Friday, December 6, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1919 Ford Model T Touring Car

I think it's safe to say this is officially the oldest car I've seen used as a daily driver. There's a man in Alameda who loves his Model Ts, and I just happened to cross paths with him one evening while cruising for cars. Specifically, I was parked and on the phone when the aged black Tin Lizzie puttered by. I decided to follow it until it parked, which it did minutes later. The Model T is such a ubiquitous vehicle, I always wanted to find one and feature it here. However, despite 15 million of them rolling off the production line over 19 years, they're pretty hard to come by on public roads. Alameda, with its 25-mph speed limits, is one of the few places where a Model T can keep up with modern traffic.

The Model T has to be one of the most instantly recognizable cars ever made. This 1919 Touring Car is well-loved and shows its age in the scratched paint, duct-taped seats and jury-rigged wiring in a few places to power such necessities as the single taillight. Everything about the car is designed to be simple and practical, and yet the Model T has some strange features that set it far apart from most other vehicles. Perhaps the best known of these is inside the car. There are three pedals on the floor, but these do not control the gas, brake and clutch. The accelerator is handled by a lever on the steering column. The right foot pedal is the brake, middle is effectively the gear selector, and the left pedal puts the car into gear. The process of driving a Model T is mystifying to most people. For someone like me who has enough trouble just driving a regular car with a manual transmission, it's hard to wrap my brain around without physically watching someone do it.

The technology is all hopelessly outdated, from the hand crank and starter battery to the single transverse front and rear springs, but it worked in its own time on primitive roads and allowed millions the experience of owning a car. Even the black color primarily associated with the Model T was a consideration for low cost and high durability. Model Ts changed so rarely that the only way I know the model year of this example is because Murilee Martin of Jalopnik.com previously featured it in his Down On The Street series. I'm not really a huge fan of cars this old, but it gets massive credit for surviving this long and still providing service to its owner. It's a testament to how tough the Model T was in its time and still is today.

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