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Ford Model T: Buying guide and review (1908-1927)

Ford Model T: Buying guide and review (1908-1927) Classic and Performance Car
Ford Model T Ford Model T Ford Model T Ford Model T grille Ford Model T steering wheel Ford Model T seat Ford Model T pedals Ford Model T and modern Fiesta
Voted the car of the century in 1999, the Ford Model T has left such an indelible mark on society that even 90 years after production ended, there are few people out there who do not know something about this iconic vehicle.
Introduced in 1909 by Henry Ford as a car for the people, it remained in production for 19 years with over 15 million cars being produced. Even though its launch price was well below most competitors, as Henry Ford optimised his mass production line he passed the labour savings on to the consumer so that by 1925 each car cost a third of the original price.
Basic, hardy, easy to repair and reliable for its time the ‘Tin Lizzie’ has had a strong following for decades. Read on to see what it is like to buy and own a car that at one time accounted for nearly 35% of all cars on the planet.

Which Model T to buy?

Broadly speaking, there were three evolutions of the Model T over its 19 year production life. Thanks to their durable design innumerable body styles and specifications were built over the years. Certain body styles could be ordered directly from the factory while a rolling chassis could also be bought, allowing coachbuilders and budding entrepreneurs to produce a wide variety of body styles. The first cars were produced between 1908 and 1916 during the brass-era of automotive manufacturing, and featured crank handle starting, acetylene and oil lighting with basically no interior features to speak of. A speedometer was optional but hardly necessary with a 45mph top speed.
The second evolution of the Model T was introduced in 1917, these were a bit more advanced and could be specified with a few more options such as an ammeter and horn. Post 1920 some models were fitted with battery powered starters. Despite what most people think, the Model T was available in colours other than black, however during the boom sales years between 1913 and 1925 the vast majority were indeed painted this colour. 
The final development of the Model T arrived in 1925. Among a number of changes, two of the most welcome were the softer tyres and an improved braking system. While quite simple to operate compared many other cars of this age, if you’re used to modern car controls a short driving lesson will be needed. The accelerator was a lever on the steering wheel, while the left two of the three foot pedals actually control the transmission, with the right pedal reserved for braking. 
Choosing a Model T depends mostly on what it will be used for, and how much you are willing to spend. While the most popular body styles were the open touring cars in either two or five-seat configuration, the modular chassis design allowed for numerous body styles and there are dozens to choose from. 

Performance and specs

Engine 2896cc side valve In-line four-cylinder
Power 22bhp 
Torque 83lb ft 
Top speed 40-45mph 
0-62mph n/a
Fuel consumption 20-25mpg 
Gearbox Two-speed manual

Dimensions and weight

Wheelbase 2540mm
Length 3404mm
Weight 540-680kg

Common problems

• The Model T may be a technically simple machine but it does take some mechanical know how to maintain it. Joining a Model T club is highly recommended as the wealth of knowledge that this can open up can make Model T ownership a far more pleasurable exercise.
• Thanks to the sheer number produced and the enthusiasm of many clubs and owners parts and spares can generally be sourced after a bit of online digging.
• The ancient Model T 2.9-litre four-cylinder motor is as tough as, well, an ancient Model T motor. Regular maintenance is generally all that is required to keep them running, while oil changes are recommended at frequent 1000mile intervals. The head is easily removable for repairs and general access to the mechanical components of the car is easy.
• The gravity feed fuel system meant that the car could cut out up steep hills, modern electronic fuel systems are one solution. Driving up a hill backwards is another.
• Cars with wooden bodies require careful inspection for rot and general damage. 
• The chassis was built of vanadium steel and featured a rugged (and very bouncy) transverse leaf spring suspension.
• Bearings require regular greasing and the gearbox is tough but will need periodic maintenance too.

