Driving a Model T Ford


The Model T Ford car, produced from 1908 to 1927, is a legend in car history becoming the first to be popular in the mass market. A little fact that I had not been aware of is that the car got its name from a series of models that began with Model A and worked its way through the alphabet until they got to T when they had a winner. Not every letter corresponded to a production model since many were just prototypes.

But while the car may appear to be simple compared to modern ones, it turns out that driving it is quite complicated with three foot pedals that had different functions than current standard transmission cars.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s so fascinating that they built something capable of achieving dangerous speeds, and apparently accepted that if you rolled into a ditch, you’d get thrown out or crushed by the canopy, and if you hit something you’d make a hole in that big sheet of glass with your skull.

    A few years ago (tequila was involved) I had one of those major epiphanies that changes your life and makes you feel like you’ve achieved real understanding about something. That was how I felt (at the time) (because tequila was involved) and this was my epiphany: people just aren’t very good at most of the stuff we do. Shhhh, don’t tell everyone.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    It’s so fascinating that they built something capable of achieving dangerous speeds, and apparently accepted that if you rolled into a ditch, you’d get thrown out or crushed by the canopy, and if you hit something you’d make a hole in that big sheet of glass with your skull

    One’s sense of safety is all relative. I’d much rather trust a ride in a Model T over a horse that can spook at the littlest thing and trample me. Once, I was at an event in a park that was somewhat crowded and had a mounted policeman. Without warning, that supposedly professionally trained horse started rearing and bucking. It was just luck that it didn’t hurt someone.

  3. says

    I’d much rather trust a ride in a Model T over a horse that can spook at the littlest thing and trample me

    Oh, hell yes.

    I’ve been on horses that have spooked(*) It’s exceedingly unpleasant. I’ve been bucked off and that’s definitely worse, though (unless the horse sticks around to trample you, which they sometimes do if they don’t like you) you don’t have this big mass of steel and wheels trying to involve you with the pavement.

    Scariest thing I saw was one time a team of belgians with a wagon-load of beer got frisky and headed right for a crowd. They turned at the last second but if that had gone wrong there would have been mashed kids all over the pavement. (When something like that happens, if the two lead horses decide to sheer off in the same direction, then they and the wagon go that direction. If one tries to go left and the other right they go straight a little longer and blammo!)

    And I don’t want to remember the last time I ever went to an airshow and the pilot of an F-14 spooled it up and turned so the jet exhaust was going right into the crowd sitting on blankets at the end of the flight line. Someone must have been screaming into the radio because they turned back before anyone was hurt but there were kids practically going airborne.

    It’s weird the crazy stupid dangerous stuff we want to see because it’s cool!!! OO! Space Shuttl… uh oh.

    (* OK, one time it was legit; there was a bear napping in the cornfield and it woke up when it heard the horse and stood up)

  4. flex says

    Last Sunday I was a party with a bunch of car buffs (a hazard of living in SE Michigan), and their contention was that the Model T was a success precisely because it was easier to drive and repair than other vehicles on the market.

    Not that it’s easier than today’s vehicles, which are rapidly becoming point-and-go, but that other vehicles at the time were very difficult to drive.

  5. kyoseki says

    In one of their more interesting segments, Top Gear went down to Beaulieu (pronounced “bewlee” for reasons best known to itself) motor museum and did some “investigation” to find out how the control system evolved into the common system we have today.

    I’d love to post a youtube link, but I can’t find the footage on there :/
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2p03c3

  6. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Motorcycles are the same way. By the time anyone got serious about trying to build them (for production), the car had been around for a while and the now familiar clutch-brake-accelerator configuration was mostly standard.

    …so they tried the same thing on motorcycles.

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=suicide+shifter+motorcycle

    There are still a few of these riding around and they are a challenge to ride. I would never attempt it (and I race motorcycles).

  7. lanir says

    I noticed in the comments on the youtube page for the video that the model T has a push button ignition. I remember my grandfather telling me about the hand crank variety and how it could break your arm if you held on a little too long. Certainly sounded like an improvement to me.

