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

The Ford Model T Transmission - something shifty

   The Model T transmission was in a class by itself.  There were three pedals in a line from left to right. The left pedal was first gear (down all the way). Neutral was ½ way down, and all the way up was the top gear. The T had  two speeds forward and one reverse.  The center pedal was for reverse, and the right pedal was the brake. So with the engine running you would get behind the wheel. (the emergency brake was all the way back before you started the engine and that also held the transmission in neutral)

   You would place your left foot lightly on the left pedal, keeping it in neutral, your other foot on the brake pedal to hold it stopped.  You would pull down on the right lever on the steering column slightly to increase the engine to a fast idle. You would release the emergency brake and ease the left pedal to the floor as the vehicle started moving forward.  You would pull the gas lever down to increase the speed as you pulled forward.  As your road speed increased, you would let the left pedal all the way up.  This would shift the transmission to its top gear. You would then adjust the  throttle lever to the road speed you wanted to travel at. There was a definite learning curve for a driver to go through before all the above could be done smoothly.

Stopping (smoothly) also took a little practice.  You would slow the vehicle down by easing the  gas lever up to its top location.  You would ease the left pedal down to its center position and hold it there.  You would apply the brake pedal to bring it to a complete stop. Backing up was another experience that also required some practice.  With the engine running, your left foot would be holding the left lever in the neutral position. You would then depress the center pedal towards the floor. This would start the vehicle in a reverse direction.  

You would also  increase the motor speed (lever) enough as not to stall the engine.  To stop let the center lever return to the up position, and ease the brake pedal down. Still keeping the left lever in the center position with your left foot doing the above maneuvers. I'm sure there were a lot of fender binders involved in becoming a “seasoned driver” of the Model T!

The Model T continued through 1927.  The next generation Ford would be the Model A which was a much improved evolution from the “T”.