Model history

1908: First generation of Model T introduced. Most body panels were made from Brass due to its favourable pricing. Lighting was by acetylene lamps up front and oil lamps in the rear. Hand crank was required to start the car. Body styles initially offered were a 2-door touring, roadster, 2-door coupe and town car.
1912: Three-door touring, one-door roadster and wagon body styles introduced – produced until 1925. A number of body colour options were available at this point
1913: colour choices whittled down to Black and in rare cases dark green
1915: Two-door Coupelet body style introduced – built for two years. Electric lighting system introduced. 
1916: First evolution of basic Model T design introduced with body now in steel and paintwork predominantly in black. 
1919: Electric starter introduced
1923: Four-door sedan introduced
1924: Two-door sedan introduced 
1925: Second and final evolution of the Model T with upgraded brakes and tyres. Roadster pickup introduced. A larger colour palette reintroduced to boost sales
1927: Model T production ends with over 15 million cars built - only surpassed by the VW Beetle many decades later.

Owners clubs, forums and websites

• www.modeltford.co.uk – Model T specialists
• www.mtfca.com – Model T Club based in America
• www.modeltregister.co.uk – Model T register

Summary and prices

As always originality is a strong influencer of pricing in a classic car but thanks to the modifiable nature and age of the Model T few have survived in their original form. As a general rule early ‘brass-era’ cars and sympathetically restored models tend to command a premium over the later versions. The variability of what is out there is evidenced by the price range which can be anything from £5000 to £50,000. It may be rough, basic and harrowing to drive in the winter but despite its obvious flaws, the Model T has an enduring charm that makes it one of the greatest classics of all time.
Words: John Tallodi
Ford Model T Ford Model T Ford Model T Ford Model T grille Ford Model T steering wheel Ford Model T seat Ford Model T pedals Ford Model T and modern Fiesta
Last updated: 8th Dec 2016
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Ford Model T
23500 58500 GBP
  • 1927 Ford Model T Depot Hack

    $23,500(£0) $23,500(£0)

    Ford’s brilliant, ubiquitous Model T is so much more than just a car. Yes, this simple and robust machine was put into the hands of millions who never before dreamed of automobile ownership, and yet it was so adaptable it that ranks as one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. Henry Ford’s development of the moving assembly line was so significant that it is held in the same regard as the likes of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Eli Whitney’s cotton gin as the most influential advancements in American Industrial history. Even when the ingenious production methods are taken out of the equation, the Model T stands proudly as a truly versatile machine that could be modified for countless tasks beyond simple transportation. From racing cars to farm implements and industrial machinery, the Model T could do it all. In the time of the Model T, the easiest way to get from city to city was by train. A road network had yet to be developed, and automobiles were not yet feasible for long-distance travel. Once people arrived at their destination, there were no rental cars and taxi cabs only existed in the largest of cities. That left the average American with two alternatives: walk or take the street car if there was one. The solution came in the form of the station wagon, or alternately “depot hack”. These vehicles were typically sent to pick up visitors and their baggage at the stations to bring them back to hotels. This quickly gave rise to a new cottage industry, as wagon builders would take a truck or large-car chassis and add a simple wooden body with multiple seats and room for luggage. Henry Ford was sharp enough to realize the profit in aftermarket accessories and soon began offering customers his own variety of options they could purchase directly from their Ford dealer to help their T meet whatever demands they had for it, including depot hack bodies. Due to the amount of wood required to build standard Model T bodies, Ford began acquiring vast tracts of hardwood forests in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With access to seemingly endless supplies of hardwood, it made perfect sense for him to utilize this resources in building and selling the wood depot hack bodies that had been previously handled by the aftermarket, effectively killing off the competition in the process. This 1927 Model T Depot Hack is a charming example that wears an older restoration that has taken on a nice patina over the years. It has not been over restored, instead maintaining the right amount of rugged appeal the Model T possessed when new. This car is from the final year of Model T production, and it is properly presented with simple black paint on the fenders, frame, hood and radiator. The wood presents in very good condition throughout, appearing to be largely original with good fit of the doors, and typically for a depot hack, lacking much in the way of weather protection. The Model T was as much a tool as it was a motor vehicle, and as such, things were kept simple when it came to decoration. Brightwork is limited to nickel headlamp rings, wheel caps, and a MotoMeter, while the accessories include pair of carriage lamps, and a Klaxon horn, with a nice touch being the period New York registration plate. This Model T is mechanically sound, the simple and robust 176 cubic inch L-head engine and planetary transmission being in good working order. It features electric start and has been upgraded with a distributor ignition system for more reliable running. Wooden “artillery” wheels are shod with all black tires which are in good condition. The four-cylinder’s 22 horsepower is more than adequate to get the T up and chugging along without much effort. Engine detailing is average, showing some signs of use but overall tidy and well-presented. A pair of bench seats allows room for four or five passengers, with room in the rear for luggage. The vinyl upholstery is in good condition, as are the rubber lined floors. A delightful, enjoyable period piece, this Model T is ready to load up with passengers for runs to the railroad station, freight depot… or perhaps just your favorite local ice cream shop.