  8. StevoR says

    @ 4. Marcus Ranum : “It’s weird the crazy stupid dangerous stuff we want to see because it’s cool!!! OO! Space Shuttl… uh oh.”

    The space Shuttle was a remarkably successful wonder of the world. It flew one hundred and thirty five times and landed its crew safe and sound one hundred and thirty three of those times. * It launched the Magellan spaceprobe to Venus, The Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter, built the International Space Station, flew Spacelab, launched and repaired the Hubble Space Telescope and did so much more. It was the first reusable spacecraft, the first to land like a aircraft after launching like a rocket and the only reusuable spaceplane to carry astronauts into space with the vast majority of all astronauts who have ever flown having flown on it.

    So I take issue with your characterisation of it here. “Weird” is subjective I ‘spose, “crazy” and “stupid” are ableist inappropriate terms and I think clearly wrong by virtue of the facts above. As for “dangerous”, well, relatively but also wrong in that it was actually reasonably safe for spacecraft which by their definition and job description will always have some element of risk.

    * See : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle

  9. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : Actually to be pedantic all my facts are accurate and so I am correct and NOT wrong.

    Also are you arguing that words like “crazy”and “stupid”are not in fact able-ist?

    Finally, note that I am NOT saying the Space Shuttle was flawless or delivered absolutely everything that was (over)promised. That doesn’t however make what I’ve said it was inaccurate,. It was a truly wonderful and highly successful spacecraft when you look at what it did accomplish or marvel at its launches which I fondly recall watching live online and sometimes on TV. If you can watch the clips of its launches and flights like this one :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQSCn8O6omY

    without feeling awe and wonder and joy, and marvelling at what we’ve been able to build and fly and land so well so often doing so much then I pity you.

  10. StevoR says

    Also to think we’ve come from building the Wright brothers first aircraft and the likes of the Model T Ford to the Space Shuttle – and Apollo-Saturn V spacecraft and modern Formula 1 and Aussie V8 and Le Mans race cars in less than a full century. Impressive.

  11. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    @ ^ John Morales : Actually to be pedantic all my facts are accurate and so I am correct and NOT wrong.

    I cited the same source as you did, in relation to providing facts.

    (You dispute mine but not yours?)

    Also are you arguing that words like “crazy”and “stupid”are not in fact able-ist?

    Not in the slightly.

    In fact (ahem) I did not write either word, which kinda makes it difficult to argue about what they are.

    Finally, note that I am NOT saying the Space Shuttle was flawless or delivered absolutely everything that was (over)promised. That doesn’t however make what I’ve said it was inaccurate,. It was a truly wonderful and highly successful spacecraft when you look at what it did accomplish or marvel at its launches which I fondly recall watching live online and sometimes on TV.

    But I dispute none of that.

    I merely noted that “The Shuttle was way, way worse than even the most pessimistic expectations of it”.

    (I don’t know how you imagine that your claim and mine are contradictory)

    If you can watch the clips of its launches and flights like this one :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQSCn8O6omY

    without feeling awe and wonder and joy, and marvelling at what we’ve been able to build and fly and land so well so often doing so much then I pity you.

    If you don’t feel about how stupid political (and military) interference fucked up a great idea, so that what so elates so you is far from what it could have been, then perhaps it is you who is to be pitied.

    From my link:

    When all design and maintenance costs are taken into account, the final cost of the Space Shuttle program, averaged over all missions and adjusted for inflation, was estimated to come out to $1.5 billion per launch, or $60,000/kg (approximately $27,000 per pound) to LEO. This should be contrasted with the originally envisioned costs of $118 per pound of payload in 1972 dollars (approximately $657 per pound adjusting for inflation to 2013).

