The 1917 – 1918 Model T Ford

Usually we try not to combine model years when describing a Model T because there are typically a lot of differences. In this case we have more things that did not change than those that changed. We will carefully explain those things that did change so that you can see the differences between 1917 and 1918 model years.

Our 1917 runabout wearing its original paint and interior. The car had about 1800 original miles and had been stored by the original owner from 1920 – 1951 in a garage in Hastings, Minnesota. Photo taken at 4640 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 1951.

Ford had passed the magical one million mark cars produced in 1916. For 1917 Ford intended to accomplish a major restyling of the car and accomplish minor upgrades to the mechanical items without causing the production problems that hurt output of Model T’s in 1915. The 1917 model year began August 1, 1916. The first serial number recorded for a 1917 Model T was 1,362,814. The 1917 model year ended on July 31, 1917 with serial number 2,113,501 being the last 1917 Model T off the line.

All fenders were new for 1917 with front fenders now curved and crowned. Rear fenders were narrower than 1916 and were also crowned. The big news was the new sleek looking black radiator shell and gracefully curved hood. Gone was the old fashioned brass radiator and the awkward angular shaped hood.

Ford’s least expensive car in 1917 was the runabout priced at $345. Ford sold more than 105,000 runabouts during the model year. The top boot was included in the purchase price.
Treaded 30 X 3 1/2″ rear tires were standard equipment in 1917. Here we see a bare chassis being prepared for shipment. Ford did not yet make a commercial Model T truck, buyers would use the bare chassis and furnish their own commercial body. The bare chassis cost $325 and Ford sold more than 40,000 of them in 1917.

Also new for 1917 was the so called “high” cylinder head. The high cylinder head still had the same compression ratio as the earlier “low” head of 1916, but had greater coolant capacity. Also new for 1917 along with the black radiator was a fan shroud which was used only in 1917. The fan shroud is rarely seen today. Most were discarded by previous owners as being unnecessary. Ford must have agreed as the shroud was discontinued in 1918 model year.

1917 photo of the dash assembly area in the Highland Park plant. The steering wheels used in 1917 continued as before with a wooden rim and cast iron spider painted black. The steering gear quadrant and spark / gas levers were nickel plated. Paper sleeves protect the black paint on the steering column tubes. Notice the horn button on each column, the same type used in 1916 continued to be used for all of 1917 model year.
Many auto makers raised prices as the war raged in Europe. The United States was not directly involved – yet. Model T Ford prices were down again for 1917 and would continue to drop every year for another decade.
The Model T Town Car was in its final year of production in 1917, at least in the USA. The price was down to $595 and over 2300 were sold. Most ended up being used as taxi cabs.
This Model T town car was used in a number of silent films in the 1920’s in and around New York city. This is a still shot from the 1920 silent film “One Week” which premiered in 1920.
Very likely the same 1917 Model T town car from the movie “Speedy” starring Harold Lloyd and Babe Ruth.
A snowy day in New York city. The trusty Model T town car awaits a paying fare.
Not all taxis were town cars. This 1917 – 18 touring has its headlight and cowl light lenses blacked out which was required by some coastal cities after the United States entered the war in 1918. A new touring cost $360 in 1917. More than 360,000 were sold that year.
New 1917 Model T Fords have just been unloaded from rail cars so they can be driven to the local Ford agency.
The “Rip Van Winkle” 1917 Model T Ford touring. The car gained its nickname because it has less than 20 original miles since new. It remains in mostly original condition. Most of the mileage on the car was gained when the car was stolen and taken for a joy ride by some kids early in its life. The author is seen inspecting the car in 2015 when it belonged to Kim Dobbins of Harbor City, CA. The car is currently on diplay at the Ames Pontiac store in Spofford, NH.
The body of “Rip” was produced in June 1917 with body serial number 238750 stamped in the floorboard riser just inside the front door..
Rip’s engine retains its original smooth sided Champion X plugs. Someone added an accessory oil can mount at some point in the car’s history, this would not have been standard equipment from Ford.
Fan and crank pulleys are the same small size used in 1916. The grease cup on the fan is aluminum as is typical of all Model T’s from 1913 – 1920.
The coils found in Rip were the typical coil used in 1917 – 18. Instead of wooden boxes they were made using a molded plastic – like product invented by Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. The product is actually made from a resin containing wheat gluten. While it seemed to be a good idea at the time the wheat gluten coils tended to melt in hot weather, leading to erratic ignition performance. Ford went back to wooden coil boxes some time in 1918.
Interesting details abound on Rip. The tires leaning against the car are two of the original 30 X 3 front tires that came on the car when new. They have Ford script on each tire, with white sidewalls inside and out. The smooth tread areas are black. The crank handle is the typical cast iron handle introduced in 1914. The car is still wearing its original 1917 Minnesota license plates.
Ford offered the center door sedan in 1917 priced at $645. It was starting to catch on with buyers. More than 7300 were sold in 1917.
This 1917 – 18 center door sedan has a number of interesting accessories including a spot lamp, Macbeth headlight lenses, and lever – type shock absorbers. Road conditions seen here were typical for most of the United States once you got outside of the city limits. The car shown is wearing 1920 Washington state license plates.
A shiny new 1917 center door sedan outside the sales building at the Highland Park plant. Hopefully someone aired up the tires before attempting to drive very far!
This shiny new 1917 Couplet was likely scrapped after hitting a street car. The Couplet, like the center door sedan, was much more popular than it was in 1916, Priced at $505 there were more than 7300 sold. There were two styles of Couplet in 1917, with the early couplets having a convertible top like the 1916 model couplets. This is the later version with a fixed top.
This is an interesting photo of a 1917 couplet – look at the rear windows, there are two of them! The windshield was unique to the couplet and had many positions. In this photo the upper half is folded down.
Bare trees and a winter front covering the radiator mean the weather has turned cold. A perfect day for driving the enclosed 1917 Model T Couplet.
A highly accessorized 1917 couplet is shown with the side window pillars removed. The car has aftermarket wire wheels and some sort of electric cowl lamps. License plates are 1917 Ontario, Canada.
It seems like Model T Fords were attracted to ditches, and there was always a photographer on hand when it happened. This 1917 touring appears to be nearly new and hopefully was repairable. The broken windshield probably did not help the driver’s complexion. Safety glass was more than a decade from becoming available in new Fords.
A tire store in Portland, Oregon near the intersection of 4th and Oak streets about 1917. Tires are on sale for $11.50 each. This sounds cheap to us today, but it was anything but cheap. The average guy probably made $3 per day. A set of tires could cost as much as two weeks wages! You should also know that the average tire might only last 5000 miles back then, if you were lucky.
The Model T Runabout could be converted to a tractor with these geared bull wheels. Reversing the process might take only a few hours.
On the other hand this snow plow looks like it is pretty much non – reversible.