    For sale
    $23,500(£0) $23,500(£0)
    Hyman Ltd
    314-524-6000 View contact number
  • 1921 Ford Model T Center Door Sedan

    $39,500(£0) $39,500(£0)

    The Ford Model T is a machine that ranks as one of the most significant and important inventions of the 20th century. Henry Ford’s development of the moving assembly line was so significant that he is oft compared to the likes of Alexander Graham Bell and Eli Whitney as the most influential names in American Industrial history. As the first product to roll of that assembly line, the Model T became one of America’s proudest industrial successes. Much of the historical focus is paid to the way the Model T was assembled, and how Henry Ford ruthlessly revolutionized mass manufacture. But even when viewed apart from the ingenious production methods, the Ford Model T could stand proudly as a truly remarkable and versatile machine that was a smashing worldwide success. Because Ford was able to build so many Ts so quickly, the price was low and suddenly the automobile was accessible to millions who never dreamed of owning one before. Its popularity even spawned an aftermarket industry that allowed the T to be adapted to virtually anything: From racing cars to farm implements, the Model T could do it all. Ford was enough in tune with his customer needs to offer a wide variety of bodies to meet demand. Touring cars and Depot Hacks moved people, while the Pickup and Commercial Roadster offered versatility for tradesmen. One of the most unusual and interesting variants was the “center door”; officially known as the “Two Door, Five-Passenger Sedan”. Styled along the lines of the traditional Doctor’s Coupe from the carriage building days, the simple yet roomy body featured two doors mounted – you guessed it – in the center of the body sides. It offered comfort and protection in all weather conditions, and the roomy cabin was comfortable for longer journey. This was Ford’s first sedan and one of the first fully closed mass produced cars in America. In its day, the center door was the most expensive Model T passenger car available, at nearly $950, meaning it was also one of the least popular with buyers. Today, the rare and quirky center door is a favorite among collectors and Model T aficionados. This tidy 1921 Ford Model T center door is a nicely restored example of this rare and desirable model. Finished correctly in all black, this nickel era Model T is a nice, honest and usable motorcar that would be a fine choice for the collector or entry level hobbyist alike. Wearing an older restoration, it presents in good order with attractive black paintwork on a good and sound body. A few minor blemishes can be found in the paint, which do little to detract from the overall appeal of this fine Model T. It is correctly fitted with a black radiator, Ford script running boards, wooden artillery wheels and minimal bright adornments, as a great deal of new-old-stock parts were sourced for the restoration. The black headlights feature nickel trim rings and lovely fluted lenses as original. The tall, upright windscreen is split to allow for better airflow through the cabin, and the doors feature opening carriage-style windows. We particularly like the elegant oval rear window treatment, which lends the basic Model T a degree of formal appeal. The five passenger cabin (two individual seats up front with a 3 person bench in rear) on this example is a real highlight of the restoration; trimmed in lovely blue/gray tweed wool fabric to a very high standard. The stylish and high quality fabric covers the seats and interior panels, while a complementing headlining and wool squareweave carpet are extremely well executed. Details such as a privacy blind over the rear window and a running-in instruction decal on the windscreen add a welcome bit of period charm. The restorers even went so far as to hand weave the windlace in the factory correct patterns. As part of the restoration, the chassis and undercarriage have been very well detailed, still presenting in clean condition with good quality, hard-wearing finishes on the major components. Ford’s bulletproof four-cylinder engine also presents in good order, having been rebuilt as part of the restoration, and while it is showing some signs of regular use, it is generally tidy and correctly detailed. As a later model, it features a handy electric starting and charging system, making this Model T much more user friendly and practical than earlier examples. This 1921 Model T Center Door Sedan is a very well-presented, usable and enjoyable example that would be finely suited for regular touring and enjoyment.

