The suspension of any Model T Ford consists of a transverse leaf spring mounted above each of the axles. It is a pretty simple arrangement, which Henry Ford called his “three point” suspension system. This was superior to the common semi – elliptical setup used on most cars of the day because it allowed a Model T’s suspension to pivot significantly on the fore / aft axis, allowing the car to have both traction and control over very uneven terrain. Roads in the days of the Model T Ford were generally bad, unpaved, muddy, and full of deep ruts.
The rear leaf springs used on the Model T evolved over the years as most parts of the car did. Here is a brief (but not comprehensive) overview of the rear spring changes over the production run.
Seven leaves – roadster, runabout, torpedo. End bushings either brass or bronze.
All springs were “taper leaf” design. This was a carry over from springs designed for horse drawn carriages. All but the main two leaves were ground both on a radius and to a graceful end for appearance sake.
Springs were clamped at each end with a bolt securing each the clamps. Several clamp designs were used depending on the spring manufacturer.
1913 – 1917
Springs continued in the same general design but were less carefully ground and somewhat less dainty appearing because they were not ground as much. End bushings were changed to less expensive and better wearing steel. In 1916 model year the spring oilers were deleted from the spring shackle, and a hole drilled through each main leaf and bushing to allow oil to be added (it never was by most owners).
1918 – 27
The taper leaf design was eliminated in favor of leafs that were simply cut off on the ends. A 9 leaf spring was added for sedans. Runabout springs became 6 leaf in 1920. Beginning in 1925 the new Roadster Pickup body style also used the 9 leaf spring.
In this issue of Model T Ford Fix we disassemble the rear leaf spring and rebuild it for best handling and ride quality.
The earliest Model T’s did not come equipped with a starter, so the hand crank was or is the only way to start the engine other than push starting. The fellow above is displaying risky form. You should never wrap a thumb around the crank while cranking, and all pressure on the crank must be upwards.
The crank bushing wears out from constant use. Very seldom did anyone bother to lube the crank bushings. And with the bushing on the front of the car, mostly exposed to the elements, water gets in and causes rust. At some point the Model T mechanic will need to replace a crank bushing for one or all of these reasons. Let’s take a look at how it is done.
Ford had a difficult year in 1913. The new 1913 bodies looked more modern and were cheaper to build, but the touring bodies were too flimsy. Often the bodies broke in half in the middle of the rear door sills. A factory recall, which sent kits to dealers to repair and reinforce the flimsy bodies was the largest recall in automotive history up until that time. Ford was still the most profitable automaker on the planet, with Ford sales eclipsing the entire output of their ten closest competitors.
At $750 the 1914 Town Car was the most expensive model in Ford’s catalog that year. Almost 1700 of them were sold.
Henry Ford knew before he started building the Model T Ford that his manufacturing ability was the limiting factor to his success. Ford had followed typical early automotive principles when building the earlier Ford cars. Wheels were purchased from several companies, bodies from two companies, lamps from several other companies.
The Dodge brothers, Horace and John, built Ford’s chassis and delivered the chassis parts to Ford. The Dodge brothers had been the manufacturer of the curved dash Oldsmobile, and were well known for their ability to supply a high quality automobile chassis and engine. This arrangement allowed Ford to build a fairly large quantity of the Model N – R – S car, which was the most profitable and prolific automobile manufactured anywhere in the world from 1906 – 1908. Not only were the Dodge brothers the manufacturer of the Ford chassis, they were also shareholders in Ford Motor Company. No doubt they were not happy when Ford announced plans to build his masterpiece of automotive manufacturing, the Highland Park Plant, in 1908.
The new Ford plant would be able to manufacture everything from bodies to engines, and every part of the Model T chassis when it was fully operational. The Dodge brothers knew that when it was finished it would spell the end of their ability to sell parts to Ford. On top of that source of displeasure, Henry also lowered stockholder dividends in order to pay for the new plant with cash on hand.
Summer 1910 photograph of the Highland Park Plant nearing completion.