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.
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.
As Ford reached the end of its 1911 model year on September 31, 1911 the automotive industry knew one thing for certain. The Model T Ford was the best selling car on the planet! Ford had sold about 40,000 Model T’s during the 1911 model year, about 25% more than it had sold during the 1909 and 1910 model years combined! Nearly the entire chassis and engine had been revised during the 1911 model year, making production easier and the cars more reliable. No doubt the 1912 season was going to be even better for Ford.
Ford announced its offerings for the 1912 season as the touring, town car, torpedo runabout, open runabout, and the delivery car. Not shown in the catalog but available were the bare chassis. Not advertised or listed in the catalog, a handful of 1912 Model T coupes were built, probably for Ford executives. At the beginning of the model year the touring bodies were the same as those used at the end of the 1911 model year as seen above. The firewall is the “two piece” variety. Ford announced at the beginning of 1912 model year that new removable “fore doors” would be standard equipment on all Model T tourings. Ford was doing this in response to trends seen in the rest of the automotive industry. The Model T was “old fashioned” looking with no front doors.