The control system of the 1909 Model T Ford was different than all previous Fords, and different from all other cars on the road. First of all Ford placed the steering wheel on the left side of the vehicle, an unusual feature not shared with many other automobiles, certainly not the same as any of Ford’s top competitors. Fords reasoning was sound on this change; Americans drove on the right side of the road. Typically driver and passengers would enter and exit the car from the curb side, thus they would not be stepping out into traffic or into a muddy road. Also the left position of the driver meant a better view when passing a slower moving horse drawn vehicle, something that was more common than encountering another motorist.
Fords initial arrangement had the customary spark and gas control levers mounted to the steering column. Two pedals were marked “B” and “C” for Brake (on the right) and Clutch (on the left) respectively.
There were two brass plated levers to the left of the pedals. The following description is a quote from Pete Eastwood regarding his father’s Model T Serial Number 714:
“The brake lever is only a brake lever.
Back it sets the brakes, forward it releases the brakes.
The second lever operates like this;
straight up is neutral, forward engages high gear, all the way back is reverse.
the second lever is linked to the “C” pedal and operates in the low/high shifting, much like the the brake lever does on a standard T.”
A close look at the transmission cover of an early 1909 Model T. The transmission cover was drawn steel with riveted and brazed fittings. The stamped steel design proved to be difficult to produce, the design was modified several times by Ford in attempts to solve issues with cracking and high rejection rates during manufacture.
Both control levers were brass plated steel. Notice the dainty wood sill board used on the 1909 – early 1911 bodies.
Two Lever town car seen at the January 1909 New York Auto Show.
A pre – 2500 engine showing the water pump and early block style “Ford Motor CO” lettering on the cylinder head. Note that this engine has non – original style oil filler and spark plug wires.
Another early pre – 2500 Model T Ford seen at the Barrett Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona a few years ago. This car was restored using a coil box from an earlier Ford, thus it has an odd / non original configuration of spark plug wire routing and support. The oil filler is one of the correct styles used by Ford. Restorers of these cars argue about engine finish and paint.
The engine compartment of serial number 220, restored by Harrah’s in the 1970’s and currently on display at the Ford Piquette assembly plant, Detroit Michigan.
About serial number 850 Ford decided to modify the control system to make driving easier and to improve manufacturing processes. A cast aluminum transmission cover proved to be simpler to manufacture. The second control lever was eliminated. There were now three pedals on the floor marked C R and B for Clutch, Reverse, and Brake respectively left to right. The single control lever was for the parking brake; if pulled back only half way it placed the transmission in neutral without applying the parking brake.
Serial number 904 was one of the first Model T’s to receive the new control system. This system continued to be used on all Model T’s built until the end of production in 1927 (Model T cars) or 1928 (Model TT Trucks).
Early 1920’s post card from a Texas Ford dealer brags about the legendary Model T Ford reliability.
904 is a typical Model T as produced in the spring of 1909. The car is red with an “old style” top. Original lamps were Atwood Castle. Coil unit is Kingston. Horn is a double twist Rubes with screen front.
This style of Model T continued to be built until about serial number 2500. Ford realized that the water pump was causing unnecessary reliability problems and added cost to the manufacture process. A major redesign would begin before the dawn of the new year in 1909. Consumers would see the revised 1909 Fords in March of 1909.