Recently we had a trip to The Benson Ford archive to work on some documentation. One day it seemed like time to go for a walk through the museum. As a matter of fact it is always a great time for that. The Henry Ford Museum and the adjacent Greenfield Village complex and farm are one of the many great things that resulted from the genius and vision of Henry Ford and the industrial greatness that is typical of of Detroit. Let’s take a trip through the museum and see the exhibits this month.
A brand new 1912 Model T Ford Torpedo Runabout being delivered to the first owner. The travelling salesman was beginning to be a common thing in the United States in 1912. Many of the torpedo sales shown in the Accounts Receivables are group sales to business owners. The torpedo was often converted to a light truck or other utility vehicle. Notice the car above has a black painted aluminum crank handle. E & J headlamps are both hinged on the same side, there were never left / right hinged headlamps from E & J originally.
Recently I was privileged to be introduced to Ken Kennedy who is the manager of the driving collection of cars at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Ken is quite a clever Model T mechanic, and he also is a T owner. Ken drives his own Model T’s on tours and local club events. This guy has what must be the dream job to end all dream jobs for a Model T enthusiast. He gets paid to do what the rest of us have to do for free. The driving collection at the Henry Ford consists of 14 Model T’s, a TT tow truck, and several Model AA trucks. There is also a Model AA bus. Let’s take a look at the shop, and learn what it takes to care for this fleet of lovely antique vehicles.
The color plate above is the cover of the spring 1912 United States edition Model T catalogue. The image is a bit misleading since this style of touring body was no longer being produced by that date and all cars now came equipped with a fixed driver side door and functional passenger side door. Certain parts are not finished appropriately due to liberties taken by the chromolithographer. For example the parking brake lever should be black.
In this article we will examine the evolution of the touring body style during the 1912 model year. The rest of the industry had – for the most part – moved away from exposed wooden firewalls, open front compartments, and brass trim for their touring cars. Ford was making so many cars so quickly that change was sometimes well behind the rest of the industry. As a practical matter, Ford had to place orders to its suppliers for tens of thousands of parts at a time. Changing anything might have a domino effect on scores of other components. As we shall see, Ford, while leading the industry in sales, production numbers, and profitability was playing catch up in terms of styling. As was always the case Ford used each change as a way to not only improve the appearance of its cars, but to make them better for their customer, easier to manufacture, and more profitable all at the same time.