The Book - Bart Beck

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About Bart Beck


There were a great many things that the "T" did not have and some of the things that they did have, that almost worked. Prior to about 1918, as I mentioned, they did not have, what was then called, a storage battery because one was not needed. There was no electric starter and the hot-shot could supply the electrical demands for the start-up operation. There was no generator because there was no battery to be charged.

The lack of a water pump presented no particular problem, unless you were to work the engine, real hard, for an extended period of time. The scientific principal that took the place of the water pump was; when water is heated it rises, so therefore, all of the water passages, through the engine block and the external connections, were designed with a gradual rise to the top of the radiator, and from the bottom of the radiator, back to the engine block. As the water was heated, in the engine block, it would rise to the top of the radiator and, as a result, the cooler water in the bottom of the radiator would be drawn into the engine block, replacing the hot water that was leaving, at the top. The system worked fine, except on occasions when the water level, in the radiator, got below the inlet, at the top. In that case, there was no way for the water to circulate, and the engine would overheat. Later on, the Blackhawk Water Pump became available. That was an add on that was mounted in the water passage, between the lower radiator connection and the motor block. The pump was driven by the fan belt and was a real improvement.

Now to the oil pump. That was something else. In order for me to explain that, you will need to understand some of the things about the design of the engine. The lower part of the housing, that surrounded the magneto and the planetary transmission, also served as the oil sump. Within this enclosure was an elongated funnel that was connected to a tube that extended, gradually downward, to the front of the crankcase. This forward cavity was not what you would normally think of as a crankcase. It was very shallow and it's lower surface was indented with troughs, through which the connecting rod bearings would pass and pick up oil that had been delivered via the declining tube from the funnel in the oil reservoir. That sounds like a simple and effective means of supplying oil to the front of the engine, and it was effective, most of the time. However, if you were to encounter a long and difficult hill whose degree of incline was greater than the degree of decline of the tube from the magneto housing, you were in trouble. The solution, here, was to foresee the problem, turn around at the bottom of the hill and back up it. This would put the front of the engine, on a plane, lower than the rear and allow the oil to flow as it should.

There were two petcocks, at different levels, in the side of the magneto housing. These were used to determine the amount of oil remaining in the system. You would add oil until it ran out when you opened the top petcock and when the level got so low that it would no longer run out when you opened the lower one, you needed to add some oil. Most operators and all Service Stations had a rod, with a forked end on it, so that they could reach those petcocks, without crawling under the car.

The Planetary Transmission was another engineering nightmare and if I live long enough to finish telling you about the things that I remember, I will take a few more pages and tell you how it worked, when it did.

I doubt, very much, if the headlights on the Model T were ever intended to assist the driver to see where he was going. I think that they were meant to warn other people that there was something moving about, out there. If that was the intention, they were a success. If they were intended to assist the driver, they were a failure. The lights received their energy from the magneto which had no voltage control, so the faster that you went, the brighter your lights became. If you wanted to see where you were going, you either drove faster or you slipped the clutch, once in a while, to allow the engine to REV. up.

There was no windshield wiper installed when the cars were built. You could, however, buy one and install it yourself. These add-ons had a rubber blade much like the ones that we have today, but they were pivoted at the top and were mounted on a shaft that extended through a hole that you drilled in the top frame of the windshield. A handle was mounted on the opposite end of the shaft, which allowed you to operate the wiper, by hand, from inside the car.

Those Model T's had a two piece windshield, with the top section being pivoted, so that it could be opened to let in more air and bugs, as though you needed more of either one. I am sure that very little thought was given to heating the interior of these early cars. One reason was that even with the side curtains on, so much air came in that a modern home heating system would have had very little effect on the inside temperature. In the waning years of the Model T, manifold type heaters became available. These devices were made of sheet metal and surrounded the exhaust manifold. The air inlet faced the back of the fan and the outlet passed through a hole that had been cut in the floor of the right front seat area. They were effective only in the closed cars and were not very effective, in them. There was also a cast iron heater that took the place of the manifold, and they seemed to be a little more effective than the sheet metal ones. Charley Munk's Dad had one of those cast iron jobs on his "T" sedan and when Charley would get up to 35 or 40 miles per hour and retard the spark, a little, the entire manifold would get red hot. At night you could see it through the cracks in the floor boards.

A fuel pump was not needed because the gas tank was mounted higher than the carburetor, so the gasoline flowed to it by the force of gravity.

I don't think that I ever did know what a Model T cost, when they were new, but on December 2,1927 Ford introduced the Model A, at the following prices. Touring Car-$395.00; Two Door Sedan and Coupe-$495.00 and the Roadster with a rumble seat-$385.00. These prices were FOB Detroit and there was no sales tax or prep charges.

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