Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

How to start the famous Model T Ford

So lets begin with Henry Ford's Model T. This car will take several issues to complete as it has quite a history. The T legacy began in the very early 1900s. People were changing from the horse and buggy to a machinery oriented era. 

By 1925 the model T had established itself as a major contributor in the mass transportation of the American public. The car was affordable, easy to fix and maintain, and priced well below the other cars of that era. 

To start a Model T, you had better know the basics, or you would be in for a rude awaking. A broken, or sprained thumb could be your first lesson on starting a Model T.  The single button push to start/stop was still many years away. 

On each side of the steering column was a lever that moved up and down. The left one was to advance or retard the spark (timing). The other controlled the gas/speed of the motor. There was no accelerator pedal, that came about much later.  

You would turn the key “on” which caused a series of four coils in individual wooden boxes to “buzz.” You would pull the emergency brake all the way back. This would also put the “transmission” in neutral. You then pulled the “spark” lever all the way down, and just bareley move the gas lever down. Now you’re ready to start the Model T. 

You then went to the front of the vehicle and took a hold of the crank handle. You pushed the crank in to engage the crankshaft, and turned the motor until the crank was between seven and nine o’clock making sure your thumb was on the same side of the crank handle as your fingers! You then gave the crank a quick pull.  If the stars were in perfect alignment, and your motor in fairly good condition, the motor would putter to life! You would have to run back to the drivers side and move the spark lever up enough the motor would idle smoothly, or it would quit.

Now that you’ve got the thing started without breaking an arm, or thumb, we need to address the Model T’s unique transmission.