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As you might expect, a car company with as long a life and as many different vehicles in production at various times as Ford Motor Company needed to document down to individual nuts and bolts each part of each vehicle. Over the 50 years between 1903 and 1957, Ford produced more than one million parts drawings, a comprehensive microfiche set of which now reside in The Henry Ford’s Benson Ford Research Center. We’ve just digitized several hundred of these parts drawings, including a couple dozen, like this one, that cover Model T ambulances built by Ford to be used during World War I. 

Go online to learn more about our parts drawings holdings, or browse all the digitized Ford parts drawings in our Digital Collections.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

World War I, by Ellice Engdahl, Model Ts, Ford Motor Company, drawings, digital collections, cars, archives

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Dozens of engines will be on view during Engines Exposed, but here Matt Anderson, Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford, describes some of his favorites to kick off this annual exhibit.

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1909 Ford Model T
Inline 4-cylinder engine, L-head valves, 177 cubic inches displacement, 22 horsepower

Early Model T engines circulated cooling water with a gear-driven pump, visible just behind this engine’s fan. After 2,500 units, Ford switched to a simpler – and less expensive – thermosiphon system dependent on natural convection. Model T never used an oil pump. The flywheel, spinning in an oil bath, simply splashed the lubricant around. The engine and transmission efficiently shared the same oil supply.

Driving America, Henry Ford Museum, Ford Motor Company, engines, cars, Model Ts

Model-T-Shed-bowen_0588
Photo by Bill Bowen.

Model T mechanics are restoration artists in their own right.


The Henry Ford has a fleet of 14 Ford Model T’s, 12 of which ride thousands of visitors along the streets of Greenfield Village every year. 

With each ride, a door slams, shoes skid across the floorboards, seats are bounced on, gears are shifted, tires meet road, pedals are pushed, handles are pulled and so on. Makes maintaining the cars and preserving the visitor experience a continuous challenge.

“These cars get very harsh use,” said Ken Kennedy, antique vehicle mechanic and T Shed specialist at The Henry Ford. “Between 150,000 and 180,000 people a year ride in them. Each car gives a ride every five to seven minutes, with the longest route just short of a mile. This happens for nine months a year.”

The T Shed is the 3,600-square-foot garage on the grounds of Greenfield Village where repairs, restoration and maintenance magic happen. Kennedy, who holds a degree in restoration from McPherson College in Kansas, leads the shed’s team of staff and volunteers — many car-restoration hobbyists just like him.

“I basically turned my hobby into a career,” quipped Kennedy, who began restoring cars long before college. His first project: a 1926 two-door Model T sedan. “I also have a 1916 Touring and a 1927 Willys-Knight. And I’m working on a Model TT truck,” he added. 

April through December, the shed is humming, doing routine maintenance and repairs on the Model T’s as well as a few Model AA trucks that round out Greenfield Village’s working fleet. “What the public does to these cars would make any hobbyist pull their hair out. Doors opening and shutting with each ride. Kids sliding across the seats wearing on the upholstery,” said Kennedy. Vehicles often go through a set of tires every year. Most hobbyist-owned Model T’s have the same set for three-plus decades. 

With the heavy toll taken on the vehicles, the T Shed’s staff often makes small, yet important, mechanical changes to the cars to ensure they can keep up. “We have some subtle things we can do to make them work better for our purpose,” said Kennedy. Gear ratios, for example, are adjusted since the cars run slow — the speed limit in Greenfield Village is 15 miles per hour, maximum. “The cars look right for the period, but these are the things we can do to make our lives easier.”

In the off-season, when Greenfield Village is closed, the T Shedders shift toward more heavy mechanical work, replacing upholstery tops and fenders, and tearing down and rebuilding engines. While Kennedy may downplay the restoration, even the conservation, underpinnings of the work happening in the shed, the mindset and philosophy are certainly ever present. 

“Most of the time we’re not really restoring, but you still have to keep in mind authenticity and what should be,” he said. “It’s not just about what will work. You have to keep the correctness. We can do some things that aren’t seen, where you can adjust. But where it’s visible, we have to maintain what’s period correct. We want to keep the engines sounding right, looking right.”

Locomotive-7_Bowen_1418
Photo by Bill Bowen.

RESTORATION IN THE ROUND 
Tom Fisher, Greenfield Village’s chief mechanical officer, has been restoring and maintaining The Henry Ford’s steam locomotives since 1988. “It was a temporary fill-in; I thought I’d try it,” Fisher said of joining The Henry Ford team 28 years ago while earning an engineering degree. 

He now oversees a staff with similarly circuitous routes — some with degrees in history, some in engineering, some with no degree at all. Most can both engineer a steam-engine train and repair one on-site in Greenfield Village’s roundhouse. 

“As a group, we’re very well rounded,” said Fisher. “One of the guys is a genius with gas engines — our switcher has a gas engine, so I was happy to get him. One guy is good with air brake systems. We feel them out, see where they’re good and then push them toward that.” 

