Ford Model T : Frequently Asked Questions

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I am interested in Model T Fords. Are there any clubs I can join?

Yes. You can join the The Model T Ford Club International, the The Model T Ford Club of America or a local chapter. The Model T experience can be profound! Join up and see what it's all about.

How many Ford Model T cars were produced?

From 1908 to 1927 Ford produced more than 15 million Model T automobiles. The cars produced in 1908 follow what is now standard industry practice in naming them after their model year. As a result, those cars produced in 1908 are really 1909 production year cars.

What types of models were made?

In addition to selling bare chassis, Model T Fords came in the following body styles: Touring, Runabout, Coupe, Town, Tourster, Torpedo, Sedan, Couplet,Tudor Sedan and Fordor Sedan.

Did Henry Ford invent the automobile?

No. On January 29, 1886, Karl Benz received a patent for a crude gas-fueled car. In 1893, Charles and Frank Duryea, of Springfield, Massachusetts, built the first gas-operated vehicle in the U.S.

What is the horsepower of the Model T Ford engine?

Up until 1926 Model T engines were about 22 horse power. For 1926/27 the horsepower was reduced by lowering the compression to compensate for lower octane fuels available at that time. This really slowed the newer cars down since they were also putting on weight due to the all steel body construction for these model years. The following description is from the 1911 Ford Owner's manual:

The Engine in the Model T is a 4 cylinder, 4 cycle with 3-3/4 inch bore, 4 inch stroke and rated as 20 horsepower. Rated in accordance with the now generally accepted formula for determining horsepower, d2 x n / 2-1/2, or the square of the diameter of one cylinder multiplied by the number of cylinders and the result divided by 2-1/2, the horsepower of the Model T is 22-1/2.

How fast can a Model T go?

A production Model T can reach more than 30 miles per hour on an good road. Enclosed cars are much heavier and can't go quite as fast as an open runabout. In the early twenties Ford was racing cars based on the Model T at Indianapolis at over 100 miles per hour -- a scary thought for anyone that has ever driven a Model T.

How many miles per gallon (mpg) does a Model T get?

Contrary to the crazy numbers like 25 mpg that have been floating about the Internet these days, the Model T engine is not terribly efficient compared to modern ones. While our measurements are perhaps less than completely scientific, experience indicates that our Ts get about 10-12 miles per US gallon, depending on the countryside. 25 mpg might be possible if the test was all down hill, with a mast and sail afixed and a good tail wind. There ain't no way a Model T Ford gets 25 mph or even close. Your mileage may vary.

How much does a Ford Model T weigh?

When Model Ts were first produced, they weighed in at roughly 1200 pounds, with the bare chassis weighing about 900 pounds. Over the years, especially in 1926 and 1927 production, the bodies were all-steel, as opposed to the steel sheets over wood construction of earlier years. As a result,the weight went up to over 1500 pounds, making Henry's lady rather hefty indeed.

What is so different about Canadian Model T Fords?

Model T Fords were produced in Canada from the first model year. While American made Model T cars are fairly common, especially the later models, Canadian cars are much rarer today since far fewer were produced. By 1913 Ford was casting blocks in Canada, and these blocks have serial numbers beginning with the letter 'C'. They also have "Made In Canada" in the casting in place for the usual "Made in U.S.A.". On cars made in 1913 or later, Canadian cars had driver's doors whereas American made cars do not. Early American Ford Model T's used different sized wheels for the front (30x3) and rear (30x3 1/2) while Canadian cars used 30x3 1/2 wheels all round so that drivers did not need to carry two sizes for spares.

Are Model T tires solid rubber?

No. They are inflated to about 75 pounds pressure.

What's that cylinder on the driver's side running board of 1909-1914 cars?

This is the acetylene or carbide generator. The generator was used1911 Roadster Ford Model T to supply acetylene gas to the cars headlights prior to the introduction of magneto powered electric lighting in 1915. The generator consists of a cannister which contains an upper compartment, filled with water, and a lower wire basket which contained calcium carbide. A valve on the top of the unit (controlled by the driver) released a drip of water from the upper compartment onto the carbide. This created acetylene gas which was then piped to the head lamps.

