Prototype 1915 center door in a Ford publicity photo sent to dealers in late September 1914. Many features seen on this car never made it to production including the odd coach lamps on the body, the fenders, and the unusually louvered hood.
Ford hoped to expand its market share by adding two new body styles for the 1915 model year. There was a lot going on at Ford in the fall of 1914. Efforts were underway to begin fabrication of complete bodies at Highland Park for the touring and runabout (aka torpedo) body styles. The 1915 Ford was restyled with a new hidden horn mounted to the firewall. Billed fenders became standard in July 1914. A louvered hood was added. The flat wooden firewall was being phased out, replaced by a new graceful cowl section that contoured away from the hood towards the body sides. Electric headlamps, powered by the magneto were becoming standard.
This is another view of the same center door sedan from another photo taken the same day in the same location. There is a battery box on the running board, apparently to power the coach lamps and the dome lamp that was included in every center door. Image property of the Henry Ford, used with permission. Ford ordered the new sedan bodies from an outside vendor. A six volt dome light was installed in each of the bodies, which resulted in a lot of confusion when dealers received the cars. There was no way to power the dome lights! Carbon copies of the letters to dealers from 1915 – 1916 are found at the Benson Ford Archives in Accession #575 which show how Ford dealt with that problem.
There was considerable confusion involved in the launch of the new center door sedan. A letter to dealers was sent In late December 1914 warned that the dome lamp should not be connected to the magneto for power “This light should only be operated in connection with a storage battery, and it was provided particularly for that class of trade demanding electric side and tail lamps, which would also have to be operated from a storage battery”. The coach lamps were not used in production, but the dome lamp was supplied with every 1915 center door – with no source of power!
Closer view of the right front wheel on our center door shows the spoke profile typical of 1915 with a sturdier profile than had been used in earlier years. Unusual is the hubcap which shows no sign of the black background that had been standard on all Model T hubcaps since 1911. Take a close look at the spring shackle – all of the spring and kingpin oilers are missing. A close up view of the front of the center door reveals unusually large carbide headlamps that were not used in production. The headlamp forks are not standard, and they included a cross bar connecting them in front of the radiator. Notice also the black painted aluminum crank handle. This had been replaced in spring of 1914 by a cast iron handle for production vehicles. Another photo of the same car with the background cropped reveals the non – standard running boards which have brass trim on the sides and linoleum upper surface similar to early 1909 Model T running boards. The prototype body fits over the chassis, resulting in an abbreviated splash apron design that is completely unlike anything used in production. An opening windshield upper half is shown in this image. 3/4 rear view of 1915 ford Model T sedan prototype shows the unusual non – production louvered hood. The tail lamp is also an unusual design not used by Ford in production. The Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington was the site of a west coast introduction of the new Ford models in the fall of 1914. The center door sedan shown on the ramp has a battery box mounted to the running board and an opening upper windshield like the prototypes shown in earlier pictures. Ford went to a lot of trouble to get the center door on the upper balcony in the hotel lobby! In the full size image a rope or cable can be seen that is attached to the front axle. The guy at the wheel is there to steer and use the brakes. The Davenport Hotel looks very much the same today as it did in the fall of 1914. Even the fountain remains in the center of the grand lobby. Lovely 1915 center door sedan for sale in an online advertisement from the United Kingdom has been retrofitted with 1914 carbide lamps, yet a battery box is seen mounted to the running board. Ford would not offer a pickup truck for many years on the Model T chassis. This led many businesses and private individuals to convert their Model T runabout by removing the turtle deck trunk and installing an appropriate box to convey their item of trade. This is a 1915 Canadian built runabout in RH drive configuration. Runabouts in the new 1915 body style used the straight rear fenders during December 1914 and probably some of January 1915. Canadian built Model T’s had the “Made in Canada” below the Ford script on radiators, while Model T’s built in the United States had Made in USA in the same location. Due to tax law in Australia it was more economical for bodies to be built there instead of being imported from Canada. Duncan and Frazer was one of the largest concerns building bodies and marketing Model T Fords in Australia. This photo, taken in June 1915, shows new 1915 touring bodies ready for assembly onto Canadian built chassis. Many of these cars are restored unknowingly as “1914” Model T’s because collectors refuse to understand that the same body style was used for the 1915 touring in most of the world. Only briefly were there any other “new” 1915 bodies built in the USA or Canada. The new “1915” body style began to be built in February 1915 in Highland Park and in Canada. Here we see a new Canadian built 1915 touring being unpacked in New Zealand. Notice the horn bulb is attached to the steering column on this RH drive car, necessary because the driver side door is functional. Also notice this car has fork mounted headlamps, typical of 1915 and 1916 Canadian built Fords. April 1915 in Milan, Indiana saw a light dusting of snow on the ground as the local Ford dealer received a shipment of brand new 1915 Model T tourings. Many Ford assembly plants continued to build the “1914” style bodies. Milan is perhaps more famous these days as the location of the events portrayed in the movie “Hoosiers”. The town still celebrates winning the 1954 high school boy’s state basketball championship today.