Driving through time – the Henry Ford’s Model T Fords

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 back end of the TT wrecker is shown above. According to Ken, every vehicle in the collection has been on this vehicle’s hook at one time or another. The back end is stocked with typically needed spares and supplies. Every Model T has been converted to demountable rims. There is a 21″ rim and a 30 X 3 1/2″ rim ready to be installed if a docent driver calls for help. Also in the back are cans of gas, oil, and a compressed air tank.

Walking in the work shop one of the first things that I see is an arbor press with a 100 pound counterweight and a 48 inch handle. This is the biggest arbor press I have ever seen! It has a patent date of 1901 cast on the side. Ken says it gets used in the maintenance of vehicles in the collection.

Another fabulous tool, and not too old, is a top of the line Clausing Colchester lathe. It has a 60″ bed and 12″ chuck. I am drooling.

1931 Model AA school bus is used to give visitor tours. It seats 16 passengers. According to Ken the rear axle gearing is in the 7:1 range.

Just behind the AA school bus we see what appear to be three 1914 Model T tourings. Ken informs me that legally these are actually 2001 Fords. Back in 2001 Ford Motor Company was making preparations for its 2003 centennial. As part of the centennial festivities Ford built 5 brand new Model T’s using 1914 design drawings. These cars have engine blocks, bodies, frames, and even transmissions built in 2001. While the technology is from 1914, the cars are only 17 years old.

All of the Model T’s have been equipped with a starter, 12 volt battery, and a one wire alternator that is belt driven from the fan pulley. This is one of the T100 cars, notice the 01 year on the block date code.

The RH side of the engine compartment reveals an NH carburetor and a look at the reduction pulley on the fan. The fan is driven by a flat serpentine belt, the alternator is overdriven by a V belt.

Every Model T on the property except one has a Anderson (ANCO) timer. The ANCO timers are packed with Lucas Red and Tacky grease. According to Ken the ANCO timers need to be timed on each cylinder in order that the cylinder – to – cylinder timing is identical. To accomplish this each timer is installed on the engine, and then each timer contact is checked to make sure the spark occurs at the proper time on its cylinder. If the timing is off, that contact is bent to make it give the proper timing event.

Every day while the museum is open during the driving season there are 8 cars in use and at least 2 cars available for backup. The cars average between 8000 – 10,000 miles per year each. Spark plugs are Motorcraft, they are bead blasted at least a few times before replacement.

The sheet metal takes a beating on these cars. Actually, the whole car takes a beating. Ken reports that fenders used to rust out after only a couple years. The museum staff learned to disassemble the doubler plate from the fender mounting bracket at the front, install rustproofing, and reassemble. Now the fenders rust out at the rear where the running board meets the fender. A typical fender lasts five years. Above we see typical damage caused when a large passenger’s foot slips while entering or exiting the car. The splash apron is severely dented.

The 1924 depot hack is used to give Model T rides most days. It used to have three seats, allowing 6 – 8 guests to be carried. It suffered repeated broken rear springs until the staff removed the rear seat. This limits passengers to 4 – 5, a more reasonable load. There are a number of other cars in the working collection ranging from an original 1916 touring to a 1927 touring.

The Model T’s in the collection are working harder than any other Model T’s in the world. Above we see a typical brass radiator repair. The radiator tank has several cracks that have been repaired using bronze colored silver solder. When polished it barely shows.

More fun facts about the cars in the Henry Ford:

Tires are Firestone diamond tread if possible. Front tires typically last around 8,000 miles. Rear tires last longer, typically 10,000 miles between replacement.

Oil is a bulk 15W-40 brand.

The cars originally had 3.90 : 1 rear axle ratio. As the rear ends require repair all are being changed to 4:44 ratio.

All of the transmission bands are Kevlar. There has not been a band replaced due to wear.

There has never been a broken crankshaft.

Thanks again to Ken Kennedy and his staff for all that they do for the Model T hobby.

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