1915-1923 “Centerdoor” Sedans

NOTE: For more information on the 1915-1923 Fords please refer to the specific year pages listed on the main Encyclopedia menu.

The Model T Ford Sedan built from late 1914 until mid-1923 is perhaps the rarest of all the common Ford body types. (The Town Car, of which very few exist today, is not considered a “common” body type.) It’s not that they didn’t build many; it’s mainly because they weren’t too popular and that they found their way to the junk yard a bit faster than the other models.

The 1915 Ford Sedan was announced in a letter to Ford branches dated September 23, 1914. Photos released at that time illustrated a car that saw little, if any, production. It featured carriage lamps on the side and gas headlights. Later photos show the same or similar car with large electric headlamps and oil cowl lamps. The 1915 Sedan, in production form, had a body made of aluminum panels over a wooden frame, and a design unlike the Sedans of 1916 and later. The “1915” Sedan required special rear fenders and splash aprons; had the gasoline tank under the rear seat, and is almost a study in itself. The price in 1915 was $975, a sizable sum in those days. Just 989 Sedans were built in fiscal 1915 (August 1, 1914 through July 31, 1915); this out of a total of 308,162 Fords, or just three tenths of one percent of the production.

1916 Sedans (those with the brass radiator) seem to have been of the steel-panel type which was typical of all later models. Few 1916’s have survived; the author has yet to see a “real” one. Ford produced 1,859 Sedans during fiscal 1916, just four tenths of one percent of the 501,462 Fords built that year.

Fiscal 1917 saw the production of Sedans grow to one percent of the total; 7,361 out of 735,020. Sedan production for later fiscal years was: 1918, 35,697 (5.4%); 1919, 24,980 (5%); 1920, 81,616 (8.7%). Ford records changed to the calendar year in 1921. 53,903 Sedans were built from August 1, 1920 until December 31, 1920 (11.6%). Calendar 1921 production was 125,831 (13%) and in 1922, 146,060 (11%). 1923 figures reflect some Tudor Sedans (introduced about July 1923) since Ford grouped all Sedans with two doors together in the production figures. 89,535 of both types were built during 1923 but just how many of these were the centerdoor type is not known. (Ford referred to the later Tudor Sedan as a “1924” model, incidentally.

It is no secret that the public was not too impressed with closed cars during the late ’teens. Not only did they seem top-heavy and unstable, they had a lot of glass—and this was before safety glass had been developed. People may have considered them unsafe but Ford did sell a lot of Coupes during the period, so price may have been the major factor.

Ford, of course, was not unique in offering a Sedan with the doors in the center of the body. Dodge and Chevrolet, to mention just two, had similar designs. The center door seemed quite practical at the time. Had the door been at the front, the front passenger would have to be the last person to get in the car, and the first to get out. With the center door, anyone could enter and exit without disturbing another passenger. The later Tudor, of course, changed this but apparently by that time the inconvenience was not considered serious.

The Centerdoor Sedan (which Ford never called a “centerdoor”) remained relatively unchanged during its eight year life span after the 1915 models. There were changes in the upholstery materials during the years; exposed wooden areas were covered with metal about 1922; the door handles changed from the bail type to “T” bar around late 1921, then to the “L” type about 1922. The strap window adjusters were changed to a ratchet type in 1922 in the front quarter and door windows. (The rear quarter windows continued with the strap.)

Being the “premium” car in the Ford line, the Sedan, along with the Coupe, got all the latest improvements before the open cars did. Beginning in January 1919, both closed-car types (Coupe and Sedan) came standard with electrical starting equipment and demountable-rim wheels. The oil side and tail lamps were discontinued at that time on these models. Open cars did not get these advancements until mid-year. The closed cars (and trucks) got the new roller front wheel bearings in 1919, also before the open models.

Prices of the Sedans changed as production increased. The price dropped from $975 to $740 in August 1915; to $645 in August 1916; then up to $695 in October 1917 (due to the World War); then to $875 in 1919 but this included the starter and demountables. The price went up again to $975 in March 1920, then down to $795 in September 1920. Following were a series of price decreases; to $660 in September 1921; $645 in January 1922; to $595 in October 1922—where it remained until the body type was replaced by the Tudor Sedan in mid-1923.

Ford Sedan bodies were not made by Ford. Apparently they were made by either Fisher or Wadsworth, and perhaps others. Not all parts were interchangeable between the different suppliers, so the manufacturer had to be specified when ordering body parts. This, coupled with the complex nature of the body, makes restoration of a Sedan a real challenge today.

The upholstering in the Sedans also varied, not only with the body maker but also during the production runs. In general the pattern was similar between the makers. From 1916 until 1919 it seems to have been a gray, white-striped material. The underside of the cowl was upholstered as well. The cowl upholstery was discontinued on some cars in 1919 but continued on others until 1922, being replaced with side panels similar to those used on the open cars. This upholstery material continued until about mid-1922 when a gray cloth with thin white stripes on the seats, doors, etc., was used. In mid-1922 the color was changed to brown, with and without stripes. (Generally, the seats and door used the striped material, while the headliner and body panels were plain brown.) There were many variations, judging from existing examples, and the subject of upholstery could be a study in itself.

Until about 1920, the Sedan was supplied with pull-down curtains over the rear window and the two rear quarter windows. In 1920 the quarter window curtains were discontinued.

The gasoline tank (after the 1915 models) was located under the driver’s seat, and had to be filled through the front quarter (driver’s) window. The single seat cushion was removable.

The front passenger seat, perhaps the most uncomfortable design ever produced, could be folded forward to allow the driver easier access. The rear seat was quite comfortable, particularly when compared with the front seats.

