Our 1912 Model “T” Ford ambulance was donated to the Museum by an EWM member, Dudley Dewey, in 1998. It is an original Model T automobile converted as an ambulance. It has a similar WWI ambulance section behind the cab, and has been driven in local parades for some years. The Model T has been, and continues to be very popular. However, the vehicle had a history of engine overheating (normally ran hot) possibly due to transmission mal-adjustment and a marginal radiator. The transmission of a Model T is a quite different and a revolutionary design for 1912. It has bands and clutches which are prone to be out of adjustment causing the transmission to be always “in gear” or under load.
Early 2007, we decided that it was time to do a repair and restoration on the venerable vehicle, so that it would be more dependable and not destroy its own engine and transmission. After careful study by our “restoration technicians”, we determined that the T needed the following:
- Remove original inefficient engine water pump.
- A more efficiently designed radiator while retaining original look and feel.
- Engine and transmission removal and minor rebuild of the transmission.
- Removal of the cylinder head to check pistons, grind & adjust valves.
- Refit the exhaust manifold as the studs were stripped.
- Installation of a later bell housing & electrical starter which would facilitate easier starting.
- Installation of a 12-volt radiator cooling fan inside the engine compartment.
- Four new tires, inspect the wooden wheels, pack wheel bearings.
- Repair the speedometer.
- Repair 3 of 4 ignition coils and re-adjustment of all coils.
1912 Model T We launched into this restoration project knowing what we wanted to do but not exactly how we would do it. The Model T is a very special vehicle, loaded with older technology that most of us did not fully understand. The transmission is a planetary type, being the first semi-automatic transmission used on an American car. The bands and clutches require considerable knowledge to adjust correctly. After removing the engine and transmission as a unit (the oil pan and transmission are the same casting), it was determined that we needed more expertise on the project. Two local Model T experts were called, and eventually we were able to adjust the transmission so that an adequate “neutral” was obtained. Once completed, the new radiator and cooling fan were installed. Upon start up, it was evident that the new cooling system had an immediate effect. An electric starter (which was an option after 1915) was installed allowing the vehicle to be started with minimum effort. Previous to this, we had to pull the Model T with another vehicle to start it, (which, of course, is not always good or safe). Originally, the vehicle would be hand-cranked to start, but with the no-neutral situation and only old men available, hand-cranking was out of the question.
A new speedometer (donated by Newton’s SLO Speedometer Shop in San Luis Obispo,) was installed. The new tires were purchased and installed, and the wheels examined and tightened as well as we could do it. One of our members, Ron Brooks, has done considerable work wiring and re-wiring the vehicle, and we now have a good lighting and electrical system.
1912 Model TSince the restoration was completed, the Model T has been entered in four local parades (Paso Robles All-America Parade, Pioneer Days Parade, Christmas Parade, and Atascadero Colony Days parade), and won honors in all of them. It is definitely a crowd pleaser. Ron and Jackie Brooks are the designated driver and nurse, and dress in their period uniforms for the parades. The T now resides in the Estrella Warbirds Museum Freedom Hall where it is on display. Later on in the year when “parade season” begins, it will be taken out, dusted off, and readied for more local parades.
Thanks to the Restoration Crew:
Ron Brooks, electrician, driver, trainer, mechanic
Jackie Brooks, official “nurse”
Ron Boyte, welder, mechanic
Arnold Hermansen, body, wheels, painter
John Everett, mechanic, parts runner
Gary Woodall, mechanic
Special Thanks to:
Jeff Beaumont, Model T expert
Jim Weir, Model T expert
Al Theberge of Newton’s SLO Speedometer for donation of the speedometer