The “1911” model year is believed to have begun in late October 1910. Existing Ford Factory Shipping records show that, other than for a number of special order cars supplied in a number of colors for various customers, all “1910” Fords were “green.” These records also show that beginning about October 25, “blue” Runabouts began to be built along with green Tourings, and about November 19 “blue” Tourings joined the green, both colors being built for a short time.

On October 26, these Ford records show a blue runabout with doors, built with a “sample body” on a chassis which had been assembled October 5. This was, no doubt, the first Torpedo Runabout. A mix of green and blue Tourings continued until early December, then all cars were blue. We presume the blue cars were the 1911 models. Of course, we don’t know if the Touring bodies on the blue cars were “1911” style and the green cars were “1910.” Serial numbers in this era were in the 33,000 to 34,500 range and it would be interesting to know if there were blue 1910’s and/or green 1911’s. In any event, it is believed that the 1911 style year began with the introduction of blue as the standard color.

By 1911 the Model T Ford had become a major success. Ford had orders on the books for every car it could produce but could not build enough cars to keep pace with the increasing orders. Supplying the needs of its market was not a new problem for the Ford Motor Company, however. Sales of the N-R-S models had been much higher than anticipated, and the new Model T was selling at an even greater rate.

Ford had begun construction of its new Highland Park plant in 1909—the third assembly plant for a company which was just six years old at the time—in anticipation of the growing demand for its products. On January 1, 1910, the company began to move to the still-under-construction Highland Park plant but the move was a gradual one, and major production continued at the Piquette Avenue plant until late 1911.

The Highland Park plant was one of the first, if not the first, ever designed exclusively for the manufacture of automobiles. The plant was designed around the machines, instead of the usual method of adapting the machines to the building. Ford’s “moving assembly lines” had yet to be developed but the need for the machines to be located where the work was performed had become recognized. Up until this time the usual practice was to have all lathes, for example, in “the lathe department,” Ford’s new layout was to have the lathe located convenient to the flow of the work in which the lathe was needed.

A major signal for a “full speed ahead” was the final settlement of the Seldon Patent suit, after years of litigation, on January 9, 1911. Had this suit been lost, Ford could have been forced out of business, or at least saddled with tremendous fines and assessments, which would have severely crippled its ability to expand. The court’s decision in Ford’s favor signaled the beginning of a new era for the entire automobile industry.

On June 22, 1911, Ford purchased the John R. Keim Mills in Buffalo, New York. Keim was the supplier of the large, metal pressings such as the crankcase and rear axle housings for the Ford car. To no small extent, it was Keim that made the Model T possible. These large, metal pressings were major factors in enabling Ford to sell his car at such a low price. Along with the purchase of the company came many of Keim’s top men, including William S. Knudsen, John R. Lee, and William H. Smith. The major machinery at the Keim plant was shipped to Highland Park, and the Keim plant was converted for use as the Ford Buffalo assembly plant.

The “1911” Fords are of considerable interest because of the many major changes in the design of the Model T that were made during the year. Excluding the frame, almost every component of the car was either modified or changed completely. These changes included the engine, transmission cover, engine pan, front and rear axles and the wheels. To say nothing of the bodies themselves.

Using the Touring Car as the typical example, the 1911 style body consisted of metal panels which were attached to a wooden framework, replacing the all-wood construction used in 1910. Much of the body was still wood, such as the lower side panels, the door frames, etc., but the major portions were now metal-skinned—a considerable improvement, not only in durability but also in the reduction of the cost. The new body had the square-shaped doors, the open front compartment, and the “step” (or inset) in the side panels under the seat areas. The body lines were continuous and less abrupt than the 1909-1910 styling. This design continued until early 1912 when it was superseded with the 1912 style which featured a more integrated rear door design and smooth (no-step) side panels, and an enclosed front compartment made possible by the use of removable front “doors.” The tool compartment door on the rear seat kick panel, seen on the 1909 and 1910 Tourings, continued on at least some bodies (Hayes, it is believed) until about July.

The Runabout (roadster) was similar to the 1910 in style but did not use the same body as the earlier cars. The Coupe and Town Car bodies had but minor changes, if any. The Coupe had never been a popular model, selling just 187 in 1910, and was phased out in 1911 with a production of just forty-five units. Production of the Town Car was not much better, with just 315 being produced. The Tourabout and Landaulet were discontinued, none being built in fiscal year 1911 (October 1, 1910 to September 30, 1911) according to existing production records.

New for the 1911 model year, and introduced in late 1910, were the Open Runabout and the Torpedo Runabout. Very few were actually assembled in calendar 1910 but for some reason a good number of those built in January and February 1911 used chassis which were assembled in October 1910. These were similar cars, differing mainly in that the Torpedo had an enclosed passenger compartment with doors while the Open Runabout did not. Interestingly, while these models are considered very desirable today, they did not prove too popular then, due to the difficulty in entering and exiting them, and the less comfortable seating position. The design was dropped late in the year in favor of a Torpedo based on the standard Runabout but with doors added. These new models were called “1912.”

The 1911 Open Runabout and the Torpedo Runabout were probably the most “racy” Model T Fords ever produced. The seats were moved rearward and lowered by moving the gasoline tank to the rear deck. The hood was made longer by about two inches, and the bottom section of the windshield sloped back, all of which gave the car a longer and lower appearance. Adding to the style were the lower body, longer and curved front and rear fenders, the shorter running boards, and the lower and longer steering column.

The top support irons on the open cars were now an integral part of the body, rather than being the “added on” frame rail used in 1909-10. The tops on the open cars were still held with the straps which attached to the front of the car at the headlights. During the year, though, the separate eyelet used to accept the top strap hook was dropped in favor of a loop-hole integral with the headlamp fork.

