THE MODEL T
A Beginner’s Guide by Barefoot
Driving a Model T is easy and it is fun. Simply follow these instructions to gain understanding, confidence, dexterity and a whole lot of enjoyment and plain and simple fun. The “Tin Lizzie” may appear unlovely and ungainly at first, but she is utterly simple, straight-forward and agile in her own way.
The Ford Model T was the world’s first mass produced car, the car that put the world on wheels, designed to be operated easily by folks who had previously only driven a mule. Operation of the Model T is easier to master than a manual transmission car of today
ORIENTATION – WHERE & WHAT DOES IT DO?
With the car on level ground and the engine off, climb up behind the wheel. Notice the hand lever on the floor to your left, the two levers on the steering column beneath the steering wheel, and the three pedals on the floor.
Let’s start with the hand lever. All the way back it sets the rear wheel parking/emergency brakes and puts the transmission in neutral. Half-way released it maintains neutral, and fully released it engages the planetary transmission in high gear. Feel it a few times, notice that it holds the left pedal in neutral mid-position, then release it, and notice that the left pedal is all the way up.
Next, the lever to the left beneath the steering wheel is the spark adjust advance/retard from before top dead center ignition to after top dead center. To retard the spark it is moved up, to advance the spark it is moved down. The Model T is always started in the retard position, as it was designed to be started by hand cranking. Unless it is retarded the engine can and will KICK BACK and do damage to hands, wrists and arms. NEVER crank it except in the retard position. After the engine is running, the lever can be moved down to advance the ignition until the engine chuckles smoothly, and when rolling to get the best performance.
The lever to the right is the throttle lever, there is no foot pedal like a modern car. Up is idle speed, down is as fast as it will go. Maximum performance in a Model T is like with a mule, with both ears laid back.
Next, the foot pedals on the floorboard –
The left foot pedal changes your forward gear ratios, up is high, down is low. The Model T has just those two forward ratios, high gear and low gear. Midway between high and low is the neutral “out of gear” position of the left pedal.
To engage first gear, let the handbrake lever off and push the pedal all the way down until it becomes HARD. Pull the handbrake up and feel how the lever holds neutral position on the gear pedal.
The center pedal is for reverse gear engagement, but either the hand lever or the left pedal must be in neutral position before engagement, or the engine will stall. All the way down HARD is reverse position.
The right pedal is the brake. It engages a band around a braking drum in the transmission, operating in the engine oil bath. Therefore, to avoid burning off the oil due to friction heat, and wearing out the band quickly, apply the brake in relatively short duration thrusts to allow the oil to wash and continue lubricating and cooling it.
Note: The Ford Model T only applies braking to the rear wheels!!!
Braking by right pedal is via the driveline to the rear wheels only, does not actuate the rear drum brakes, and can cause dangerous skids in slick road conditions, as the differential will allow one wheel to spin forward and the other backward. Therefore, in slick conditions, use the hand lever to apply braking to the rear drum brakes.
Get the feel of the controls, they will become familiar quickly.
NOTICE!!! FIRST THINGS FIRST!!!
1. Raise the right side of the engine hood and check that the engine oil level is adequate, within the limits prescribed. This is done by opening the lower petcock at the rear of the engine. If it does not flow, close the lower petcock, open the upper petcock and add oil until oil flows from the upper petcock. Close the upper petcock, lower and latch the hood.