  12. John Morales says

    BTW,

    It was a truly wonderful and highly successful spacecraft when you look at what it did accomplish or marvel at its launches

    What few there were, at enormous expense (from earlier citation):

    The launch rate was significantly lower than initially expected. While not reducing absolute operating costs, more launches per year gives a lower cost per launch. Some early hypothetical studies examined 55 launches per year (see above), but the maximum possible launch rate was limited to 24 per year based on manufacturing capacity of the Michoud facility that constructs the external tank. Early in shuttle development, the expected launch rate was about 12 per year. Launch rates reached a peak of 9 per year in 1985 but averaged fewer thereafter.

  13. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    […] and Apollo-Saturn V spacecraft […]

    Yes, about those (same source):

    In particular, NASA administrator Michael D. Griffin argued in a 2007 paper that the Saturn program, if continued, could have provided six manned launches per year — two of them to the moon — at the same cost as the Shuttle program, with an additional ability to loft infrastructure for further missions:

    If we had done all this, we would be on Mars today, not writing about it as a subject for “the next 50 years.” We would have decades of experience operating long-duration space systems in Earth orbit, and similar decades of experience in exploring and learning to utilize the Moon.

  14. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : You sure are a glass half empty guy aren’t you?

    Maybe look at what the Space Shuttle and Apollo-Saturn V and other such craft did do instead of what they didn’t?

    But that ain’t your style or focus is it? Pity. For you and those you encounter. Those machines may not have been perfect, may not have lived up to every hope but, yegods they were wonderful in what they still did. Youcannot appreciate that. Your loss – it really is.

  15. StevoR says

    Also, John Morales, you excessive focus on monetary costs and the bean counting thing .. just .. nahh fuck that.

    You forget the money is spent on Earth and is a tiny fraction of the US budget really.Less than 1% of it actually. With so much wasted on stuff that means and does so much less. And there are values and things that mean so much more than just money. Intangible things but nevertheless meaningful and worthwhile things.

    But you can’t see them can you? Again your loss and pitiful of you.

  16. John Morales says

    @ ^ John Morales : You sure are a glass half empty guy aren’t you?

    Half-full and half-empty are the same thing, StevoR. But when one empties a water tank to half-fill a glass of water, I notice that.

    Maybe look at what the Space Shuttle and Apollo-Saturn V and other such craft did do instead of what they didn’t?

    I did: the shuttle set the space program decades back.

    (The Apollo/Saturn took humans to the Moon, the Shuttle took them to LEO)

    But that ain’t your style or focus is it?

    No; my style is to look at both the costs and the benefits, including the opportunity costs.

    [blah blah] But you can’t see them can you? Again your loss and pitiful of you.

    You pity me because I see more than you do, so that you don’t comprehend what I apprehend.

  17. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : I pity you because you seem unable to enjoy wonder or be impressed by what is incredibly impressive.

    I don;t think you can really blame the Space Shuttle for the fact that, for example, Obama cancelled the Constellation program after its first successful test flight. Or that he and Bush failed to update and improve on the Space Shuttles and keep them flying and budgeted for when they could have chosen more wisely to do so rather than waste money on so much other shit.

    I’m sure you can think of as many alternative cuts that could have been made and reasonable taxes that could’ve been imposed on those who could afford it it made as I can.

    NASA as a whole let alone the Space Shuttles and Constellation program was such a tiny fraction of the US budget. Priorities. Obama – and Bush Jr and others failed so badly here. Coulda been so different.

    And the Space Shuttles were awesome. If you cannot bring yourself to admit that then, yeah, you are lost.

  18. John Morales says

    StevoR, fine, you pity me because I am less easily impressed than you (ooh, shiny!). With luck, that attitude soothes your evident inadequacy.

    Still, I hope you now understand the point Marcus Ranum made @4, which bemused you to the extent you responded with your #9, which I addressed and which led to this digression.

    In passing, I note a particularly salient contrast between the Model T and the Shuttle; the former, in Wikipedia’s words “is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened travel to the common middle-class American; some of this was because of Ford’s efficient fabrication, including assembly line production instead of individual hand crafting.”

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