styling, were not too popular in 1911. The letter points out that this model now has standard height seats. Also, unlike the 1911 Torpedo, this new design used the standard hood, steering column and other chassis and body parts.

The standard Runabout followed the style of the earlier Runabouts. It was called the “Farm” or “Commercial” Runabout, and was supplied with a single “mother-in-law” seat on the rear deck. The December 1911 catalog shows the Commercial Runabout with the flat rear fenders but in all of the 1912 (calendar year) catalogs, the car is shown with the rounded fenders, the same as used on the Torpedo. The author has never seen a 1912 standard Runabout with anything but the flat fenders, and Ford’s Parts Lists show the cars using the same (flat) rear fenders as on the Tourings. Perhaps both types were used, but more likely the catalog picture is incorrect. In any event, Ford went back to the flat rear fenders in their 1913 catalogs.

With the new bodies on the Touring Cars an improvement came in the top support. Instead of having the front support straps running all the way to the front of the chassis, they now hooked to a bracket at the windshield hinge. The tubular metal windshield supports to the front of the chassis were continued, however.

This new 1912 series of cars lasted but a part of the year. In September 1912 (perhaps even a bit earlier) the 1913 body style was introduced. The last of the 1912 Torpedos were “sold out” in October 1912, to be replaced with the 1913 style. (While called “Torpedos” by Ford in later years, the 1912 Torpedo was the last car of this name to have the rear-mounted gasoline tank.) Although the new 1913 Touring was shown in the fall, the older Town Car continued. The Delivery Car was still shown, although none had been built for several months. It had proved to be a poor seller, and it took a little time to get rid of the stock. 513 Delivery Cars were sold after October 1, 1912, but all were “old stock.” The last one was sold in December 1912, and that was the end of the Model T Delivery Car business, although accessory bodies of this style, provided by outside suppliers, were used on the Ford chassis in later years.

Most of the 1912 Fords used the “1912” 12-rivet rear axle which had been introduced in the summer of 1911. Based on seemingly original cars, and from photos of later 1912 cars, it would appear that the “1913” rear axle was introduced in the later part of 1912, before the 1913 models. (The 1913 axle is the type used from 1913 through early 1915, with the “fatter” center section having a shape similar to all later Model Ts.)

The engines in the 1912 cars continued in the 1911 pattern. The serial-number boss was located just behind the timing gear housing on the right side until about number 100,000, when it was moved to a location just behind the water inlet on the left side. Shortly after that, it was again moved to the standard location above the water inlet. The actual date of these changes is not known; the 100,000 figure is approximate.) 1912 cylinder blocks were not marked with the “Made in USA.”

The “Made in USA” on the cylinder head appeared late in the year and is believed to have been before the introduction of the 1913 models. The bulk of 1912 production had only “Ford” cast into the head (plus the usual foundry identification numbers).

The standard carburetor used on the 1912 cars was the Holley H-1 (P/N 4550), introduced in 1911. There were also Kingston “6-ball” carburetors used in limited numbers but Ford did not list the Kingston in the parts books.

Early 1912 production used a new aluminum timer with an integral oil-filler spout. The timing gear cover used with this timer had no oil filler spout. This timer proved to be unsatisfactory and was replaced with another aluminum timer of what was to become the standard design. The timing gear cover once again had the oil spout. Both of these 1912 covers had the fan adjustment screw on the right side, and this screw bore against a boss at the engine end of the fan support arm, a system which continued until the 1926 models.

The ignition coil box for 1912 was either the Heinze 4600 or the Kingston 4675. The Heinze box used coils which measured 2-5/16 by 3-1/16 by 5 inches. The Kingston used coils which were 2-9/16 by 2-5/16 by 5-3/4 inches. It is possible that some of the earlier Kingston 4660 boxes were used in early 1912 production. This box used the same coils as the 4675 box.

1912 is believed to have been the last year in which dust pans were installed at the factory between the transmission and the frame. These pans may have been discontinued much earlier; some sources say as early as late 1910. The pans at the sides of the engine continued, of course, throughout Model T production.

The fuel tank used in the 1912 cars (other than the Torpedo) continued in the pattern of the 1911’s, with the mounting brackets riveted to the tank. The sediment bulb was located to the center of the tank, directly over the universal joint. The tank was again modified during the year, this time to use separate mounting brackets, and with the bulb between the frame rail and the driveshaft—the location used on the round (and oval) tanks until the end of the Model T era.

The aluminum hood continued the pattern of the 1911’s. Sometime during this period the hold-down clamps, still forged, were given another “ear,” adding to the owner’s convenience since he did not now have to look at the clamp to put it in place. Real progress here!

The bulb horn on the 1912’s began with the double-twist, all-brass type. Early on, these were superseded with an all-brass single-twist type. Later in the year the black and brass single-twist horn appeared, before the 1913 models. 1912 truly began the “black and brass” era.

Headlamps were generally either E&J 666 with the Ford script, and all brass, or the Brown Model 19. As with the horn, the black and brass lamps appeared later in the year. These were E&J 666 or Brown 16.

Side lamps were all brass E&J “Pat. 1908” or Brown 100. The black and brass E&J 30 or 32, or the Brown 110 (and perhaps the Corcoran and Victor lamps of 1913) appeared later in the year. The tail lamps were E&J “Pat. 1908” or Brown 105, with the E&J 10 or 12, and the Brown 115 (black and brass) appearing later.

The radiator continued in the pattern of the 1911’s, with the cast filler neck. There was no “Made in USA” under the Ford script during most of the year but this may have been added before the 1913 models.

Speedometers were standard equipment. They were all apparently Stewart Model 26, in two styles, both all-brass. The first Stewart 26 had round holes in the face for the odometer; five across the upper part, and three across the lower part for the trip odometer. The later Model 26 used a drum-type odometer, with the drums appearing through rectangular holes across the upper half of the face. Black and brass models may have appeared later in the year.

1912 was the last year in which the hard-rubber knobs were used for the spark and throttle levers. These were replaced with levers with flattened ends. It is possible that some early 1913 style cars used the rubber knobs but these were just transitional models.

The steering column itself continued in the style of the 1911’s; with the brass gear case, brass-plated levers, the fifteen-inch black-painted steering wheel with the forged iron spider, and the brass quadrant. Earlier production 1912 cars used the bronze steering wheel spider, perhaps being painted black.

Upholstery in the open cars was for the most part leather but some leatherette seems to have been used in later production.

PRODUCTION FIGURES

1912 is the only Model T production year in which no verifiable production figures have been found. The existing records indicate 1912 production began with engine number 68,877 but other records show numbers above 70,000 as having been built in September 1911. (The 1912 Ford fiscal year began October 1, 1911 and ended September 30, 1912.) Our official “guesstimate” is that “1912” cars would be in the engine number range of 70,750 to 157,424. The earlier numbers, of course, would be 1911-style cars. The later numbers could be “1913” models. Serial numbers for the calendar year 1912 were from 88,901 to 183,563. In addition 12,247 “B-numbered” engines were used between October 1, 1912 and January 1, 1913. These went into “1913” models. Interestingly, too, the regular serial numbers skipped 12,247 numbers between 157,xxx and 169,xxx; this gap being filled with the 12,247 B-numbers.

1912 was a strange year in that there was no numerical sequence in the use of serial numbers versus assembly dates. It would seem that engines were assembled and stored for future use. Sort of a first-in, last-out sequence. This was particularly true in the last three months when the B-numbered engines were used. The lower numbers were used in December while the higher numbers were used in October, again in a random sequence.

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© Bruce W. McCalley. Rev. July 1, 2000.