The Ford Model T and its characteristics


What were the main innovations brought by the Ford model”T”? Many features behind the car’s success weren’t totally new… but Ford was pragmatic enough to combine some new (but rarely used) technologies and improve them.

Ford Model T was its planetary gear type transmission
The Model T transmission
ignition model T flywheel and magnets
flywheel bearing magnets

The main technical originality of the Ford Model T was its planetary gear type transmission with two forward gears and one reverse gear with three epicyclical gear trains coupled to a multiple disk clutch in an oil bath. This system allowed a smooth gear change and a simplified downshift without torque fluctuations. This device prefigured, in a simplified manner, the Cotal or Wilson transmissions, or even automatic gearboxes.

The ignition has also some uncommon features except in Henry Ford’s world. There's no battery or the typical (and expensive) magneto, but an alternating current supplied by the flywheel bearing magnets with 16 related coils put on the block. A trembler coil then converts the low voltage AC to high voltage to ignite the spark plugs.

Most other cars used a gas pedal; instead, the Model T was equipped with a gas lever to the right of and below the steering wheel. Competitors usually used a stick-shift three speed transmission and a manually operated clutch. The Model T was driven with foot-operated pedals.

inline four cylinders
inline four-cylinder for te Ford model T

The inline four-cylinder gave a power of 20 hp at 1800 RPM. They had an innovative feature, a one-piece cast detachable cylinder head. Moreover, on the advice of the engineer C.H. Wills, the forged rods, weighing only 40g, and the crankshaft with 3 main bearings (another innovation) were produced with vanadium steel.

More important, many of the car’s parts were made with the same alloy. Alloys of steel and vanadium were also used by some French manufacturers, but Ford was the first American car maker to realize the advantage of such a strong and resistant alloy. This is one of the reasons why so many models T have survived more than a century.

shema model T
Schema of a Ford model T. The fuel tank is under the driver's seat

Back those days, paved highways or rural roads were rare and Ford was the first one to design a car that could cope with rural roads and climb hills easily. The car was so robust with its all-terrain abilities that many farmers used it as a tractor, with the proper modifications. The top speed of the car was about 45 mph (72 km/h). The engine was capable of running on gasoline, kerosene, or ethanol.

In 1908, 63,500 automobiles and 1,500 utility vehicles are produced across the United States. The Ford Motor Company alone assemble 10,202 of them with its models K,n,R and S, but Ford is so enthusiast about the T model that he plans to produce 25,000 vehicles before even the first sale. He purchased a full page in the Saturday Evening Post on October, 3 1908 to describe the new model, sold for $850 -the competitors’ prices were in the $2,000 - $3,000 range-