The Ruckstell rear axle has long been the favorite accessory of every Model T Ford owner going back to when the axle was first introduced by Hall Scott corporation in the late 19-teens era. The Ruckstell is a two speed rear axle that can be shifted while the car is moving. This allows higher final drive gearing for lower engine speed at cruise, yet when in low range it gives superior hill climbing ability given the 20 horsepower that is available. As great as the Ruckstell axle is, it creates a problem after solving the issue of being able to negotiate steep hills. A Model T Ford uses a brake inside the transmission to stop the car. If there is any failure of the Ruckstell to shift, it can become disengaged, i.e. “free wheeling” and thus the car will not have any effective brakes!
The hand parking brake notwithstanding, it is a scary and very bad thing to lose the connection between the brakes and the rear axle on a steep hill in a Model T. This can and has occurred to Model T enthusiasts with dire results including death and serious injury to occupants of the car. It is not just possible with the Ruckstell rear axle, it can happen with the stock Model T axle if the driveshaft or pinion gear breaks, again something that has and will happen to some Model T’s. The same can be said of Model T’s equipped with any sort of auxiliary transmission, if they slip into “neutral” unexpectedly it can be a very scary ride indeed.
The answer to having a degree of safety and redundancy in the Model T brake system is to install some sort of accessory braking system. One that has been around for quite some time and is known to work well is the excellent Rocky Mountain Brake system. This equipment is advertised in all the major Model T publications and is sold through all the usual reproduction part sellers. We will show the effort and typical problems encountered to aid the average guy when he installs this setup.
Above, many Model T Fords have a Ruckstell Axle. It was and is perhaps the most popular Model T accessory of all time.