Car of the Week: The 1909 Ford Model T

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The 1909 Model T Touring

The Ford Model T was introduced in October 1908, and was an entirely new car when compared to Ford’s previous models. Quite simply, it was a car that would change history, become probably the most noteworthy automobile ever built, and launch to Ford Motor Company to unmatched heights.

The Model T engine had four cylinders, cast en bloc with a removable cylinder head, quite unusual for the time. The engine pan was a one-piece steel stamping and had no inspection plate.

The chassis featured transverse springs, front and rear, a rear axle housing that was drawn steel rather than a casting. The rear axles were non-tapered, with the hubs being held with a key and a pin and the pin retained by the hub cap. The front axle was a forged “I” beam with spindles that had integral arms. The use of vanadium steel almost throughout made for a stronger, yet lighter, machine that gave the Ford impressive performance for its time. The wheels were 30-inch with 30 x 3-inch tires on the front, and 30 x 3-1/2-inch on the rear. The wheel hub flanges were 5-1/2-inch diameter (compared with 6-inch from 1911 until the end of production in 1927). Windshields and tops were optional equipment on open cars, as were gas headlights, speedometers, robe rails, Prest-O-lite tanks, foot rests, auto chimes, car covers and other accessories that Ford would install at the factory. The radiator was brass, as were any lamps furnished (oil cowl lamps and taillamps were standard equipment). The hood had no louvers and was made of aluminum.

The body styles offered were the Touring, the Runabout (a roadster), the Coupe, the Town Car and the Landaulet. The bodies were generally made of wood panels over a wood frame and were offered in red, gray and green. Gray was used primarily on the Runabouts, red on the Touring cars and green on the Town cars and Landaulets. These early cars (first 2,500) were so unique that they are generally considered a separate subject when discussing Model T’s. Essentially, the engines had built-in water pumps and the first 800 cars came with two foot pedals and two control levers (the second lever being for reverse) instead of the usual three pedals and one lever. The front fenders were square tipped, with no “bills.”

The Model T went through a number of production changes, especially early on. This would be Ford Motor Company practice with the Model T, especially in the early years, depending on the available components as well as improvements made during the production runs. One of the most visible changes to the 1909 Model T’s came after the first 800 were produced. The two pedals and two levers became one lever and three pedals — clutch, reverse and brake, from left to right. After April 1909, more T’s came with tops, windshields and gas headlights, which had been considered accessories. Thermosyphon cooling replaced the water pump used on early production T’s.

Beginning about car number 2,500, the Model T became more or less standardized. Through most of 1909, the windshields and tops on the open cars remained optional, but more and more were delivered with this equipment, as well as gas headlights, factory installed. By the end of the year, they were standard. Body types and styling continued unchanged. Colors continued as in the early production, except that both green and red Touring cars were produced, along with a mixture of colors in the other models as well. Red was not offered after June 1909. Black was not listed as an available color and only one of the shipping invoices showed black, but early cars extant seem to indicate that black was used. This could be due to oxidation of the top color coat, but black early Fords are an enigma to the Model T student. The one aluminum-paneled touring body, built by Pontiac Body, was discontinued about September 1909. The late 1909 fenders were similar in design to the earlier 1909 fenders, but now had rounded fronts with small “bills.” The engine no longer had the water pump. Instead, it was cooled by thermosyphon action and set the pattern for all later Model T engines.

From October 1908 to April 1909, the serial number was between center exhaust ports on side of engine. Starting: 1 (October 1908). Ending: approximately 2500. (The first of the non-water pump engines was 2448, built on April 22, 1909, but there was some mixture of the old and the new in production for a short time.)

Technical info:
Early 1909 Model T: (First 800)] Planetary transmission. Speeds: 2F/1R, two pedal controls and two levers on floor. Multiple-disc clutch (24 discs). Torque tube drive. Straight bevel rear axle. Overall ratio: 3.63:1. Brakes: contracting band in transmission. Hand-operated internal expanding in rear wheels. Foot brake stops driveshaft. Parking brake on two rear wheels. Wheel size: 30-inch  Clutch and Brakes [through car 800]: Clutch pedal gives low when pressed to floor, high when released, neutral in between. Reverse lever puts clutch in neutral and applies reverse brake band. Second lever is the parking brake. [1909-1927] Planetary transmission. Speeds: 2F/1R. Three pedal controls and one lever on floor. Multiple disc clutch (26 discs 1909-1915), (25 discs 1915-1927). Torque tube drive. Straight bevel rear axle. Overall ratio: 3.63:1. Brakes: Contracting band in transmission. Hand-operated internal expanding in rear wheels. Foot brake stops driveshaft. Parking brake on two rear wheels. Wheel size: 30 inch (21-inch optional in 1925, standard in 1926-1927). Drivetrain options: 4.0:1 optional rear axle ratio beginning in 1919. Clutch and Brakes [after car 800]: Clutch pedal gives low when pressed to floor, high when released, neutral in between. Control lever puts clutch in neutral and applies parking brake. Center foot pedal applies reverse. Third (right-hand) pedal is the service brake, applying transmission brake band. Model T Wheels: Standard wheels are wooden spoke with demountable rims, an option beginning in 1919. In 1925, 21-inch wood spoke demountable rim wheels were an option, these became standard in 1926. Beginning January 1926 optional 21-inch wire wheels became available. These became standard on some closed cars in calendar year 1927. In mid-1925 (1926 models) the transmission brake was made about a half-inch wider, and the rear wheel brakes were enlarged to 11 inches with lined shoes. 1909-1925 were 7-inch with cast iron shoes (no lining). Springs were transverse semi-elliptic, front and rear. Model T Steering: 3:1 steering gear ratio by planetary gear at top of steering column until mid-1925 when ratio was changed to 5:1.

Model T Options for 1909:
Windshield. Headlamps. Tops. Horns. Prest-O-lite tanks (instead of the carbide tank). Robe rails. Tire chains. Top boots. Foot rests. Spare tire carriers. Speedometers. Bumpers. 60-inch front and rear tread.

Fast Facts
— Early Model T’s used rubber/linoleum-covered running boards trimmed with brass moldings.
— Early Ts had wooden bodies over wooden frames. Some were aluminum over wood.
— The 1909 T’s had a “no rivet” rear axle housing.
— The “Ford” name had “wings” — a wavy script line was added before and after the Ford name.
— Ford’s block cast engine and drawn steel rear axle structure were considered technological marvels in 1909.
— Early T’s used a hubcap with the Ford name in large block letters rather than the familiar script style.

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