15 Fun Facts About the Ford Model T
In December of 1999, the Global Automotive Elections Foundation named the venerable Tin Lizzie as the Most Influential Car of the 20th Century. The iconic, sputtering, wooden-wheeled, Model T first rolled off the assembly line in 1908 and remained, essentially unchanged, for almost 20 years. Here’s a list of things many people don’t know about Henry Ford’s famous Fliver.
- The Model T had no transmission, as we know it. There was a gearbox, but it only offered one speed. You would push the shift forward to take the vehicle out of neutral and engage the drive train. To go in reverse, you would depress a pedal on the floor.
- Charles Kettering of what later became AC Delco, developed the first electric starter. It was available only on Cadillac models beginning in 1912. It would be several years before Ford began offering the option as a retrofit. Most T owners were uninterested due to the higher cost.
- The cranks used to start Model Ts were very dangerous. They could kick back and break your arm, and occasionally, the car would literally throw the crank as a high velocity missile.
- The bodies and interiors were made of wood. Thin sheet metal was nailed over the
wooden body parts. The fenders however were made of sheet stock.
- Several varieties were available, including a 4-door Touring model, but most Ts only had one door, and one bench seat. The driver would either climb into his seat, or slide across from the passenger side.
- Cranking your model T wasn’t the only headache in getting it started. The choke and throttle controls were mounted on the steering column. You would set them both at mid-point, go out and start cranking, and as soon as the engine caught – you would run back and adjust the idle. If you didn’t get there quick enough, the engine would die.
- Although Ford paid his employees more than any other auto manufacturer, they were required to sign a contract stating that as soon as they became financially able to do so, they had to buy a Ford.
- He was also a vehement racist. He refused to hire anyone who was not a White Protestant. Prospective employees had to sign a morals contract in which they would agree – among other things – to regularly attend church.
- Women were hired to work in the offices, but were not allowed onto the factory floor for any reason. Ford believed their presence would upset the line workers. Only single women could work at Ford, for fear of pregnancy leave. Women also had to sign contracts stating that they would not date or marry, during their time of employment.
- Ford and others offered kits to convert the Model T to just about anything you could want it to be. One variant for example was the Snowflier. Here, a second set of drive wheels was added, and fitted with a set of tracks. Skis replaced the front wheels. It was, in essence, the first snowmobile. In another case, a traveling minister set up his Model T to power a portable pipe organ.
- The car had no speedometer. A glass thermometer atop the radiator cap monitored the engine temperature. Top speed was about 30mph. One model, the Speedster could attain 40mph. The stock engine put out 20 hp, but the Speedster boasted 25.
- Although Ford is known for stating that customers could buy a Model T painted any color they wished, as long as it were black, the earliest Ts were not available in black, at all. The first colors were gray, green, blue and red. By 1912, they switched to Midnight blue for all models. The iconic black was introduced as a cost saving measure during WWI.
- All Model Ts were built with a permanently affixed jack stand on the rear axle. This would allow the owner to remove the rear wheel and place a flat belt on the hub. The car could then be used to power farm equipment. This was factory standard on all Model Ts, right up to the 15 millionth produced in 1927.
- When only two roads existed in the entire state of Kansas – one going North to South, and one going East to West – two Model Ts crashed at the only intersection. Both drivers walked away, unscathed.
- Very few antique cars enjoy the longevity built into the Model T. Throughout the world, there are many Model Ts still running and in daily use, over a century old.