On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
JOHN STEINBECK said it best in his book, Cannery Row. “Someone should write an erudite essay on the moral, physical, and esthetic effect of the Model T Ford on the American nation. Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the clitoris, about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars.”
Steinbeck continued, “Most of the babies of the period were conceived in Model T Fords and not a few were born in them. The theory of the Anglo Saxon home became so warped that it never quite recovered.”
Said another succinctly, anonymously and possibly apocryphally, “The Model T Ford did more than anything else to eliminate the village idiot.”
I enjoy collecting Model T lore, the oddities that accompanied this most significant of mankind’s transportation means. Maybe you have some favorite tales as well?
Aldous Huxley’s look at the future, written in 1931, takes place in London of 2540 AD (described in the book as 632 A.F., “After Ford”). Intended as a social satire, the book evolved into a commentary of technology gone chillingly mad, with the word “Ford” replacing God in most every context.
There’s an excellent radio adaptation of Brave New World done by the CBS Radio Workshop, narrated by Aldous Huxley, with music by Bernard Hermann. It appears regularly on SiriusXM “Radio Classics.” Also, see http://goo.gl/pNBDhW for information and details on downloading a copy.
The Model T is not a particularly small car, with a wheelbase of 100.0 in. and 2.9-liter inline-4. Despite its “Tin Lizzie” name, the car was constructed of state-of-the-art materials, including vanadium steels, aluminum and brass.
The Model T was sturdy and ubiquitous (by 1924, half the cars in the world were Model Ts). It’s no wonder they ended up in so many diverse applications.
The Model T’s planetary gearbox gives it two forward speeds and reverse. Everything is controlled by three pedals and a floor lever, in a process completely unlike shifting a conventional layshaft gearbox.
The Model T’s right pedal is a transmission brake (there’s no wheel braking). Depressing the middle pedal invokes reverse. The left pedal is labeled C for “clutch;” the degree of its depression, together with lever position, dictates neutral, low or high gear.
A last tale, possibly apocryphal: The Model T’s final drive has an assembly of a drive pinion gear, three-pinion differential and ring gear all encased in a two-part live rear axle. This casing is split down the middle. Indeed, for efficiency of production, its two halves are precisely the same, the right half merely inverted for the left.
An old timer once told me about a breakdown that necessitated disassembly of this rear axle and the help of a local blacksmith in fabricating a repair.
Reassembly mistakenly swapped the left-right orientation of the pinion and ring assembly. Everything fit. However, now this Model T had only a single speed forward—and two speeds in reverse.
To this day, I don’t know whether I was having my leg pulled. Either way, it’s okay. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013