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The T model Ford.


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#1 cosworth bdg

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 03:35

How many people know that the T Model Ford was designed initially to run on corn produced ETHANOL fuel...?????

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#2 A E Anderson

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 05:57

Originally posted by cosworth bdg
How many people know that the T Model Ford was designed initially to run on corn produced ETHANOL fuel...?????


An "urban legend" I'm afraid. While Henry Ford was one of the most pragmatic individuals in the business of manufacturing automobiles, he wasn't a fool.

Model T's, like a great many early American cars, would run on just about any flammable liquid, but gasoline was the preferred fuel for them. Stories abound in my family of my grandfather's having used kerosene, turpentine, and even wood alcohol (methanol) at times, but only to tide him over until he could get into town to fill up the T's gas tank.

The fallacy of this "legend" stems from the simple fact that in 1908, when Model T supplanted the successful Ford Model N, while ethanol was certainly known, it came in either brown glass bottles, or in Ball Mason fruit jars (the former as beer or whiskey, the latter as illicit moonshine from a home still someplace) for human consumption, and wasn't any more available as 200-proof (100% pure grain alcohol) than it has been in the decades since (only in liquor stores for us ordinary mortals, some industrial ethanol, that was it). As for ethanol production facilities, well--most of it was in the form of beer, which is mostly water, distilled spirits coming well behind beer in production--and that almost always from relatively small distilleries.

By the time the Model T hit the streets in the US, gasoline was readily available, having been a rather nusiance byproduct of refining oil for what was the first real product of the petroleum industy in this country--kerosene for home lighting and heating. and far, far cheaper than ethanol--only pennies per gallon. No gasoline stations yet, those came about in the late 'teens for the most part, but just about every hardware store, blacksmith shop/garage, and even pharmacies carried gasoline in bulk, and would fill a can with the stuff which you then carried outside, and poured into the tank of your car.

On the other hand, there is nothing in a Model T Ford engine or fuel system that can be hurt by either methanol or ethanol--as the T used cast iron pistons, block heads and manifolds, even the carburetor was cast iron, and all fuel line fittings were either brass or copper, with a steel fuel tank underneath the front seat. And, Model T had a wickedly hot ignition system, using a flywheel-contained magneto, and a set of buzzer coils to build up the spark--touch a T spark plug when the engine is running, and you will wind up on your posterior, several feet away! If there was any disadvantage to attempting to use alcohol as a fuel in a Model T, it would have been the low, 4.5:1 compression ratio of the engine, which probably would have limited horsepower to somewhere in the range of 12-13bhp, as opposed to the 22bhp those engines put out on gasoline.

Ethanol in a Model T? Certainly workable. Practical enough for Ford to have given it serious design consideration? Not.

Art Anderson

#3 HistoricMustang

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 12:55

Oh boy, this could get an argument started. :drunk:

http://www.ford.com/...tal/ethanol.htm

The mother company seems to believe the legend, but, perhaps they are just jumping on the bandwagon.

Henry

#4 A E Anderson

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 17:12

Originally posted by HistoricMustang
Oh boy, this could get an argument started. :drunk:

http://www.ford.com/...tal/ethanol.htm

The mother company seems to believe the legend, but, perhaps they are just jumping on the bandwagon.

Henry


Old Henry may well have dreamed about that idea, which would have been a natural for him, given his background growing up on a Michigan farm in the 1800's, but he was also one of the most pragmatic, practical individuals in the industry as well.

As Ford Motor Company's site suggests, probably Henry Ford did consider, even wish, that his cars could be built to run on grain alcohol--BUT they also point out that gasoline won out on price (and probably availability).

Of course, nothing gets said about the very simple fact that a Model T, just as with any other automobile engine of 1908 (and indeed for another 20-25 years or so) was so primitive in relation to what we use today, that little in the way of "engineering" would have been needed to switch from one fuel to another.

The biggest changeover in any carbureted engine from gasoline to alcohol rests with fuel mixture and spark plugs, perhaps a bit of timing adjustment as well--given the disparity in thermal energy derived from ethanol as opposed to gasoline. With this, I do suspect that not many people today, even car enthusiasts, even understand the very simple, direct controls of a Ford Model T, even the Model A engine.

Model T and Model A have no set fuel mixture--as with piston-engined aircraft engines for decades after these cars were produced, fuel mixture is manually set, from inside the car, by means of the simple turning of a knob below the dashboard (it's on the lower right hand side of the dash, also serves as the choke control!). Adjusting the timing of either engine was as simple as setting the timer rotor (on the T) or the distributor rotor (on a Model A) to the proper point with #1 piston at top dead center, then while driving, setting the spark advance manually from the steering column--look at any Model T or Model A Ford, and you will see two levers, one on each side of the steering column just below the steering wheel. The right hand lever is a hand throttle (Model T had no foot throttle, ever, Model A retained the hand throttle even though it could be overridden by a foot pedal), the left-side lever being the spark advance--which could be adjusted through several degrees of advance and retarding, according to engine temperature, speed and road conditions.