Tops, side curtains, lamps and speedometer were standard equipment on all open cars (as they had been in 1910). Strangely, lamps were not standard on the more expensive closed cars. (Lamps may have become standard on the closed cars, but the 1911 catalogs show them as options.)

Fenders were also redesigned for 1911. While they followed the same general style as the 1910 cars, they were now of a less complicated design, one which set the general design pattern for all future Model T’s. The rear fenders, now nearly mating with the body, fastened to the body with short support irons instead of the complicated and flimsy “butterfly” style used earlier. These new fenders were wider and longer, and had a more “finished” appearance.

New, too, were the running boards. Now with the familiar diamond pattern, they set the pattern for the next fifteen years. The 1911 (and 1912) boards differed from the later ones, though, in that the “Ford” ran lengthwise instead of across the board. (The “Made in USA” was added during 1912). Interestingly, shipping invoices during June 1911 show the use of “1910 running boards.” It would appear that some old stock was found somewhere, and there was no sense in wasting it.

The splash aprons were longer, greatly reducing the open look at the rear, and giving the car a more finished appearance. They featured a noticeable bulge at the rear, necessary to clear the brake rods.

Headlights were all-brass and were either Brown model 19 or Edmond & Jones (marked “Made by E&J, Detroit, Mich.”). The E&J were the model 666, although the older 466 also seemed to have been used in early 1911. Side lamps were Brown 85 or E&J. The tail lamps were Brown 75 or 78, or E&J. E&J side and tail lamps were marked “Pat. 1908.”

Initial 1911 running gear was the same as the later 1910 cars. The rear axle was the six-rivet “1911” type (with the reinforcements around the center flange bolt holes), introduced in October 1910, and continued the use of the non-tapered axles. Wheel-hub flanges were increased to six-inches diameter. This change in hub size may have occurred when the tapered axles appeared; the writer has not seen evidence of a six-inch non-tapered rear hub. The wheels themselves were of heavier construction. Tapered-end axles were introduced during 1911, and the entire assembly was changed beginning in July to the “1912 axle.”

It is possible that the tapered axle first appeared in the 6-rivet rear end. Internally, the differential spider was modified to have larger arms (5/8” instead of 9/16”), which required new differential gears with 5/8” holes (with bronze bushings) and a new differential carrier. The pinion bearing spool was also changed and now used 13/32” studs instead of the 3/8” used in 1910. The dates of these changes are not known but they may have been at the time of the change to the “1912” axle in July 1911.

The “1912” axle differed from the “1911” in that it had a cast iron center section with the steel axle tubes flared and riveted to the center casting with twelve rivets. The design was thinner than the later types, and is commonly called the “twelve-rivet clamshell” rear axle. Perhaps an improvement, it too had severe flaws and was replaced with the “1913” (1913-1914) type in late 1912 after little over a year in production.

The front axle was redesigned and now used “two-piece” spindles (separate steering arm instead of the one-piece forging) beginning in January 1911. This change began at about car number 36,972 on January 31, but did not appear on all cars at once. About August the right-hand spindle arm was redesigned to now include a hole for the speedometer swivel assembly.

Many changes were made to the engine and transmission assembly. Initially, the 1910 style continued unchanged. Beginning in February 1911 a “new transmission cover” began to be used, along with a “1911 wide pan.” The new cover still had the “square door” but it and the pan were somewhat wider than the earlier type to allow room for a redesigned flywheel magneto. The engine pan was again redesigned and during March the pan with the “removable bottom” (inspection door) began to be used. Then about June the transmission cover was redesigned again and now had the tapered inspection hole. The inspection hole cover was heavy pressed steel and was embossed “Ford” in script.

The engine itself started out the same as the 1910 type. In January 1911 the main bearings in the block were given babbitt linings. (1909-10 engines had no babbitt in the block; the crank ran against the cast iron.) Beginning about April, the cylinder casting was also altered to accept metal covers over the valve chambers. In April the first “1911 engine throughout” appeared on the shipping invoices. We presume these were the closed-valve type with the latest inspection-door pan (but with the square-hole transmission cover). Engines of old and new types (open and closed valve) continued until sometime in June, after which time all apparently were “all 1911” engines.


A wise man might respond “no comment” if asked about the colors used on 1911 Fords. Ford specified “blue” on all production other than a few special cars built for special people. Yet black and green “1911” cars are around which appear to be original. Some seemingly original cars seen today have all black bodies (including fenders, etc.) and some have black bodies with blue fenders. Ford’s records list no black cars at all, and no green cars built after December 1910, except for a few Open Runabouts and Town Cars built during April 1911.

Most 1911 cars were painted blue according to factory records. This blue was extremely dark, appearing almost black. It is possible this blue oxidized to black, or that the blue was a final coat over black undercoats, and the that the blue vanished in time. While the shipping invoices of the period did specify “blue” they don’t say if the body was blue or the fenders were blue. The situation could have been similar to that in 1926 when Fords came in green and maroon but all had black fenders and running boards. Maybe the fenders were blue and the bodies were black on 1911 Fords. In any event, according to the Ford records, all 1911 Fords were “blue,” in spite of the appearance of “black” or “green” cars that have survived. The only exceptions noted in the records were a number of RED Open Runabouts (not Torpedo Runabouts) and GREEN Town Cars, built in early April, 1911. These colors were in addition to the standard blue Open Runabouts and Town Cars built during the same month.

Some striping of the body, fenders and running gear continued until about August. At that time the striping of the fenders, and front and rear axles was discontinued. Body striping continued through most of 1911 and 1912 but apparently not on all cars. All striping was done in French gray. Being a hand operation, by different painters, there are many variations is the style and placement of the striping. In general, the body was striped inside the body moldings, not on them.

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