Fisher’s team’s most significant restoration effort: the Detroit & Lima Northern No. 7. Henry Ford’s personal favorite, this locomotive was formerly in Henry Ford Museum and took nearly 20 years to get back on the track. 

“We had to put on our ‘way-back’ hats and say this is what we think they would have done,” said Fisher. 

No. 7 is one of three steam locomotives running in Greenfield Village. As with the Model T’s, maintaining these machines is a balance between preserving historical integrity and modernizing out of necessity. 

“A steam locomotive is constantly trying to destroy itself,” Fisher said. “It wears its parts all out in the open. The daily firing of the boiler induces stresses into the metal. There’s a constant renewal of parts.” 

Parts that Fisher and his team painstakingly fabricate, cast and fit with their sturdy hands right at the roundhouse. 

DID YOU KNOW?
The No. 7 locomotive began operation in Greenfield Village to help commemorate Henry Ford’s 150th birthday in 2013. 

The Henry Ford Magazine, collections care, engineering, Ford Motor Company, Model Ts, Greenfield Village, railroads, trains, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, cars

Exploded Model T

September 10, 2015 Archive Insight

Mo Rocca, host of "The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation," poses with the exploded Model T in Henry Ford Museum during filming. (Event Photography by KMS Photography)

One of the most dramatic displays in Henry Ford Museum is the “exploded” Model T—a 1924 Model T touring car with its constituent parts suspended by wires. Located at the entrance to the Made in America exhibition, it invites visitors to take a different look at an iconic American product.

Henry Ford’s Model T automobile is one of the most significant technological devices of the 20th century. Its clever engineering and low price allowed it to do what could only be done once—make the automobile widely popular. The Model T spawned mass automobility, altering our living patterns, our leisure activities, our landscape, even our atmosphere. The Model T’s influence is so pervasive and lasting that even people who know little about old cars or automotive history know the name “Model T.”

But the way the Model T was produced is as iconic as the car itself. When Ford Motor Company introduced the Model T in October 1908, firearms, watches, and sewing machines were already being assembled from interchangeable parts made on specialized machines. Ford successfully adapted these techniques to the much more complex automobile, and then crowned this achievement with the development of the moving assembly line in late 1913. Continue Reading

by Bob Casey, Model Ts, Henry Ford Museum, Ford Motor Company, cars

This full-page advertisement announcing the introduction of the Ford Model T is rich with text and technical detail—a rational approach to selling the product. The text reinforces the theme of "Ford: High Priced Quality in a Low Priced Car" throughout the ad. This advertisement appeared in Life and Saturday Evening Post magazines on October 1, 1908. THF122987

"If you really have a good thing, it will advertise itself." - Henry Ford

Introduced in the fall of 1908, Ford Motor Company's Model T was the right car for a newly developing market. It was affordable, efficient and reliable. Almost immediately the Ford Model T became the standard by which other reasonably priced cars were judged. By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts. By the time that the company finally ended the model's production in 1927, more than 15 million Model Ts had been produced.

The very endurance of this single model offers an intriguing look at how the Model T was advertised over the nearly 20 years it was in production. Model T advertisements show the changes in print ads in general and the Ford Company's marketing policies in particular. These advertisements also reflect the company's response to changing market conditions.  Continue Reading

archives, advertising, by Cynthia Read Miller, Ford Motor Company, Model Ts, cars

Photo by KMS Photography

What's on this weekend's episode of The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation? Take a look!

 

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

Model Ts, technology, roads and road trips, by Lish Dorset, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

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1919 Ford Model T

Inline 4-cylinder engine, L-head valves, 177 cubic inches displacement, 20 horsepower.

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Mechanical simplicity was one of the secrets behind the Model T’s success. The engine has no fuel pump, relying on gravity to feed the carburetor. There is no water pump either, as a thermosyphon effect was used to circulate cooling water. The cylinder head removes in one piece for easier servicing. Electric start was first available in 1919. The electrical system’s generator is just visible at the front of the engine.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

cars, Driving America, Henry Ford Museum, engines, Model Ts, by Matt Anderson, Engines Exposed

This 1910 brochure depicted Henry Ford’s dream—a car in which “the great multitude” could spend" hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces." (ID.G32015)

When Ford Motor Company introduced its new Model T automobile on October 1, 1908, the car was the culmination of Henry Ford’s quest to develop an inexpensive, efficient and reliable vehicle that would put automobile ownership within the reach of far more people.

Yet even an inveterate optimist like Henry Ford could not predict the vast success and the far-reaching changes that this rather homely new vehicle would produce. Continue Reading

manufacturing, Model Ts, Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, cars, by Bob Casey

This year we're proud to celebrate what would have been the 150th birthday of our institute's founder, Henry Ford. Throughout the year we'll be sharing content and stories here on The Henry Ford's blog about one of America's greatest innovators.

Henry Ford 150 Years Chrome SealAt The Henry Ford, we often think and talk about Henry Ford, our institution’s founder. This is particularly true this year, which marks 150 years since Henry Ford was born. To commemorate this major milestone, we wanted to tackle a digitization project in Henry’s honor.