    For sale
    $39,500(£0) $39,500(£0)
  • 1922 Ford Model T Speedster

    $58,500(£0) $58,500(£0)

    For nearly as long as the automobile has existed, owners have been tinkering with them to extract more speed, better handling and reliability. Prior to the advent of mass production, automobiles were generally a luxury item and any customizing was done on a bespoke basis. However, once Ford’s ubiquitous Model T hit the scene, suddenly the market was flooded with affordable automobiles that could be tweaked, modified and adapted to just about any imaginable job. As the Model T’s popularity grew, so did the aftermarket that supplied tools and parts to service it. Fords were converted for use as farm implements, work trucks, saw mills, delivery vans and inevitably, racing cars. Pioneering petrol heads found numerous ways to extract more power, better handling and usability from the omnipresent T. Decades before Colin Chapman “added lightness” to his Austin 7 to make the first Lotus, Model T owners were shedding weight by tossing away heavy factory steel fenders and bodywork and replacing them with lightweight and simplified speedster bodies. As the T evolved, so did the concept of the speedster. Early examples were simply cut down roadsters, while later examples got custom bodies designed to cheat the air and ditch the pounds. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, the Roose Manufacturing Company offered a wide variety of accessories designed to make live with a Model T a bit easier. Their main product offerings were practical items such as insulated hood covers, weather proof coil box covers and convertible tops. However, they did offer a handful of rakish speedster bodies named “Speed King”. In addition to modified bodies, performance improvements could be made to a T with thanks to a burgeoning speed equipment industry. The leaders in the market were none other than the Chevrolet Brothers (Louis and Arthur) who’s highly advanced Frontenac overhead valve cylinder head had proven itself in the “Fronty-Ford” by finishing in 5th place in the 1923 Indianapolis 500 mile race at an official average of 82.58 MPH; a remarkable achievement in the face of much larger and more powerful competition. This fascinating little 1918 Ford Model T is a wonderful period piece, wearing a Roose Mfg Co. Speed King body and accessorized with an array of period speed parts. The all-steel body is very rare and quite interesting, with an unusual custom grille shell up front, sweeping back to a close-coupled cockpit and a sharply tapered tail. The body is in solid, sound condition with heavily patinated white paintwork contributing to the fabulous character. The red chassis and black radiator combine for a wonderfully racy look.  The cockpit is spartan, with just enough room for a driver and ride-along mechanic. This T does have some go to match the show, with a Frontenac cylinder head greatly improving breathing, and an add-on water pump fitted to help keep things cool at the higher engine speeds allowed by the overhead valve setup. The engine appears in good order, tidy and clean needing little to bring up to full song. We are quite fond of this unusual and charming Model T speedster. It offers real rarity thanks to its period speed equipment and high quality steel body, and it presents with a certain charming honesty that encourages enthusiastic use, whether around the block or around a vintage race paddock. It is sound and complete, and we could even see it prepared for vintage rallies – so long as the crew doesn’t mind the weather! Whatever the use, this is a fascinating piece of early American motor sports history that is sure to charm its next keeper.

    For sale
    $58,500(£0) $58,500(£0)
  • 1923 Ford Model T Four Seat Tourer

    £24,995 £24,995

    This very rare French four door Model T was built in 1923. On arrival of the chassis in France, Paris coach builder Henry Binder built this four door Torpedo body. The first owner was Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Bordeaux. We sold this wonderful motor car to its last owner in 2009, a pre-war enthusiast based in Stoke on Trent. Prior to delivering the Ford to him six years ago, our workshop stripped and rebuilt the engine. A photo record of the work is with the vehicle's history file. Over the past six years the car has been treated as a museum piece on only driven on a handful of occasions. It was transported back to us in 2011 for a full service and MOT and further work to include re-conditioning the speedo drive and stripping and setting the carburettor. Since the engine rebuild just a few miles have been completed and as a result the unit is in excellent order. In 2009 we imported the Model T from Germany. It had been with the same owner since 1975, a Graf of Germany, similar to an Earl. His family are collectors of historic motoring, antiques and general history. On original purchase in 1975, the family had the Model T restored and have kept a comprehensive history since. Th

    • Year: 1923
    • Mileage: 2011 mi
    For sale
    £24,995 £24,995