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Cars > CorvairJim’s Garage > Blog > "The Driving Lesson"


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M –55
Norristown, Pennsylvania
United States


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CorvairJim’s Blog Posts 1 – 5 of 34

"The Driving Lesson"

By CorvairJim

A couple of weeks ago, our church had it's annual Parish picnic at the farm of a couple of our parishioners. As they do every year, they invited some neighbors to attend as well, and they brought a couple of their old cars to park with our host's "His & Hers" Morris Minors. (Our hosts are English expatriates, and they still have a love of the cars from their homeland). One of the neighbors arrived in a 1911 Ford Model T Touring Car. I didn't see it arrive, but the other neighbor was standing with their cars (he brought his '47 Ford DeLuxe convertible) and offered to answer any questions I had about the cars. I had one that I'd been hoping to have answered for some time about the Model T, specifically it's unusual (by today's standards) pedal-operated 2-speed 'Planetary' transmission. He explained the three pedals in front of the driver as being, from left to right: To shift between low and high gears, Reverse gear, and the brake (which acts on the rear wheels only. Back then, everyone knew that having brakes on the front wheels was clearly unsafe!). There is no gas pedal, that's handled by a throttle lever on the steering wheel. To drive the car, you start out with the left pedal to the floor to engage low gear, and when you want high, just let the pedal up. There is no neutral, but if the pedal is halfway up, the transmission will be slipping slightly between both forward gears and the car won't move. When you start the car, you have the handbrake set, which engages a mechanism that holds the pedal halfway down. For reverse, hold the left pedal halfway and put the middle pedal to the floor and you're in reverse. It's really simpler than it sounds... Which I found out when the car's owner showed up right about then. The first gentleman explained to the owner about my question, and the owner told me to "Get in, we're going for a drive!" Well, you don't have to tell this old car nut to do that twice; I've never sat in a 99 year old car, much less taken a ride in one! He explained that his doctor insisted that he install an electric starter in the car last year when he had a minor heart attack (The guy is 88 years old!), so he installed a starter from a 1916 Model T that he had lying around. 1916 was the first year for an electric starter in a Model T. I was sort of disappointed that I didn't get to see it started with the crank, but I didn't think to volunteer for a cranking lesson at the time, a job I would have loved to try! He hit the starter button and it cranked over a couple of times, rattled to life, and settled down to a contented slow idle. He let it idle for about half a minute and we were off! He took me for a leisurely 10-minute tour of the back roads of rural Checter County, PA, and I had a big ol' grin on my face the whole time. Itr amazed me how smoothly the old car rode, a function of it's very flexible chassis. It was made that way intentionally because of the poor quality of the roads of the time. a more rigid chassis would make for a jarring ride and slowly shake a car to pieces, as many owners of more expensive, more rigid cars found out. I may be a Chevy man, but this drive in a 99 year old Ford is an experience that I'll remember for a long time to come.

(The picture above is of a similar car to the one in the blog. The actual car was blue with black fenders. I found this picture on the internet to illustrate what the car looked like.)

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Read comments on this blog post 1 – 10 of 23

LEGIONNAIRE’s Profile Photo
Sep 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm
I've never been in one either you lucky dog!
vegavairbob’s Profile Photo
Aug 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm
Wow. Cool Jim. These things were really odd, huh? did they come with an operators manual? lol
canadianpontiacguy’s Profile Photo
Aug 2, 2010 at 7:35 am
Quite an experience, Jim!
A throwback to simpler times!
Thanks for sharing.
chevy66babe’s Profile Photo
Jul 31, 2010 at 11:33 am
Thats great, Jim. I rode in one built in 1916 at Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. It was awesome, that car just kept ticking and chugging along, they were built to last.
LawnMan’s Profile Photo
Jul 31, 2010 at 12:00 am
VERY cool! Sounds like you got an unplanned history lesson in addition to Sunday School that day. At first I had a hard enough time learning to drive a stick shift, so it's hard to imagine shifting with just my feet!
loafer33’s Profile Photo
Jul 30, 2010 at 8:49 am
A neighbour bought a Ford T from a museum on St Joesph Island,30 mile east of Sault Ste Marie,Ontario. Unbelievably,it was the same car that my wife "dusted"in her younger years
Gord Morton has taken me for a ride in it( which scared the hell outta me with the unusal method of driving these things, and the poor braking and general traction from these skinny tires)
He drives his car often,and seems to have a collextion of parts to keep it running well. He seems to be quite an authority on these vehicles,and it is a priviledge to know him,and to have been for a ride in such a great example of automotive history
MotorMouth’s Profile Photo
Jul 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm
Sounds like you had a great day! I'd love to take a ride in a car that old some time.
RangeMan’s Profile Photo
Jul 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm
My grandparent's neighbors on the next farm over had an old Model T in the barn, and we used to love playing in it. We never could figure out what the two levers on the steering wheel were for!
Tarouq_Machtu’s Profile Photo
Jul 28, 2010 at 1:23 am
I had never heard of a car you shifted with your feet! I thought Model T's had regular floor shift transmissions, since all the Model T hot rods I see have them. I have a lot to learn, I guess. Maybe I'll run into an antique car owner at a show some day who'll take the time to answer my questions about his car by taking me for a ride like that!
Rayman’s Profile Photo
Jul 28, 2010 at 12:42 am
Wow that is awesome must of been an experiance that will stay with u for evere!!! smile image
Thx for sharing!!!

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