The 1914 Model T Ford

Ford had a difficult year in 1913. The new 1913 bodies looked more modern and were cheaper to build, but the touring bodies were too flimsy. Often the bodies broke in half in the middle of the rear door sills. A factory recall, which sent kits to dealers to repair and reinforce the flimsy bodies was the largest recall in automotive history up until that time. Ford was still the most profitable automaker on the planet, with Ford sales eclipsing the entire output of their ten closest competitors.

At $750 the 1914 Town Car was the most expensive model in Ford’s catalog that year. Almost 1700 of them were sold.

The new and improved 1914 touring bodies began to appear at Highland Park in mid July 1913. The 1914 model year officially began on August 1, 1913. Four models were available at the beginning of the model year, and the lineup did not change over the course of the model year.

The offerings for 1914 were:

Touring, $550 Fully Equipped*

Runabout, $500 Fully Equipped*

Town Car, $750 Fully Equipped*

Chassis (Price not listed but thought to be $450)

*Fully Equipped meant including convertible top, windshield, cowl lamps, horn and speedometer. All cars also had standard headlamps and carbide generator.  A tool kit, jack and tire pump were included with every car.

The new 1914 bodies had lower sill timbers that were twice the size of the sills used in 1913. To hide the new thicker sills the body sheet metal now extended below the doors. Each door was therefore smaller than 1913, and the doors were rounded on the lower side, unlike the 1913 doors which were rectangular. The 1914 factory catalog illustration above shows the proper location for the carbide generator. Horns were always painted black but made from brass. Only the rim and the screen were left in bare brass. Hubcap centers had a black background with the “Ford Made in USA” polished, as did all Model T hubcaps from mid 1911 – 1920. The touring was the best selling model with over 165 thousand sold.

The car above is a very early 1914 Model T being used for publicity shots. The car is equipped with the 1913 style windshield that folded forwards. By September 1913 all windshields folded towards the rear, so we know this car was built earlier. The car is equipped with E & J lamps and Corcoran carbide generator.

The same lady in the same 1914 touring being directed by the same fellow. Notice the black centers on the hub caps with polished Ford script.

Looks like the tires could use some air.

The top boot and side curtains were standard on every Model T runabout.

Ford had been building Model T’s at the Highland Park Michigan assembly plant since the beginning of 1910. The assembly line was not operational at the beginning of the 1914 model year. Cars were still being assembled as they had been at the Piquette Avenue plant in 1909. All this would be changed and completely revolutionized for the 1914 model year. On October 7, 1913, for the first time ever, automobiles were assembled using Ford’s innovative moving assembly line. The assembly line had been part of the plan since before the Highland Park plant was constructed. Actually implementing the line took time, and there were many changes on how the line was operated, particularly in the first few years. These were new concepts that no one else had previously tried.

Above we see engines being assembled in the early 1914 model year. Notice the fellow on the left is installing pistons and tightening the rod caps on the crankshaft using a T – handle spanner wrench. Torque wrenches had not been invented yet. In fact torque wrenches were never used to assemble Model T Fords.

The moving assembly line in its earliest days of October 1913 had the chassis, with engine installed, going through the exhaust pipe / muffler installation area.

The view from the same vantage point looking the other way up the line, October 1913 Highland Park assembly plant.

A few months later it was determined that the wheels should be installed near the beginning of the line, before the moving assembly line area. There were several parallel lines, each doing exactly the same things. The engine is being lowered using a manual chain fall hoist. These would be replaced by motorized hoists within a year.

Muffler station in the later 1914 chassis line, just past the engine installation area. You can see numbers on the poles which denote the address of each pillar. The same pole and its address can be found in the plant today.

At the end of the assembly line cars were started for the first time using powered rollers in the floor. A DC motor is mounted over the station with a flat belt coming from the line shaft mounted to the ceiling extending to the roller axle beneath the floor. A hose leads from the exhaust pipe out through the wall of the building. A grate is below the engine / transmission area because all Model T’s leak oil. A catch pan below the grate would be periodically emptied.

