An upside down 1915 touring is wrecked early in the car’s life. Many interesting details are visible such as the asbestos wrapped muffler, straight tail pipe, wood blocks between the running board brackets and the running board, and the 1913 – 1914 style rear axle assembly. The new “1915” rear axle assembly was approved for production as early as August 1914, but there are so many surviving examples of 1915 cars using the earlier version that it is clear to us that the new design was not implemented until months after it was designed.
The 1915 touring body style is a complicated subject indeed. We have spent a lot of time at the Benson Ford archives trying to identify when the new “1915” body style was introduced, and how the new cars appeared. A fortunate set of objects exist in the Benson Ford archive, which are the (so called) Cost Books. This collection of volumes is incomplete for most model years, but for 1915 it is very nearly complete. The Cost Books are leather bound, typed reports that show the actual costs incurred by Ford Motor Company during each month. The amount of detail is staggering. The accountants provide a cost for every item in the car’s construction. Even cotter pins are detailed by quantity, size, price and location.
The “Ford Special” speedometer drive and cable are seen connected to the right front wheel in this image of our upside down 1915 touring. The print is dated June 3, 1915 so we know that this accident happened some time prior to the 1916 model year. In this view we can clearly see the “rivet” just forward of the rear door. Notice the accessory Firestone brand demountable wheels. This is one of two body designs used for the 1915 touring, This type body has more metal structure below each seat. These bodies with the exposed rivet are thought to be made primarily (or only) by Fisher, but could have been made by other body suppliers as well. The other 1915 touring body design does not have the exposed rivet, and has wood seat substructure very similar to the 1914 bodies.
The cost books are broken down in sections for each body style, for example Torpedo (runabout), Touring, Town Car, Sedan, Couplet, Manchester (UK) RH Drive chassis, and Chassis. The summaries contain all costs associated with manufacturing the car including parts, labor, and overhead. There are also summaries of production for the month by body style.
The cover of the January 1915 Cost Book
January 1915 is the earliest Cost Book in the collection. This must have been a grim month at Ford, because during the previous 12 months the average production of touring body style was about 20,000 per month. During January 1915 the Ford Motor Company built exactly zero Tourings, 211 Couplets, 441 Sedans, 110 Torpedos, 1740 RH Drive Manchester chassis, and one LHD chassis. This was the lowest production month since 1909, and it is indicative of the turmoil associated with the introduction of the new body style touring.
Design of the new touring bodies had started months earlier. By September 1914 photos of the new “1915” touring were sent to assembly plants. A set of these photos exists in Accession 833 at the Benson Ford collection.
A 1915 touring prototype photographed in July 1914. Note the odd windshield design which is unlike anything used in production. The cowl lamps are blade mounted, just like 1915 Sedan and Couplet used in production. The headlamps are also the larger post mounted units seen on the Couplet and Sedan. Notice the hood has no louvers. Photo property of The Henry Ford, used with permission. Another proposed windshield design that was not used in production is shown in this image from September 1914. The hood shown is very similar to the unit used in production. The horn bulb is mounted in the typical location used throughout the 1915 model year. Photo property of The Henry Ford, used with permission.
As had been the case with all open Ford cars since 1913 the upholstery in the 1915 touring was “leatherette” which was a sort of canvas coated with a rubber surface so that it appears to resemble leather if you are far enough away from it. Only the forward most roll on each armrest was made from real leather.
Arrows indicate the location of the only leather used in 1915 upholstery. March 1915 photo at Highland Park shows typical details such as the “Ford Special” speedometer drive and the bulb horn. Notice that the steering column is wrapped in brown paper for protection, the radiator is wrapped in something like wax paper or grease paper we think. At the beginning of the 1915 model year the pedals still had the typical “C”, “R” and “B” forgings that had been typical of all Model T’s since serial number 900. This style continued through about January 1915 when a new pedal design with vertical ribs and no lettering started to replace the old style seen here. It is common to see a mixture of the old style pedals and the new style used in the same car during the change period. Ford design drawings always state to “use up existing stocks before introducing new style”. By April 1915 most cars had all three pedals with the new “ribbed” design. This particular car has a “Sears Cross” brand speedometer, one of five brands used by Ford during the 1915 model year. Speedometers were standard equipment for the entire 1915 model year. From the 1916 parts catalog, this image shows the windshield assembly used in production for roadsters and tourings built between December 1914 and August 1916, After building zero new 1915 tourings in January, February 1915 saw a paltry 5674 tourings produced. March 1915 was better, with production up to 17,485 tourings. April, May, June and July 1915 all saw production of the tourings at normal levels above 20,000 cars for each month. Below the front seat cushion, the heel panel is embossed with a stiffening cross impression, above which is a letter. In this case the letter “B” represents the body maker Beaudette. This practice began in 1914, and continued as late as 1919. Beaudette bodies used in 1915 model year are of the “no rivet” style with wooden structure below front and rear seats in the touring. These bodies have a metal tag nailed to the structure beneath the front seat cushion as seen here. The first three characters are the date, in this case March 1915. Ford parts catalogs stated that the body serial number was needed when ordering parts, because there were big differences between bodies. Ford used bodies primarily from Beaudette, Fisher, and Hayes but there were several other suppliers or sub – suppliers that year. The front floor mat continued to be the rubber one used since 1909 with Ford logo. On the floor in the rear seat area as shown here Ford supplied a woven “cocoa mat” that collected mud from the feet of the passengers. Notice the heavy wooden body sills which are about triple the size used in the ill fated 1913 bodies. 1914 – 1916 door strikers used on the touring and runabout are different than later units because the door latch moves up and down. This striker is made from brass, some have been seen that are made from steel. The magneto powered headlamps found on the 1915 touring and runabout are typical of the one seen above. Post mounted, with the brass headlamp rim roll stamped Ford Brown. The electrical connectors on headlamps were 90 degrees from 1915 – 1918. Ford used the KW coil design exclusively in 1915. The two coils on the right are typical of 1915 production, with metal tops secured by four screws. The coils on the left with six screws are more typical of 1913 – 1914. Photo credit: Ron Patterson. The brass tops would have been raven finished originally, but collectors today enjoy seeing them polished. Ford supplied the excellent roller timer with every car in 1915. The cases were cast from both aluminum and iron during the year. The oiler shown here is not typical of 1915. A 1915 timer would have used the “manhole” style oiler with a cap retained by a central spring which could be raised from any angle. This photo was taken in the Highland Park assembly plant on March 30, 1915. Notice the shape of the body character line above the rear fender, it is the straight line typical of the earlier body style. The fully upholstered bodies were painted with sort of a garden hose with sprinkler head attachment. Excess paint ran into a trough below the cars to be reused. Runs, defects, and painted upholstery edges were common. With a new 1915 touring priced at $490 few buyers were dissuaded by the paint quality. Even though the paint application was rudimentary the results were pretty good. Sadly this 1915 touring was totaled early in its life, shiny paint job notwithstanding.