The 1915 Model T Ford Part 1

This heavily accessorized 1915 runabout has a lot of the things collectors today like to find. Front bumper, accessory shock absorbers, special hubcaps, radiator cap, and a hand klaxon horn to get cows out of the way.

The 1915 Model T Ford model year is an extremely interesting one for the history buff. The manufacture of Ford cars at the Highland Park plant was in the process of being perfected, but was far from perfect. The plant was still under construction as it had been since 1910, but cars were being built in the plant as early as the fall of 1910.  Hundreds of thousands of Model T Fords were built in 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913 and early 1914 model year the old way, with the cars sitting in place while parts were delivered to each car, then assembled. The moving assembly line first became operational early in the 1914 model year, on October 7, 1913 to be precise.

Ford by this time had been the most successful businessman on the planet for several years. The Model T Ford was the single most successful product on the planet. Sales of the Model T Ford accounted for nearly half of worldwide automobile sales. The car itself, while perfectly adequate mechanically for the era, was very outdated in appearance. Ford was one of the last automakers to use a wooden exposed dashboard. The carbide headlamps were also considered to be outdated in 1914.  Unfortunately Ford did not have the new 1915 bodies ready at the beginning of the model year, so the 1914 style cars continued to be built for a while.

Introduced in June 1914 were the new for 1915 features – billed front fenders, and cowl lamps with integral brackets that secured them to the firewall. Ford publicity photo, property of The Henry Ford. Notice the hubcaps have a black painted background, typical of all Model T hubcaps beginning in late 1911 model year.

The 1915 Model Year / Fiscal Year began on August 1, 1914. The first 1915 Ford was serialized 550,939 on that day. Body styles at the beginning of the model year were the popular Touring car priced at $490, the Runabout at $440, the Town Car costing a whopping $690, and the chassis available at $410.

Electric lights had been tested on earlier Model T’s and it was determined that the magneto was marginally underpowered when used for both ignition and lighting. Starting with engine serial number 578,042 on September 4, 1914 all Model T engines now had a “double stacked” magneto coil assembly equipped with 16 T5634 coils on the new cast iron coil mounting bracket. Magnets now were 3/4″ thick. Cars continued to be produced with carbide lamps.

The new 1915 Center Door Sedan was introduced November 15, 1914. The new sedan was priced at $975, which no doubt helped sales of the town car at $690.

The new sedans had the gas tank mounted below the back seat, which immediately began to be a problem for owners and dealers. While it was not much of a problem driving around mostly flat areas like Detroit, the new Sedans had trouble with even the slightest hill if the gas tank was not completely full. A flurry of factory letters to dealers and assembly plants recommended and implemented a variety of fixes. Between December 19 until the end of 1914 engineering specified first a longer intake manifold, then advised dealers to install 5/16″ fuel line, and finally the Kingston Model L carburetor in combination with the longer intake, and of course a longer heat stove to feed the lowered carburetor.

The Kingston Model “L” carburetor was specified for use on the 1915 center door sedan. It was also used on any other 1915 Model T, interchangeably with the Holley Model G carburetor. Notice the “tickler” button that was only used on the 1915 version of the Kingston “L” carburetor.
The air pipe used in 1915 was a simple stamped steel tube. Notice how it is necked down to fit the carburetor inlet. This is the standard version, the 1915 Center Door Sedan used a longer one.

The Ford owner’s handbook advises removing the heat tube except in cold weather.
Introduced about the same time as the Center Door Sedan was the new 1915 Couplet, which had glass door windows and a folding convertible top. The price was a steep $750.
The 1915 Couplet is easily identified by the top. There were no side windows used in 1915. Combined with the tiny rear window, visibility to the rear was extremely limited. Notice the larger than normal electric headlamps which were typical of the 1915 Couplet and Sedans.
Factory photo of the new 1915 Couplet shows the unusual side lamps and headlights used on the new Couplet and Sedans. Again the hubcaps have the black enamel background typical of all Model T Fords from 1912 – 1920.
The 1915 Model T used a ribbed pedal design. Earlier lettered pedals were used up in production. It is not unusual to see lettered pedals and ribbed pedals intermixed in the December 1914 – January 1915 time period. Ford didn’t waste any parts! The switch bezel would have been enameled with a black background originally.
The oil cap used in 1915 was stamped from steel, embossed with Ford script, and engraved MADE IN USA.
The earliest 1915 front fenders have four rivets and are billed on the front. This one has a crack, not uncommon for 100 year old steel.
Ford continued to supply all cars with bulb type horns for the 1915 model year. The 1915 horns were supplied by three manufacturers which were Rubes, Standard Thermometer, and Nonpariel. Notice the cruciform shaped bracket that is unique to 1915 horns. All horns were made of brass and painted black except for the forward screen assembly.
The horn tube used in 1915 had an elbow so that the horn tubing would clear the brake pedal as it wound upwards to the bulb. Horn bulbs were mounted to the fixed panel left of the driver except on town cars, Couplets, and chassis. On those cars the horn bulb was mounted to the steering column.
1915 firewalls being assembled at Highland Park. All 1915 Model T’s received speedometers as standard equipment. This had been a big problem for Ford in 1914, with speedometer supply not consistent during the 1914 model year. Ford added several more suppliers during the 1915 model year, making all of them interchangeable, so – called “Ford Specials”.
Speedometers were supplied by Stewart Warner, Sears Cross, Standard Thermometer, Jones, and Johns Manville during 1915 model year.
All front wheel hubs used in 1915 had a provision for mounting the speedometer gear. This one had to be chucked up in the lathe to repair damage in the hubcap area.
The right steering arm used from 1912 – 1916 has provision for mounting the speedometer drive bracket.
Typical speedometer drive used in 1915 with the Ford Special speedometers.
The Jones speedometer used in 1915 was the only one which did not display the Ford Winged Pyramid logo. All speedometers had mounting brackets that allowed them to mount in the identical same place on the firewall.
The wheel used in 1915 was still the non – demountable round felloe type. Spokes were heavier than earlier years, with the spoke cross – section now nearly oval. Notice the “High F” Ford script on the hubcap. Tires were sized 30X 3 1/2″ rear, and 30 X 3 front. Notice the paint defects and lifting / peeling on this brand new 1915 Model T wheel. Valve stem hardware is typical of the era, made by Schrader and nickel plated.

One major mechanical improvement for 1915 was the new rear axle assembly, which began to show up installed on cars about January 1915. The new axle housings had cast iron center sections replacing the earlier pressed steel versions used through the 1914 model year. The earlier axle housings had plenty of strength, but tended to leak around the riveted center section. The new “1915” rear axle housings resembled the 1906 – 1908 Model N ford housings quite a bit.

September 1914 photo showing the new 1915 runabout. Many interesting details can be seen in this photo, including the white asbestos wrapping of the muffler shell, and the 1913 – 1914 rear axle. Other details that can be seen are the four rivet front fenders and an unusual tail light that was apparently not used in production.

Tractor conversions for the Model T were popular with farmers. The rear axles are fitted with gears that mesh with a large gear inside each of the tractor rear wheels. This made top speed in high gear around 5 MPH and made the Model T a formidable replacement for the horse. Notice the innovative roll up rear window on this T.
Notice the pronounced “kick” in the running board splash aprons needed to clear the brake rods. The louvered hood was also new for 1915.
A brand new 1915 runabout sits in the lobby of the Ford sales building on Woodward Avenue December 1914. Ford used the 1914 style rear fenders until supplies were exhausted.