Above we see Dr. David O’Donnell and his family with their 1911 Model T touring. The car shows many features typical of 1911 including E&J model 666 headlamps and E&J Pat 1908 all brass side lamps. Perhaps the carbide generator has been moved to the passenger side of the car to make room for spare tires on the driver side running board. Also notice the double twist horn, again typical of 1911. The inlet tube for the horn now is raked downwards, almost matching the angle of the floor boards. This is an improvement over the 1909 – 10 double twist horns which have the inlet tube running parallel to the running board. Notice the bulge in the left front tire – and the low air pressure in the rear tire. He’s going to need those spares!
The 1911 Model T Fords were different from the previous 1910 model year cars in many significant ways. The restorer has all the information available, and many of the sheet metal parts, complete bodies, lamps, radiators, coil boxes, are available brand new. It seems like it should be easy to get the details right. Let’s try and show what a 1911 Model T should look like.
Above, wheels were dark blue, often with much more extensive pin striping than we see here. Hubcaps for 1911 have Ford script for the first time seen on any Ford. Notice that the Ford script is raised and there is no circle around the word Ford, and nowhere on the car does it say “Made in USA”.
Museums are places where we can go to see objects displayed as they were in years past. Often the museum cannot display the item as it was found, because that would not be very interesting or informative. Many of the things that we see in museums are reconstructed, restored, or even complete reproductions. At the American Museum of Natural History as an example, we see fantastic exhibitions of dinosaurs that once dominated the earth. If we read the fine print on the signs we can see that what is on display is largely if not completely a reproduction, the original parts having vanished over the years, lost forever.
It is quite unusual to find an object that is over 106 years of age that is largely intact, and indeed well preserved, still able to operate as it did when new. Such is the case with the 1911 Model T Ford touring owned by Tom Helf. While the story of how the car was preserved over the years is not known beyond 40 or so years ago, the fact is that it was kept out of the weather for the most part. Let’s examine the car closely and enjoy what has been kept for so long by each of it’s owners in amazing condition. Not in a museum, but in each owner’s careful possession over more than a century, we can learn a lot from this amazing specimen.
Available body styles were the Touring, Open Runabout, Torpedo Runabout, Roadster with Rumble Seat, Town Car and Coupe. Ford also sold the bare chassis less body but it was not a catalogued version.
The 1911 model year is an interesting one for the Model T restorer because changes happened virtually every week. We are blessed to be able to track many of the major changes both by date and by serial number because Ford kept very meticulous engineering records, many of which are still in existence at the Benson Ford Archive in Dearborn Michigan on microfiche. Also the Benson Ford has production records for many individual 1911 Model T’s in the form of “build sheets”. Finally we have letters to dealers and the Accounts Receivable records, all of which make the 1911 Model T both easy to document yet a nightmare to restore properly.
At the beginning of the 1911 model year cars were still being built just as they had been for the end of the 1910 model year. Bodies were still all wood construction with wooden paneling. The exterior color of all cars was “Brewster Green” a very dark green, with green fenders and splash aprons and running boards. The 1911 model year would bring nearly a total redesign of the car, spread out over the months ahead.
In mid October 1910 the first of the new metal skinned bodies, serial number 32,200 came down the line. Apparently an experiment, it was surrounded by the earlier all wood bodies. All cars were still being painted Brewster Green. By November 1910 all bodies were the new steel skinned style. In mid December 1910 starting about serial number 34,000 all cars would be painted dark blue with French Grey pin striping.
Above is a typical 1911 touring with its metal skinned body finished in the new blue color. The blue was very dark, nearly black. Pin striping was in French Grey and quite extensive on the body, hood, fenders, wheels and running gear.
Ford planned and implemented extensive changes for the 1911 model year. The cars of 1909- 1910 were relatively unchanged during their run, and with good reason. Ford had an extraordinary success on its hands. Any changes that were made in those early years were to fix design flaws or to streamline assembly and production. The first of the new “1911” Fords to be released to the public were the new Torpedo Runabout body style introduced on October 5, 1910. The new Torpedo Runabout had a steel paneled body and curved fenders front and rear. Both of these features were unheard of in previous Model T production. The hood was lengthened, and the steering column, longer to compensate for the lengthened hood, was placed at a lower angle to give a more “racy” appearance. A sporty Model T Ford was being built.