1908 Ford Model T

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The Ford Model T has an extensive history in the automotive market lasting for nearly 20 years. It is often called the ’Tin Lizzie’ and the ’Flivver’ and is credited with ’putting America on wheels.


During the early 1900’, a recent invention called the automobile – changed the means of transportation. With a market stretching between just a couple of hundreds models, many decided to invest in these horseless carriages that could carry people around.

Steam, electricity, and gasoline were the three means of powering the vehicles. Everyone was clueless regarding which of the above are the most favorable power-source. Steam was quite, clean and cheap. Gasoline or kerosene fuel was used to heat water in a boiler; the steam produced was channeled to the cylinders, where the pressure drives the pistons up and down. The shortcomings were that it took a while to start, having to wait for the steam to prepare. It was dangerous, often exploding and causing injury. It had a limited range, lasting about 20-40 miles before requiring a refueling. Electricity was popular but it too had a limited range. It was easy to start and was very popular with the ladies for driving around town. Gasoline on the other hand was dirty and hard to start but it had the most potential and an ever increasing amount of power.

 During the beginning of the century there were almost 200 automobile manufacturers. Each made approximately 200 vehicles per year. And then there was Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. He created an unprecedented vehicle that was affordable and mass produced. By this Henry Ford ensured the future of what today is probably one the biggest giants in automotive industry. Using an assembly line process was not new, it had been done before in the meat packing industry. William C. Klan had visited a slaughterhouse in Chicago. Upon returning from his visit, he proposed the idea to Peter Martin. A team was assembled and perfected through trial and error. The assembly line did not begin operation on the Model T until 1914. The assembly line process streamlined the production greatly, now averaging just over 90 minutes to assemble a car. During 1914, there were more Ford’s produced than all other manufacturers combined. At that point ’you get it in any color you wanted so long as it was black’. Henry Ford favored the black color because it dried the fastest. During the years 1917 through 1923, Ford did not do any advertising, with 9 out of 10 cars being Fords, none was necessary.

Between 1920 and 1926 the Ford T00666 Passenger Car began its life on the assembly lines. It was practically the same car, but with a soft-top. It was one of the first convertibles affordable enough for everyone.

Ford Model T

Engine & Mechanics

Engineers equipped the Model T with a front-mounted engine. It was 2.9L in-line 4 with a capacity of 177 cubic inches. This early power plant created a staggering 20 Hp (15kW) and a top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h). As recorded the mileage was somewhere between 25 – 30 mpg (7.8-9.4 L / 100 KM). What was intriguing about this engine was the fact that it was capable of running on gasoline and ethanol. The last one was dropped out of usage due to constant decrease of gasoline prices and later on due to the Era of Prohibition.
The Ford Model T started with a twist of a hand crank. But before you could turn it, the spark had to be retarded, just as safety measure – not to break your arm if the engine was to kick back. Most Model T Fords had the choke operated by a wire emerging from the bottom of the radiator where it could be operated with the left hand while cranking the engine with the right hand. Most cars sold after 1919 were equipped with electric starting.
If you look at it today, the Ford Model T could be a considered a high-risk automobile. The fuel tank was mounted just beneath the driver’s seat. A thin tin frame separated 10 gallons of gasoline and the driver. There also was a model that had modified a carburetor to run specifically on ethyl alcohol (which could easily be made at home by the self-reliant farmer).

As physics show us, fuel relied on gravity to flow forward from the fuel tank to the carburetor. Therefore a Ford Model T could never have climbed a steep hill if the fuel level was to low. Solution was to climb the hills in reverse. Later on in 1926 engineers decided to move the fuel tank under the cowl on most of the models.

Henry Ford decided to discard the water-pump, which was equipped on the first few hundred Model Ts. Instead he chose a cheaper solution. He applied a circulation system based on the thermo-siphon principle. Hot water, being less dense would rise to the top of the engine and up into the top of the radiator, descending to the bottom as it cooled, and back into the engine. This was available until the introduction of the crossflow radiator designs. Water pumps were also available as an aftermarket accessory for Model T. 
Ford Model T

Suspensions, Brakes and Wheels

Model T suspension employed a transversely mounted semi-elliptical spring for each of the front and rear axles, which were "live”. Just like most of the car parts, the front axel was forged as a single piece of vanadium steel.

Model T did not have a modern service brake. The right foot pedal applied a band around a drum in the transmission, thus stopping the rear wheels from turning. The previously mentioned parking brake lever operated band brakes on the outside of the rear brake drums

Wheels were wooden artillery wheels, with steel welded-spoke (not truly wire) wheels available in 1926 and 27 from Ford. Tires were pneumatic 30 inches in diameter, 3.5 inches wide in the rear, 3 inches in the front. The old nomenclature for tire size changed from 30X3 to 21" (rim diameter) X 4.50 (tire width). Wheelbase was 99 inches; while standard tread width was 56 inches, 60 inch tread could be obtained on special order, "for Southern roads".

Ford Model T


Ultimately, this combination of efficiency and high wages led to the fulfillment of Ford’s prediction. The Model T was, indeed, a motor car for the masses. Not only was it cheap, but thanks in part to Ford’s wage scales, ordinary workers for the first time had the disposable income necessary to purchase one. With the Model T, the automobile, which had once been an expensive plaything for the wealthy, began its transformation into an everyday necessity.

Ford Model T

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