Hence, I base my reply to this tale on pure experience--I owned at one time, 3 Model A's, and a Model T, all simultaneously, and while I never used anything but leaded regular-grade gasoline, I was very well aware that those engines would run on just about any flammable fluid that would pass through the carburetor jets (which, like any float-bowl carb, merely trickled the fuel into the venturi stream, purely by gravity coupled with the suction created in the venturi.). While many, many anecdotes were very much around of people who had run such fuels as kerosene in these cars, even grain alcohol, most lamented the carbon buildup of the former, and commented on the very poor performance of the latter as a fuel in those engines.

With all of this, I seriously doubt any concerted effort, beyond perhaps an expressed desire on the part of Mr. Ford at some point in the process, to aim the Model T toward non-petroleum fuel--another point of fact being that Model T's engine wasn't at all new internal combustion technology, but more a matter of upgrading the already existing Model N, R, and N engines mostly for simplicity of manufacture.

Art Anderson

#5 Antoine Pilette

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 17:27

Doesn't a TNFer had one as a daily car?

#6 McGuire

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 22:26

Originally posted by cosworth bdg
How many people know that the T Model Ford was designed initially to run on corn produced ETHANOL fuel...?????



Your source has its signals somewhat crossed. Henry Ford was indeed a public advocate of ethanol, but the Model T was designed to run on gasoline. Charles Kettering of General Motors was also an ethanol supporter but changed his position when tetraethyl lead was developed... by Thomas Midgely at the Kettering labs, ironically.

While it is nearly forgotten today there was a movement, or at least considerable public discussion, to adopt ethanol as fuel in the 1920's, and Both Ford and GM were supporters at one time. This is a topic that will not compute very well to a modern audience without an understanding of the issues in that era, before the adoption of TEL and catalytic cracking, when the petroleum industry was basically in its infancy.

For one thing, there were significant public objections to be overcome before TEL could be adopted. Even then the substance was believed to be hazardous to public health and the environment, and it took years to win public approval. It is no accident that the consortium (owned by GM and Dupont) that pushed for TEL marketed the new fuel additive as "Ethyl": it implied the stuff was farm-grown ethyl alocohol, which of course it was not. It was lead, which had already earned a reputation as one of the early industrial toxins. It's a fascinating story.

#7 Ruairidh

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 00:53

Please tell me there is some connection here to motor sport?

#8 soubriquet

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 01:27

It has an engine and wheels, therefore it can be raced :rolleyes:

#9 cosworth bdg

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 04:37

[QUOTE]Originally posted by A E Anderson
[B]

Old Henry may well have dreamed about that idea, which would have been a natural for him, given his background growing up on a Michigan farm in the 1800's, but he was also one of the most pragmatic, practical individuals in the industry as well.

As Ford Motor Company's site suggests, probably Henry Ford did consider, even wish, that his cars could be built to run on grain alcohol--BUT they also point out that gasoline won out on price (and probably availability).

Just look at how the auto industry has grown over the last 100 years on the likes of Henry Fords Dreams!!!!!!! :up:

#10 JB Miltonian

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 05:54

Here's a Model T put to good use.
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#11 McGuire

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:10

On the subject of Henry Ford and his support of ethanol fuels, Bill Kovarik Ph.D wrote an excellent paper for the Society of Automotive Historians in 1998. Here is a link:

http://www.radford.e...apers/fuel.html


Also... in 2000 the attorney, automotive journalist and contributing editor to Automobile magazine Jamie Kitman wrote a very interesting piece for the American magazine of political commentary, The Nation. Link here...

http://www.thenation...20000320/kitman

Both are stimulating reading, I promise.

#12 D-Type

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 09:03

Originally posted by Ruairidh
Please tell me there is some connection here to motor sport?

This is one of my favourites - it's motoring and it's a sport.

more seriously, countless hot rods, dragsters and US track cars were Model-T based.

#13 HistoricMustang

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 09:16

Originally posted by Ruairidh
Please tell me there is some connection here to motor sport?


http://www.conceptca...ar/default.aspx

Henry

#14 Ruairidh

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 13:41

Originally posted by D-Type
This is one of my favourites - it's motoring and it's a sport.


I give, that is just too funny - maybe that is what they ought to do to the lower formulae of today - imagine the fun if it became "pig-n-formula3" for example.....

#15 McGuire

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 15:57

Originally posted by D-Type
This is one of my favourites - it's motoring and it's a sport.


How to bring overtaking back to F1.

#16 McGuire

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 16:12

Alfred Moss (father of Stirling) drove a Fronty-equipped Model T Ford in the 1924 Indianapolis 500. Started 20th, finished 16th. A number of Model T racers ran in the Indy 500 in the years 1922-26. The best finish was 7th in 1923.

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#17 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 16:17

Originally posted by McGuire
How to bring overtaking back to F1.


Indeed, the millionaires would be having second thoughts about touching pigs!