The body was considerably updated in mid-1922. Metal covers were added over the door posts, both on the body and on the door. The window moldings, which had been painted bare wood, were also covered with metal. It was at this time that the rail-type door pull handle inside the car was replaced with a finger grip pressed into the bottom window molding. Whether this was or was not an improvement is open to question; it was certainly less expensive. While the style of the car appeared unchanged, many of the body parts were different from those of the pre-1922 models.

By 1922 the centerdoor design was quite “old fashioned.” Other manufacturers were beginning to make inroads into the Ford market with Sedans of a more modern design. The public was becoming aware of the comforts offered by the closed car design, and as we now know, Sedans were to become the most popular of the body types.

The demand grew and Ford announced a new four-door Sedan in late 1922. Initially the four-door Sedan was sold only to customers who would not buy the older Sedan, and where a sale might be lost to another make of car. The centerdoor Sedan’s appeal declined, and by mid-1923 the new two-door (Tudor) Sedan, and a slightly modified four-door (Fordor) Sedan replaced the older models.

Ford’s Tudor and Fordor Sedans were a great improvement over the Centerdoor, but the older style has a certain “charm” which is lacking in the later cars.

VARIATIONS IN THE SEDAN
1916 to 1923 The 1915 Centerdoor Sedan was a unique model, using an aluminum body and many other variations from the later types covered in this study. Some details on the 1915 Sedan can be found in the 1915-1916 general coverage.

Most of the parts in the Sedan body were unchanged from 1916 until the end of production in mid-1923. Many but not all of those that changed are listed here. It should be noted that there were always minor variations during the years which made parts “different” yet they remained interchangeable. Such variations are not noted here, or in the Ford parts books. Furthermore, there are similar variations between manufacturers of the bodies.

Accompanying this data are Ford drawings of the Sedan bodies, taken from the Body Parts List. There are two sets; the 1916 to 1922, and the mid-1922 to 1923. The major difference is in the window lifts, door handles, and the metal coverings over some of the exposed wooden parts which had been just painted prior to 1922.

For ease in listing here, the “1922” models will refer to the later 1922 and 1923 bodies, while the other references will be to the 1916 through early 1922 cars. The Ford factory numbers are shown in parentheses.

Door anti-rattlers (T-5052 female and T-5053 male). New in the 1922 models.

Door lock anti-rattlers. T-8320A used beginning in 1919; changed to T-8320B in 1921.

Window anti-rattlers (T-9455). Used from 1916 until the 1922 models.

All parts related to the window lifters, unless noted elsewhere, were different after the 1922 cars in which the latching arrangement replaced the lift-strap system.

Driver’s and passenger’s seats came in malleable-iron type or a pressed-steel type during production. T-9681 (iron) and T-9681B (steel) were used until 1922. T-9681C (iron) was used in 1922-23, and two types of steel frames; T-9681D (1922) and T-9681E (1923). The last new numbers vary only in the color of the upholstery. These part numbers are for the frames with the upholstery and are for the driver’s seat back, but similar changes were made in the driver and passenger seat bottoms, and the passenger seat back.

The instrument panel was modified. T-10134 was used from 1919 until 1922, T-10134B was used in 1922-23.

The metal body door hinge pillar brace was T-9535 until 1922 (left and right). A new design came with the 1922 body; T-9553 (right) and T-9554 (left).

Floor carpets varied through the years, being essentially alike from 1916 until 1921, another color and pattern in 1921, and still another in 1922-23.

The front panel carpeting was discontinued in 1920.

In a major step towards luxury, the passenger seat bottom and rear kick panel were given carpeting in 1922.

Two thicknesses of rear window glass were used, requiring different window channels, during production. T-9506 was for the thin glass; T-9506B for the thicker. Apparently either might have been used at any time.

Upholstery cloth varied all through production. Where the same general color may have been standard, the actual pattern of the material evolved. It appears that there is no “correct” type for a give year since the variations seem to have been dependent on the suppliers. In general, though, the styling and overall pattern was similar from 1916 to 1921, changed in 1922 and again in 1923. The colors were some type of gray until 1922, then brown in 1922-23. Some of the browns were striped and others were plain, depending on the use. Likewise, there were two (or more) shades of gray trimming material used.

The metal covering over the window frames, etc., appeared in 1921 on some production, with the older type (bare painted wood) being made at the same time. Whether the metal covers appeared before the change in the window lifts, or at the same time is unknown to the author but the parts books seem to indicate the covers came first.

Seat cushions varied through the years, not only in color and pattern, but in general design. The rear seat cushion was T-9509 in 1916, T-9635 in 1917, T-9682 in 1918 and 1919, T-9621B in 1920 and 1921, T-9621C in 1922, and T-9621D in 1923. Similar changes were made in the driver and passenger seats.

Doors varied in details. T-9560 (right) and T-9561 (left) were used 1916-1918. T-9560B and T-9561B were used 1919-1921. T-9560C and T-9561C in 1922. T-9560D and T-9561D in 1923.

Door handles are listed as T-9058 (black) 1915-1918, T-9058B (nickel) 1919-1920,

T-9058C (“T” handle) in 1921, and T-9058D (“L” handle) in 1922-23.

Various body moldings changed over the years. For example, the roof drip molding was T-9297 from 1915 to 1921, T-9297B (side) and T-10290 (front) in 1922-23.

Most body wood pillars changed with the change of 1922. Variations in such parts depended on the manufacturer and with the type of door lock. In general, aside from differences between Fisher and Wadsworth bodies, parts were similar from 1916 to 1919, or 1916-1921 depending on the manufacturer, and apparently the 1922-23 parts were all alike.

Window curtains came in four types, depending on the supplier. Curtains were manufactured by Fisher, Curtain Supply Co., Stewart Hartshorn, and Ford.

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

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