Car of the Month – Tom Helf’s unrestored 1911 Touring

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.

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The 1911 Model T Ford Part 2 – Details, Improvements and Changes

1911 Model Year begins October 1, 1910.

1911 Model Year ends September 31, 1911.

Earliest serial number recorded is 31,500.

Highest serial number 1911 model year 70,750

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.

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The 1911 Model T Ford – Part 1 the New Runabouts

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.

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Repairing the T932B Steering Bracket – How to Replace Bushings

Our 1917 torpedo has developed a bad habit. It likes to shimmy, especially while slowing to a stop for a stop sign. Once it is above 10 MPH, no problem, but every time we slow down it happens, the dreaded death wobble. It begins about 10 MPH, the steering wheel flopping back and forth slowly and gets worse as you slow down. This happened only occasionally until the recent 2017 Texas T Party, where it began to do it nearly every time we slowed down. Not good!

One night at the YO Ranch Hotel a friend helped us inspect the steering components to look for looseness caused by wear. While Tim rocked the steering wheel left to right without moving the front wheels, I was under the car looking to see what moved.  The only place that was moving was the bottom of the steering column where it goes through the frame bracket. Apparently the bushings in the steering bracket are completely worn out. We finished the tour carefully, slowing down well before stop signs, and never close to another car.

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The 1926 – 1927 Improved Fords Part 3

One of the most photographed Model T Fords of all time is this 1927 touring, serial number 15,000,000. The car is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan. Henry Ford’s design concept, from its introduction in the fall of 1908 as a 1909 model to the final day of production in 1927 was responsible for making the entire world a better place. Whole industries revolved around the Model T Ford. Businesses such as The Pep Boys in Philadelphia, Chicago’s own JC Whitney company, Western Auto stores of Kansas City, Kansas, KR Wilson of Buffalo, New York and many others were started and indeed were thriving on the Model T Ford by 1927.

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