What is the wheelbase and track width of a Model T Ford?

The wheelbase is 100.5 inches, and the front/rear track width is 56 inches, or 60 inches if ordered in the wide-track, or "Southern Roads" configuration. Depending on the model the fenders can extend several feet in front and rear of the wheel hub centers.

What does the 'T' in 'Model T' stand for?

Henry Ford and his engineers used the first 19 letters of the alphabet to designate their automobiles, although some of the cars were experimental and never reached the public. The most successful of the early production cars was the Model N -- a small, light, four-cylinder machine which went on the market at $500. A $2,500 six-cylinder luxury car, the Model K, sold poorly. Ford started naming his early cars with the Model A, and this letter code was later reused on the successor to the Model T.

Where does the name 'Tin Lizzie' come from?

Our guess is that it originates as a derisive reference to a cheap metal or 'tin' horse. Liz, or Lizzie, was a common name for a horse in the era of brass motorcars.

What where the original colors of the Ford Model T, and in what year did Ford start painting them all black?

No one really knows if Henry Ford ever said that the buying public could have Model T Fords "in any color, so long as it's black", but it is commonly attributed to him. While this saying is true for the model years after 1913, earlier cars were available in Brewster Green, Red, Blue and Gray. In fact, in the first year, Model T Fords were not available in Black at all, but only in Gray, Red and Brewster Green.

Why did Henry Ford choose black for the color of the Model T Ford?

It is often quoted that Ford chose black because the paint dried faster than other colored paints available at the time, and a faster drying paint would allow him to build cars faster as he would not have to wait for the paint to dry. This theory is not supported by fact however.

The fact is that over 30 different types of black paint were used to paint various parts of the Model T. The different types of paint were formulated to satisfy the different means of applying the paint to the different parts, and had different drying times, depending on the paint and the drying method used for a particular part. Ford engineering documents suggest that the color black was chosen because it was cheap and it was durable. Common sense tells us that Ford, being a pragmatic man building a very practical car, certainly would have chosen black for this reason.

I just inherited Dad's old Model T, how much is it worth?

It's really impossible to appraise a car without detailed photos, but some general principles (keeping in mind the old saying that it is worth what someone will pay you for it, and not a penny more) are below:

How much oil does a Model T engine hold?

About 4 liters. A good rule of thumb is that you need to fill the engine oil until the oil pours out when the top pepcock is open. If the oil does not pour out, then add more oil.

What kind of oil should I use in my Ford Model T?

We recommend using Valvoline 10W40, since it is the only oil left on the market with the trace elements, like zinc and phosphorus, that are required to reduce wear on the push rods and cam shaft.

Where is the serial number (VIN number) located on my Ford Model T?

That depends on the year. On a Model T Ford, the serial number, or VIN number, is the same as the engine number. Some cars also have a frame (26-7 model years) number and some a body number. Since body numbers were assigned by multiple body manufacturers, they are not recorded as the car number. In 1909-1911 the serial (VIN) number is located on the passenger side of the engine block, on a small boss just behind the timing gear and in front of the cam shaft bearing retaining screw. In 1912, the serial number was moved to the boss over the water outlet on the right hand side of the engine, where it remained until 1927.

Why was the Ford Model T so historically important?

Here are our top reasons why the Model T was a great car for its time:

Should I use synthetic or high-detergent oil in my Model T?

This is the issue of much debate amongst Model T enthusiasts. My personal recommendation is that if you are unsure of what to use and you don't wish to experiment, use products that are identical or similar to those in existence when your Model T was made and you can't go wrong. That means no synthetic or high-detergent oil.

Here is an excerpt from the 1911 Ford Model T Operating Manual:

We recommend only light high-grade gas engine oil for use in the model T motor. A light grade of oil is preferred as it will naturally reach the bearing surfaces with greater ease, and, consequently, less heat will develop on account of friction. The oil should, however, have sufficient body so that the pressure between the two bearing surfaces will not force the oil out and allow the metal to come in actual contact. Heavy and inferior oils have a tendency to carbonize quickly, also gum up the piston rings and valve stems.