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Friday, October 19, 2012

Almost a Barn Find - a 1927 Ford Model T Roadster

This is an original - all metal - 1927 Ford Model T Roadster.

I have always wanted to own a Model T Ford - here was my chance. Tom had posted his for sale in Craigslist a few weeks back - I contacted him to go take a look at it. Yesterday - Lulu and I drove the Prius about 25 miles east of town. Lulu usually does not like to go along on my "American Pickers" tours although she does not miss that show when it comes on TV.

Henry Ford built the Model T from 1908 to 1928. He sold over 20 million of them. At one time - 50% of all the cars in the world were Model T's. No - Henry did not invent the automobile. Henry did not even invent the production line or interchangeable parts - but he did take all those ideas and roll them into one. While other cars were selling for thousands of dollars - Ford produced cars for $250 each. He did this on a production line in Detroit that paid workers $5 a day - double what the going rate was back then. When Hitler started producing the VW - he was trying to emulate Ford. ford built a factory where iron ore came in one end on a boat and cars came out the other end on a railroad.

It has a 4 cylinder Ford flathead engine.

Because Ford made so many Model T's - and because he made them so well - there are still quite a few around. Because many of the car collectors that loved Model T's are dying - it has caused the prices to remain moderate even falling in the last 10 years. Now muscle cars from the 1950s and 1960s are more popular.

Tom has owned this Model T for 15 years. He owns a beautiful "cracker farm" east of town. He and his wife have lived there for 35 years. There are all sorts of toys spread out showing their interests through the years. Tom met us at the gate - and we followed his car like a big ship would follow a pilot boat into the harbor. When we got to the house - Tom got out and gave us the warmest greeting. Tom - like myself was wearing hearing aids - something I once feared for vanity - now I look at them as "glasses for the ears."

The interior was redone - it was a little dirty - but would not have taken much to get it to show condition.

First we saw - a big new motor home with 13,000 miles on it. Did I say big? It was the size of a Grayhound bus and had electric slideouts that made it three times as wide. It was bigger than my son's luxury condo in Washington DC. Tom reminded us that it was for sale.

Next there was a row of cars under the carport - a restored silver Karman Ghia VW with a brand new engine - a 1929 Ford Model A Sedan - and a 1956 Chevy pickup with a 235 six cylinder engine with 3 on the column. But what we really came to see - was sitting in an old barn behind the house. Tom pulled up the door - there is was - every car nuts dream - a Model T Roadster sleeping in a manger.

Tom owned this 1927 Ford Model T Roadster for 15 years. He did a frame off restoration and he and his wife loved taking it to rallies all over the country. They would pull it in a trailer to places like Arizona - then drive around for a week in a club atmosphere. They did this for years until health slowed them down a bit.

It is kept in an old dusty barn - out back.

This roadster had a Ford flathead 4 cylinder engine. In the last few years - Ford put an electric starter on these cars - but it still had the crank "just in case." I had an MGA once that had a crank - so I had to give it a try. The car fired right up. Tom told me the little improvements he made - things that were common during the Ford "common man mechanic" era. This car had a distributor - an alternator - a 12 volt ignition system - and rear caliper brakes. There is a choke that can be operated from inside the car or from the bumper when you are cranking it. Gasoline was fed by gravity from a 10 gallon gas tank in front of the windshield. You checked the gas level with a wooden ruler. These cars were not efficient - maybe 16 miles per gallon. My 6000 pound van does that well now.

Tom had a few other gems - a 1929 Model A Sedan - and a 1956 Chevy Pickup.

The paint on the Ford was excellent - a little dusty and dirty - but I could easily have this thing spotless in a few hours. The seats were redone and it had a new droptop - which was easily put up or down - even when moving. There was a big trunk where some folks would mount a second - rumble seat. Most Model T's had wooden spoked wheels - this one had metal spoked wheels that had been powder coated by Tom. The front wheels on the T did not have brakes.

Driving a Model T was different - not hard - but many ladies mastered the technique easily when they wanted to get to town. The controls are 3 pedals and 3 hand levers. One - A big hand lever on the left was the emergency brake. When you pushed it forward you engaged the transmission - pulling back wrapped a band around the drive shaft. Two - the left pedal was first and second gear - first forward - second back out. Three - the middle pedal was reverse. Four - the right pedal was the brake. Five - on the steering wheel on the left was the spark lever. You were able to advance and retard the spark to smooth out the engine - sort of like tuning on the fly. Six - The right lever on the steering wheel was the throttle - like cruise control.

Tom took me for a long ride - offered to let me drive but I did not want to wreck a car that made it 85 years without a dent. There was no speedometer or odometer - a single ammeter on the dash showed you the battery was charging. A thermometer on the radiator cap let you know if you needed to add water. We cruised along at about 35 MPH - Tom said it will do maybe 45 MPH tops.

I feel old and this car is almost 25 years older than me. I hope I am in that good shape at 85. I will probably make Tom an offer on this gem - which will probably be turned down. Tom loves this car and  you can see he savored every moment telling me about it. Lulu was not as excited as I was - she went back in the Prius and took a nap. Her reward was a nice supper in Monticello and then a nice walk in the mall. Back to reality.

 You can see the wooden steering wheel and the ooh-gah horn button.

Note the alternator and distributor are not stock.

Tom said it was easier getting in the right side not fighting the steering wheel.

This VW Karmann Ghia was perfect with a brand new engine.

We drove out to the Shell Station and checked the gas tank with a ruler.

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