A few lines over at the same point in the line, now with workers on duty. Each Model T would be run for a minute or so, then the rollers stopped so that the car could drive away under its own power for the first time.

The running chassis would then drive outside since the body drop area inside the plant was not completed yet.

Outside, the cars were put on wooden jack stands and allowed to “run in” for a while before moving on to the body drop area.

In 1914 Ford still was not building its own bodies. That portion of the Highland Park plat was not finished yet. Bodies were made by several outside companies, and came in a variety of conditions. Many bodies were ordered in painted and upholstered condition. The 1914 touring bodies above are known as “bodies in white”. They are unpainted and unupholstered. They would be taken to the second floor for paint, upholstery, and tops to be installed.

This is an experimental body drop station. The technique and tooling needed to install bodies on the assembly line were being developed and tested outside. When everyone was satisfied with the results, the operation was moved inside on the moving assembly line.

This photo is dated May 10, 1914. Completed cars are in the shipping area inside the Highland Park plant. Notice that some cars have all the lights, windshield and tops installed, while others do not. This is due to differences in shipping the cars to the retail sale destination. Some cars might be crated for shipment overseas. Other cars might be destined to be disassembled for rail shipment in order that more vehicles could fit inside a rail car.

Ford sent a letter to dealers advising how several Model T’s could be stored within a smaller space in January 1914.

A new 1914 touring sits in front of three tourings standing on their noses in the accompanying photograph. Notice the speedometer cable, all 1914 tourings were initially equipped with speedometers. This is the only known photo of Model T’s stored on their noses, so apparently the idea didn’t catch on.

A “knock down” Model T as it would have come out of the rail car in 1914. Notice the carbide generator bolted to the running board laying in in the back seat.

Sometimes the dealer would have their mechanics assemble the cars right on the loading dock after they came out of the rail cars.

Other dealers would have a caravan of cars driven to the dealership for assembly.

A view of the Highland Park plant from a 1914 post card shows the Sales building on the left, with the Power Plant behind the Sales building.

This photo is inside the Sales building adjacent to the Highland Park Plant. The entire model line can be seen, with the town car hiding behind the pole on the left unfortunately.

The chassis had not changed much in design since the first 2499 Model T’s were built. This drawing from a 1914 issue of The Ford Times showed the general layout and names of the major parts of the car.

Henry Ford was often photographed with his cars and his famous friends. Here we see him with naturalist, explorer, and writer John Burroughs. They are sitting in a typical 1914 Model T, equipped with JNO Brown lamps and an accessory spare tire carrier.

Henry and friends the great inventor Thomas Edison, naturalist / writer John Muir, and tire manufacturer Harvey Firestone in 1914. Muir died later that year of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California where he was visiting relatives for Christmas.

Ford with Edison and Muir. Henry is thought to have given Muir the 1914 Model T that he is leaning against.

Muir demonstrates that at age 76 you can start your own Model T with the crank. Most people did not have batteries in their Model T’s, the car starts easily on “MAG”.

Ford and Edison were friends for decades until Edison died in 1931. They shared a laboratory near their vacation homes in Florida, which were of course next door to one another. Two 1914 Model T’s are in the background.

Henry in the back yard of his neighbor and employee John Dahlinger, with a 1914 touring. The car is equipped with accessory wire wheels.

A 1914 Model T touring is part of the entourage for William Jennings Bryan who at the time was serving as Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson.

In the days before radio, television, and internet it was not uncommon for politicians to tour the country giving speeches to make their views public and to garner support. Here we see Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan giving one of his famous speeches from the running board of a 1914 Model T Touring. Bryan was known for his fiery oratory, sometimes giving speeches as long as 2 or 3 hours. Bryan was a pacifist who railed against the idea of the United States joining the war in Europe, which today we call World War I. Bryan said in numerous speeches that the British blockade of Germany was every bit as bad as Germany invading France. By 1915 President Wilson did not agree, and Bryan resigned his job as Secretary of State.

