Tuesday, 11 October 2011

English T Variations - Ford Model T

Ford Motor Company started manufacturing vehicles in 1903 and that same year three Model A's were exported to Great Britian, by 1909 the Ford Motor Company (England) was established and began working from an Office in London on March 8th 1911.

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Ford's first overseas assembly plant was opened in 1911 at Trafford Park in Manchester where Ford Model T's were assembled with imported chassis, mechanical parts and locally manufactured bodies. The 1911 Model T above has the distinction of being the first car to be driven up Ben Nevis.

22 year old Henry Alexander, on the instruction of his father the first Ford dealer in Scotland, spent six weeks preparing a route to the top Britains highest peak 4,409 ft / 1,344 m above sea level. It then took Mr Alexander 5 days to reach the summit along the precarious route he had prepared. Mr Alexander repeated the feat in 1928 and to mark Centenary of the Model T reaching the top of Ben Nevis, earlier this year a team of 71 volunteers carried a replica model T to the summit assembled it and then disassembled it and brought it back down again !

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Although the three pedal system for operating motor cars as used in most cars to this day was familiar when the first Model T's were built in 1908 the Model T relied on a hand throttle operated on the steering wheel a left pedal that when fully depressed engaged a low gear, when part depressed disengaged the gear box and when not depressed engaged a high gear. The centre pedal when depressed engaged reverse and the right pedal operated the brakes which were attached to the rear wheels only.

Above is a 1912 Landaulet offering minimal weather protection to the front seat occupants while giving the rear seat occupants a choice of protection thanks to a folding roof. The Landaulet body style was a hangover from the age of the horse drawn carriage and has largely disappeared only Maybach are known to offer a Landaulet option at the time of writing.

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When designing the Model T Henry Ford new that as well as a motor car he wanted his vehicle to be adaptable to the requirements of a great variety of users in agriculture and industry. Amongst the stranger applications of the Model T was the mobile aircraft starter version.

The long pole that extends beyond the front of this 1915 'Huck Starter' Model T can be aligned with the propellor shaft of an aeroplane and then engaged with it. The chain to the left of the operator connects the aeroplane starter shaft to the drive of the Model T which when engaged will rotate the aircraft engine until it fires under its own power.

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When production of the Model T started it took around 12 and half hours to assemble one. By the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 production time had been slashed to just 93 minutes , at one time nearly half of all the worlds motor vehicles were thought to be Fords, in the UK in 1919 41% of all new cars registered for the road were Fords.

The Model T was easily adapted into trucks and buses above is a 1923 fire engine that served on the estate of the Earl of Derbyshire from 1924 to 1948.

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One of the great myths about the Model T was that one could have a Model T any colour one wanted so long as it was black. In fact this was only true after 1914, up until then Model's T's were not available in black at all, from 1912 to 1914 Model T's were only available in Midnight Blue with black wings / fenders. After 1914 over 30 different black paints were developed to satisfy the various means of applying the paint to different parts of the cars.

The 1924 Model T above is little changed from the 1911 example seen at the top of the post.

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With over 15 million examples produced when production of the Model T ceased in 1927, the Model T held the title of the worlds most popular vehicle until 1972 when it was eclipsed by the VW Beetle, though it should be noted the Beetle had undergone many more changes in it's life time than the Model T.

The 1924 example above can be seen at the Attwell Wilson Museum.