By Brian Earnest
Even though he still frequently refers to it as “Grandpa’s truck,” Crandall Robbins has actually owned his wonderful 1924 Ford Model TT pickup longer than his grandfather. Grandpa John Zendener bought the truck new to use on his farm and owned it up until his passing in 1953.
His grandson Crandall hoped to somehow get the truck and make sure it stayed in the family, but he had to wait 27 long years — up until 1980, before he finally got the keys.
“I finally convinced my mom and my aunt to sell me the Model TT and then I started working on it,” Robbins says. “My mom didn’t have too much to do with it other than it was her dad’s, but my aunt would get it out once a year for the Akron (Colo.) parade. Once I got it and changed the oil, I swear it was the same oil that Grandpa had in it … [My aunt] didn’t want to sell it to me. I guess she was worried I was going to make a hot rod out of it, I guess because I was young and she thought that’s what everybody does to old cars. And I have seen some of these old ‘C’ cabs made into hot rods.”
Grandpa Zendener had used the Ford as a typical farm truck, putting it through rugged duty in the field hauling grain and performing countless other tasks. “During the harvest season he’d go out in the fields and throw grain right into the truck and he had side boards that went clear to the top of the cab all the way around. He’d fill that up and take it to the grainery, and they would put a hook on the front axel and tip the whole truck and dump the grain that way. That’s how they emptied the truck,” Robbins said. Eventually, the old Ford was retired, but it never left the family and never made it to a boneyard.
Once Robbins got the truck home to Thornton, Colo., he slowly began getting it back into shape. He never intended to turn the old Ford into a show truck, but he still had to attend to pretty much every inch of the TT before he was done.
“I wanted to fix it up and try to get it back the way it was originally. That’s been a long process,” he admitted. “One reason I wanted it is because I knew it was sitting out there at my aunt and uncle’s and it was deteriorating fast because it wasn’t protected.
“I remember getting in and riding in that truck in Akron and I thought I was king of the hill and thought I was going so fast! Of course, now I get run over out there on the road … Luckily, my grandpa took pretty good care of it. It took me forever to strip down all the paint. It had probably five layers of brushed paint on it. The wooden box was just covered in paint. There must have been 1/16 of an inch of paint on there to get off.”
Robbins rebuilt the engine in the Ford and found out in the process that his grandfather had swapped in a 1926 engine at some point in the truck’s life. “He had probably just used up the old one,” he said.
Robbins later broke the crank shaft and had to swap in a third engine — also from 1926. “I was driving it too fast. I was going down the road about 40 mph when the crankshaft broke and it took the transmission and motor and everything with it,” he said.
One of his most recent projects on the truck was building a new seat for it. The seat isn’t really a copy of the factory style, but it’s close enough. And it’s not fancy, which fits in with the rest of the truck.
After years of tinkering Robbins got the TT finished up and running nicely. He expected the truck would have a permanent home in his garage, but those plans almost changed abruptly about 10 years ago. “I didn’t think I’d be ever able to drive it again. I got run over on my motorcycle, and the guy who did it took off and took my right leg with him,” Robbins said.
“I didn’t know how I would ever drive it again. It’s not easy to drive anyway. It’s a handful with two legs. But a guy in the Model T Club figured out how to get me a hand brake and helped me get it all set up and I figured out how to drive it.”
The Model TT was in its eighth year as Ford’s rugged mid-size truck by the time the 1924 models came out. Previously, the TT had been available only as a rolling chassis, but for ’24 Ford began making its own canopy express and canopy pickup bodies. Open and closed cab models were also available. The canopy trucks had sides that were either open, screened or curtained. The closed cabs had moon-shaped side openings that could be fitted with curtains.
The only engine available was the 176.7-cid four rated at 20 hp. The TT trucks rode on chassis that stretched 124 inches — four more than the Model T automobiles — and rolled on 30-inch wheels. Magneto headlamps and oil taillamps were among the standard features. The two-speed Ruckstell “underdrive” transmission made the TT’s suitable for heavy loads at low speeds and gave the trucks good hill-climbing power in low gear.
At less than $400, the TT’s continued to be attractive to both urban businesses and farmers, and Ford cranked out more than 204,000 for the model year.
In the collector vehicle, Model TT Fords remain a bargain and a lot of fun for the money. They are relatively plentiful, and there are many resources available to help keep them running. Robbins has had plenty of outside assistance with his truck over the years, but he’s put in plenty of blood and sweat of his own.
“It’s a lot of work, but I do get to enjoy it and it’s not a trailer queen,” he says. “I take it to picnics and stuff and give kids rides. I let them get in it and climb around.
“I want the kids to someday remember it like I did. I hope someone will anyway.”
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