A nearly new 1914 Touring is having a bad day, with three out of its four wheels in a construction ditch.

The front axle or spindle has broken, but the car still appears to be repairable. No sign of a carbide generator on this car. Notice the roll up rear window. This feature would be gone when the 1915 Fords came along.

The day is about to get worse for the car owner. The policeman on the left is writing something, maybe a ticket for reckless driving?

A post man with his new 1914 Touring. This car is equipped with Edmunds & Jones lamps. Ford used lamps from E&J and JNO Brown primarily, with secondary supply from Corcoran and Victor. When JNO Brown lamps were installed the car typically would also be equipped with a Brown carbide generator. If the car had any other brand of lamp the carbide generator was a Corcoran unit.

The car above also has E&J lamps, but this car has another factory option that was quite popular, a Prestolite carbide tank. The Prestolite tank made operation of the headlamps instantaneous. If you had the carbide generator you had to wait several minutes in the dark for pressure to build enough that the lamps could be lit. With the carbide tank you simply twist the valve and light the lamps.

Another Prestolite tank equipped 1914, this time with JNO Brown lamps.

The starting crank handle was the same aluminum piece used since January of 1912. The entire crank including the handle was always painted black in 1914.

On January 7, 1914 Henry Ford was on the front page of every newspaper in the United States, and many newspapers across the globe. Ford had done the unthinkable, offering to pay all of his employees at least Five Dollars for working an eight hour day. Prior to this announcement Ford had been paying most of the factory employees $2.25 for a nine hour day.

There are stories today that the reason Henry Ford did this was so that his own workers could afford to buy his products. This story of course is nonsense.

Ford had, at the beginning of 1914, about fourteen thousand employees working at the Highland Park plant. During 1913 the Ford Motor Company hired and trained nearly fifty two thousand employees for the same number of positions. The cost of hiring and training all those employees, only to see them leave Ford’s plant for employment at one of his competitor’s factories was wasteful. The high turnover rate hurt morale and efficiency. By more than doubling the pay for his employees while cutting their hours, Ford had simultaneously solved his turnover problem and hurt all the other companies who could not afford to raise wages to compete for the Ford employees.

With the factory humming along at a renewed level of efficiency Ford dealers could keep their showrooms full of new Fords and customers.

Like the 1913 Model T, billed fenders were not used in 1914.

New for the 1914 model year, a reinforcing rib crosses the top of the fender at its widest point. The car shown in the photos above is unrestored, with all paint thought to be original. The carbide generator is made by JNO Brown, as are the lamps on this car.

Ford was now producing 1914 Model T’s at a faster rate than the speedometer suppliers could produce speedometers. As a result, two things happened. First, Ford offered to pay customers $6 instead of promising to supply the missing speedometer and speedometer drive equipment. Second, Ford came up with a new “Ford Special” plan to supplement what had been a monopoly for the Stewart and Clarke (later Stewart Warner) corporation.

Back to our unrestored 1914 touring owned by Bob Peterson of Minnesota at the time these photos were taken. The new “Ford Special” speedometers no longer had a reduction swivel drive. Instead the drive assembly was simpler, with a smaller wheel gear to create lower cable speeds.

The featured car has a Standard speedometer that is broken, the indicator hand is missing. Notice the escutcheon for the mixture rod on the firewall is a simple piece of black painted steel with a slot cut in it, as had been used since 1913 model year. The original stain on the firewall is a deep cherry red, which was no doubt a lot lighter 104 years ago when it was new. Speedometers were supplied by Stewart, Standard Thermometer, Johns Manville, Sears Cross, and Jones. Or if the speedometer was missing you got $6.

The horns in 1914 were all nearly identical in appearance despite being made by three different suppliers. Each supplier put his cartouche on the horn before it was painted black. Horn suppliers were Rubes, Non Pareil, and Standard Thermometer.  This car has a March 1914 casting date on the engine block, which is consistent with all the details for this “late” 1914 car.