A few changes came for the 1918 model year. The 1918 Model year began August 1, 1917. The earliest serial number produced for 1918 was 2,113,502. The model year ended July 31, 1918 with serial number 2,756,251 being the last 1918 Ford produced. One major change with the 1918 model year was the introduction of the new TT Truck chassis. Two had been built as an experiment in 1917. The new 1918 TT truck was quite a success with over 41,000 sold at $600 each. Also new for 1918 was a combination horn button / headlight switch mounted to the steering column. This eliminated the separate headlight switch mounted to the dash board as it had been used from 1915 through the end of 1917 model year. Other noticeable changes included the splash aprons which were now made smooth from front to rear, eliminating the “kick” seen near the rear to clear the parking brake rods, and the elimination of one keyway from the steering wheel center and the steering gear box shaft. A new 7 leaf front spring was introduced about the middle of 1918 model year, replacing the 6 leaf spring in all models.

A car show in 1918 with the newest version of the couplet on display. The 1918 Couplet sold for $505 and it was even more popular than 1917 with over 14,000 sold. The one shown here has a nifty accessory bumper and demountable Firestone wheels.
The window pillars were again removable in the new 1918 Couplet. As always, every Model T came with kerosene cowl lamps and tail lamp. Headlamps were magneto powered.
A typical scene from back in the day. This 1918 couplet owner is searching for a pinhole leak so a patch can be applied.
Hopefully all of these folks won’t try to ride home in the 1918 couplet together. Accessory wire wheels make this car look really snazzy.
The windshield was another unique feature of the 1918 couplet. Now it was hinged at the very top, unlike the 1917 version.
New for 1918 was the Ford factory built ambulance. Production records show that more than 2100 were built for delivery to the military. Most went overseas, a real one is quite rare today.
RH rear 3/4 viewof the 1918 Model T ambulance in the lobby of the Sales Building, Highland Park Plant.
The bare chassis remained popular with customers who wanted to provide their own body in 1918. Retail price was listed as $325, over 37,000 were sold.
.Another bare chassis custom body, in this case a flower delivery body with an interesting plate glass display window.
A 1918 Model T Sedan (center door) sold for $645, and over 35,000 were sold as the sedan body style became more popular with consumers.
The touring went down to $360 for 1918. Production was down to just over 432,000 cars due to Ford factories being used to produce war materials.
The new 1918 light switch / horn button mounted in a new bracket to the steering column. Photo from the Lang’s catalog,
The TT truck chassis did not come equipped with a Fordson Tractor but it would certainly carry one.
Buyers of the new TT truck were expected to furnish their own body. The variety of TT truck bodies seen ranges from utilitarian to fabulous.
Even the frame is striped on theis 1918 Ogden Packing Company TT Truck.