When it comes to our Henry Ford–related collections, the problem is narrowing down our vast holdings on all of Henry’s interests, activities, and businesses. A team of curators and educators from The Henry Ford had a series of meetings and discussions earlier this year, and came up with 17 topics that represent major themes in Henry’s life. After that, they made selections from our collections that best represent each of those themes. Their selections have now been digitized and are up on our collections website for anyone to browse.

The thing most identified with Henry Ford is the Model T, a car introduced in 1908 that was reasonably priced, reliable, and effective on the bad roads of the day. Three sets of collections items help tell this story. On the Way to the Model T shares some artifacts that show how Henry’s career progressed, such as the 1896 Quadricycle, the first car Henry ever built, and a 1901 photograph showing the race (featured above) that helped Henry gain notoriety and financial backing for his auto ventures. The Model T set shows a few of the Model T’s in the collections of the Henry Ford, including an early 1909 version, and also shows how quickly the Model T was assimilated into all aspects of daily life, from rural families to ingenious work applications. Post-Model T covers many of Henry’s business activities following the Model T, including the introduction of the V-8 engine and war production at Willow Run.

There was more to Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company than the Model T. A set represents the Assembly Line, from early inspirations for the idea (such as this slaughterhouse line) through many gradual refinements to the system, and another tackles the related $5 Day, which Ford implemented to win over critics of the assembly line system, like this outraged wife of a line worker. Two sets cover some of Ford’s non-automobile output: Tractors, including this experimental model from 1907 and the first production model of the popular Fordson tractor from a decade later; and Aviation, from the Ford Tri-Motor to the radio beacon.

Fordson Tractor, 1917, Used by Luther Burbank

One thing that makes Henry Ford such a fascinating figure 150 years after his birth was his wide breadth of interests, many of which tied back to his business activities. A set explores Henry’s interest in Soybeans, from an extremely dramatic presentation of the strength of soy plastics to photos of his working Soybean Laboratory in Greenfield Village (which still stands, now displaying agricultural artifacts). Another set discusses participation by Henry and the Ford Motor Company in various World’s Fairs, from the massive edifices erected to the exhibits inside.

Henry Ford Hitting Soybean Plastic Trunk with an Axe, 1940

A set on Village Industries, Henry Ford’s vision for small factories set in rural locations, shows the geographic coverage of these plants and also covers individual plants such as Nankin Mills. Another of Henry’s lifelong interests was social engineering, as demonstrated by the Sociological Department he established at Ford Motor Company. This is a story also covered on our website; the collections set we’ve created supplements the story with some of the statistics Ford collected on its employees and photographs taken during visits to employee homes.

Undesirable Home Surroundings Found on First Investigation, Ford Sociological Department, 1914-1915

Some of the sets give you a deeper glimpse into Henry’s life. A set covering his Youth demonstrates that from an early age Henry showed a fascination with both the mechanical and the natural world. His love of nature would persist and can later be seen in his frequent camping trips; a set on the Vagabonds, as he and his comrades called themselves, covers both stereotypical camping activities and objects that might lead one to suspect the Vagabonds were not exactly roughing it, like a photo of their extensive entourage.

Pocket Watch, 1850-1875 (Repaired by Young Henry Ford)

Not everything Henry did was a success. A set on his Failures covers some of the areas where Henry struggled, such as the Detroit Automobile Company and the Ford X-8 engine. Conversely, if you want to know where Henry got inspiration, check out some of his Heroes, from his mother to William Holmes McGuffey to Thomas Edison. To see Henry’s likeness captured at various seminal points in his life, from his teenage years through his final decade, check out our set of Portraits.

Portrait of Mary Litogot Ford, circa 1865

Finally, no review of our Henry Ford collections would be complete if we didn’t talk about ourselves just a bit. You can get a concise story of the founding of The Henry Ford, aka the Edison Institute, on our website, but we have now created a set of collections items related to the Founding of the Edison Institute as well. From the construction of the Museum building to our cornerstone, inscribed by Thomas Edison himself, these artifacts will give you a glimpse into the early days of The Henry Ford.

Cornerstone of Edison Institute Signed by Thomas A. Edison, Sept. 27, 1928

Check out all our Henry Ford collections sets via the list below and let us know what you think!

Henry Ford: On the Way to the Model T
Henry Ford: Model T
Henry Ford: Post-Model T
Henry Ford: Assembly Line
Henry Ford: $5 Day
Henry Ford: Tractors
Henry Ford: Aviation
Henry Ford: Soybeans
Henry Ford: World's Fair
Henry Ford: Village Industries
Henry Ford: Sociological Department
Henry Ford: Youth
Henry Ford: Vagabonds
Henry Ford: Henry Ford's Failures
Henry Ford: Heroes
Henry Ford: Portraits
Henry Ford: Founding of the Edison Institute

Ellice Engdahl, Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford, wishes Henry a happy 150th and thanks him kindly for founding this amazing collection.

Vagabonds, Ford Motor Company, educational resources, Model Ts, by Ellice Engdahl, digitization, Henry Ford