1914 Ford Model T Touring
This is one of those exciting barn finds that gets everyone talking, which is exactly why we didn’t clean it up and didn’t try to restore it.
What can be said about Ford’s venerable Model T that hasn’t already been said? It was the car that put the world on wheels, and even today they enjoy very strong enthusiast support with great clubs and even driving tours that emphasize using the Ts as designed. Parts are plentiful, the hardware is as reliable as a hammer, and they have a cute, purposeful look that belies their overall durability.
This particular brass Model T was in protected storage since 1970, and we pulled it out last fall for the first time in decades. After a trip through Dave Heinrichs’ Vintage Car Shop for a full mechanical checkup, it runs and drives like a Model T should. The details on the car are interesting, and we’ve consulted a number of Model T experts to learn more about it. The current consensus is that this is a very early 1914 Model T touring, going by the engine number and various details such as the 1-piece fenders, and rounded door corners. However, we strongly suspect that it was restored in the 1950s with the express intent of touring, which was massively popular at the time. As a result, it has a few deviations from stock, including a 1912-13 windshield which was apparently superior for wind control, 1912 headlights, and a water pump from a later model, which continues to be a popular (and smart) upgrade. It also carries a hood from a 1915 model, which included louvers on the sides which obviously is a big boon to cooling system efficiency. All told, this is a low-mileage car with a lot of authenticity, and any deviations from original equipment were done as upgrades, not merely as patchwork replacements by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.
The result is a car with a ton of patina and charm. The paint is truly ancient, and the original black lacquer is visible underneath. I don’t think I’d worry about repainting it, as the look is quite pleasing in a rustic kind of way, and there’s absolutely no sign of rust or damage anywhere on the sheetmetal. All the doors open and close easily and latch firmly, and the hood doesn’t buzz or vibrate under power. It probably won’t shine up, but then again, shiny cars don’t attract attention like this one with its bumps and bruises and age spots does, and that’s entirely the point. The brass is in very good condition, and the headlights two different colors are due to the fact that the owner kept one in his living room as decoration. The cowl lamps were stolen years ago (along with the ignition coils, more on that in a moment), but replacements are available and not terribly unique to any specific year. There’s an aftermarket acetylene tank on the running board, which feeds the headlamps, and the original taillight is still hanging out back.
The black leather interior is unquestionably all original and in remarkable shape for being 99 years old. It shows cracking and dryness, of course, but no splits or tears that would warrant replacement. Just condition it and take care of it and it remains fully usable as-is. The door panels are also original-issue and in equally nice shape. Indications of the car’s low mileage are things like the sharp teeth on the spark and throttle levers, the crisply rendered foot pedals, and clean corners on the wooden sill plates in the back seat area, which are always worn down by passengers. The car currently carries a later coil box, but the original wooden coil box is included. However, it’s important to note that the 1914 coils are unique and virtually unobtainable, which is surely why they were stolen while the car was in storage. The later coil box looks fairly correct and permits the use of commonly-available Model T coils to ensure reliability and serviceability in the future, and that original box is included with the car. The top is likely a replacement piece from the 1950s, and is showing its age, but again, with this kind of patina, any new piece is going to stand out, so you might do well to just leave it alone.
The engine was in excellent shape internally, and after the ministrations of Mr. Heinrichs, it starts and runs like a Model T should. You’ll note new plugs, wires, and hoses under the hood, and once you’ve mastered the starting procedure and made sure that there’s gas in the tank (I wasted a good 45 minutes yanking on the crank with a dry gas tank), it springs to life. Yes, it’s an acquired taste, but once you get good at it and learn what this particular T prefers, you’ll have no problems. The engine appears to be the original piece, with a build date of November 1913, again suggesting that this is one of the earliest 1914 models. It has probably never been apart and doesn’t seem to burn oil or struggle except when it’s cold, but that’s a malady all Model Ts suffer, not just this one. The transmission shifts properly and makes that characteristic Model T whirring sound, and it’s happy to motor along without any complaints. The only possible issue is that a support bracket has worn thin one of the tubes in the radiator, so there’s some seepage when it’s in storage, but it doesn’t seem to overheat as long as you keep it topped off. The original wood spoke wheels are in fine shape, and wear vintage Firestone “NONSKID” tires, and when was the last time you saw a set of those?!?
This is one of those exciting barn finds that gets everyone talking, which is exactly why we didn’t clean it up and didn’t try to restore it. We’ve discovered that cars like this attract far more attention and interest than another generic restored car. We’ll leave it to the next owner to decide its fate, but given the way this one runs, I’d put a new set of tires on it and take it to shows as-is. How fun is that?