What a total and utter thrill, after flying all over the world to test the best technology mankind has devised, to drive one in its 100th year that scores only 10 out of 100!
Is this a Brit version?
The picture gives it away immediately that it’s an early Model ‘T’ Ford which revolutionised early car manufacture when a production line started up in the States in 1907. My 1912 test car is from the Old Trafford plant in Manchester, built during its second year of operation.
Can it still thrill?
The model I was doing my best to keep in a staight line, will be 100 next year, but has seriously retained its skill to thrill. It might have been my worst total score, times seven, but was probably the most thrilling and scary drive of my life.
You get three floor pedals and a two feet tall brake lever, but forget all you’ve learnt, as these pedals bear no relation to current cars, so driving IS a nightmare. For starters the one on the right is the footbrake and works directly on the transmission to the rear wheel drive.
So it's crazy-pedal time?
The left hand pedal is clutch-cum drive, which you press to start off in low gear, then forget about it while driving unless you want to court problems. It works in collaboration with the brake lever which you put into a central position and let the pedal out to hit your top, or only other, gear. The middle pedal can only be used when stationary and puts the Model T into reverse!
Do you get a horn?
You have to concentrate so hard on pressing the right pedal, there’s a tendency to ignore the steering, but do so at your peril in this priceless relic. And your hooter is a big rubber ball that you depress alongside the foot pedals, to work the brass horn.
What about luxuries?
Well, there is ‘aircon’ of sorts, but you have to lift up the top half of the windscreen to benefit from it! The ignition is a swift jerk on the starting handle and, sitting inside the open-top ‘convertible’ with you, are four coils for the four sparking plugs. The headlamps work when you pour water on carbide crystals, in a brass tub on the running board, and make your own gas.
What are its stats?
I’d like to report it’s at least comfy, but it ain’t. Thrilling, it certainly is and, with a good wind and a straight road, you can near the 42mph limit using all 20bhp. Even then you only average 18mpg but believe me, 100 years ago when horse and carts ruled, you really must have felt like the king of the road.
Was it a world first?
The amazing thing in these early cars, they had huge 2,890cc side valve engines giving such trendous torque they ran on tickover. In 1907, Henry Ford devised the world’s first production line, to meet demand, and made a car every 12.5 hours, eventually reducing that in Britain to every 93 minutes.
Is it really bad?
Driving is frankly a nightmare. Although there were cord-clad leaf springs on each wheel, suspension is virtually non-existent, relying largely on the air in the ultra thin tyres. Braking is a further nightmare, where they only work ... eventually. Then there’s steering that’s as stiff as old Harry.
Any bad points?
The steering, suspension, roadholding, fuel economy and draughts, but I adored every minute in the old girl.
MODEL: Model ‘T’ Ford
ENGINE: 2,890cc 4-cyl petrol
PRICE: £110 new, now priceless
POWER: Max 20bhp
TORQUE: Amazingly good
FUEL: 18mpg average
MARKS OUT OF 100: 10
By David Parry-Jones