Original hubcaps on the feature car still have most of their black background intact. Notice the profile of the wheel spokes which are nearly round. Earlier Model T Ford spokes had a graceful teardrop shape. The 1914 spokes were simpler to manufacture and stronger.

Well it happened again! Seems like 1914 Model T’s are attracted to ditches, and there would always be a photographer near the ditch too.

With the Ford in the ditch, looky – loos swarmed like house flies on potato salad.

Eventually they found some timbers to build a tripod and a chain fall hoist to lift the Ford up so it could drive away.

Another common theme for photographing a 1914 (or any year for that matter) Model T seems to be tire trouble. Apparently there are six folks travelling together, because one of them has to be taking the picture.

Even the king of Siam (now known as Thailand) had a new 1914 Model T.

The 1914 touring above is photographed across the street from the Highland Park plant. Notice that it has the same Michigan manufacturer’s plate as the car shown near the beginning of this article. This is a much different car; notice that the windshield support arms are now bent near the bottom so that the windshield can fold to the rear instead of forward. The license plate is secured to the front axle with leather straps. Lamps are JNO Brown.

The 1914 runabout (called the torpedo runabout in the Ford factory) was the second most popular body style in 1914. This steamer is fitted as a ferry with room for cars below and pedestrians above. The river is so wide that it could only be the Mississippi.

Palm trees, a California license plate, a sailor, and a brand new 1914 runabout. The rear axle is the same one used since the summer of 1912, with 12 rivets attaching each axle tube to each half of the cast iron center. These were very good, reliable rear axles. The only issue was the leakage around the rivets which loosen over time, and the axle shafts which can break unexpectedly. Axle shafts were still being made from vanadium steel which was a good material for some things but not axle shafts.

Corcoran also built one of the most popular aftermarket accessories for the Model T Ford. This runabout has a Corcoran tool box bolted to its running board.

The rarest body style was the 1914 town car. Many or most were used as taxi cabs or jitneys, one of the reasons few survived until today. A few were purchased as family cars.

The broken glass next to the passenger seat illustrates the deep fear many folks had of enclosed cars of the day. Plate glass breaks into dagger shaped pieces, the rumor in this case is founded in fact and rightly so.

This town car is heavily accessorized with aftermarket bumper on the front and a storage battery box in place of the carbide generator on the running board. The car appears to be painted a special scheme. No doubt it was very impressive in its day! The town car was the only Model T built in the USA that had an opening driver side door. This necessitated mounting the horn bulb to the steering column as seen here.

Two carburetors were used during 1914 model year. Most cars got the ubiquitous Holley Model G. The secondary supplier in 1914 was Kingston, who provided their Model Y carburetor shown above, also known as the Kinston “Four Ball”. Both carburetors gave stellar service and are quite reliable.

A 1914 factory photo shows the coil box used in all cars during the 1914 model year. The coil box was a KW design, made from metal. The switch is made from bakelite, and has a brass switch plate cover with frosted black background and polished brass lettering. This is a fairly early 1914 since it is equipped with the Stewart & Clark Model C speedometer. Notice that the dash board hardware is brass plated, as were the windshield hinge screws.

The pedals are marked with the familiar “C”, “R”, and “B” as all fords had been since serial number 2500. Throttle and spark levers are brass plated. The steering wheel has a cast iron center with a wooden rim, all painted black as had been the case since late 1912 model year. The horn tube is made from flexible brass tubing. The horn bulb bracket is brass plated steel, with the reed now contained in the bracket instead of mounted to the horn as had been the case in 1913. Notice that this car has the 1914 style windshield which folds to the rear. Upholstery was made from “leatherette”, a sort of rubber coated canvas. The only leather in the upholstery was the very front arm rest segment on each side of each seat position.

This is the part where we say good bye until next time.

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