In The American Manner



A Discourse on the FORDS: 1926 Model T, 1930 Model AF, 1934 Model BF, and the V8

Even the bread-and-butter cars can be of unusual interest as you learn more about them. In this article that staunch Ford-fancier, John T. G. Rooth, tells us of these cars, with particular reference to the larger four-cylinder models, so many of which are still doing good hack-service on our roads.–Ed.

To those who appreciate a large, slow-revving motor, with a tractor-like beat to its exhaust, a carburetter with dash-operated adjustment to its main jet, a lighting system without fuses, and a shady, accessible engine and chassis, a turning circle worthy of a taxi and a ground clearance of 9 1/2 to 10 inches, I can recommend the 14.9-h.p. Model AF Ford (or Model A 24-h.p., with higher axle ratios) of 1930.

There are still plenty about, mostly converted to light trucks and available today for about £60 to £80. They possess a track of 4 ft. 8 in., and a wheelbase of 8 ft. 10 in. The springing is transverse, the tank is in the scuttle, and they’ll travel over fields and rough roads without protest.

Plentiful spares are obtainable at most Ford main dealers, whilst replacement engines are still being offered in the motoring journals. My own AF Series Ford, bought in 1945, in practically showroom condition with a genuine 7,000 miles only on the mileometer, has since covered thousands of miles with the greatest reliability and comfort. Seating is high by modern standards. Visibility in consequence is good.

The windshield opens, both mudguards are visible, the gears are quiet and its easy to change as shearing butter. Steering is accurate, with mild self-centering action; the brakes are reasonable, but the adjustments are a bit crude and naturally do not give the velvety titanic grip of the Lockheed system!

Petrol consumption is 23-25 m.p.g. and oil 3,000-4,000 m.p.g.

Suspension, since fitting Rotoflo dampers to the front axle, and having the rear dampers reconditioned by a firm in Leicester, is wellnigh perfect. A solid ride is given, with no fore or aft pitching, whilst side-sway is non-existent.

The lighting system might be more powerful with advantage, and the lamp connections need watching for corrosion, which is usually the trouble if the lamps do not always come on when requested. Fumes are non-existent. Interior heating good, due to the exhaust pipe leading down near the driver’s right foot.

Maximum speed is not above 58 m.p.h. on top, 35 m.p.h. on second gear, but you’ve got to drive one of these cars for 250 miles to discover what a good average can be put up behind a non-pinking, low compression engine that seems loath to come off top gear.

In 1933 appeared the BF Series (14.9 h.p.), developing 42 b.h.p. at 3,400 r.p.m., against the 28 b.h.p. at 2,800 of the Series AF.

This car has a double-drop frame with the springs mounted in front of the front axle and behind the rear axle. The petrol tank is at the rear and the gears are synchromesh.

I bought one of these in 1938 for £10, and it gave good service. Compared to the “AF” it is a faster car with a far better steering gear (cam and lever), better suspension with less movement in it, and a smoother engine mounted on rubber blocks, with a shock-absorber device to allow for engine movement without it being transmitted to the chassis frame.

The engine in my car had not the pulling powers of the “AF” once the revs. were lost, and tended to pink on commercial petrol, and ground clearance is less. Seating is lower, with a shallow screen, and visibility therefore not so good.

Then comes the V8 built originally in 1933 into the B-type frame, and far too fast for this chassis and braking system. By 1936 this car had the frame it deserved, with centre-poise engine mounting, and its performance was terrific.

A 1-in-8 hill, a mile long, could be attacked at 15 m.p.h. and you went over the top at 48 m.p.h. Steering was good, but still the brakes lacked realism for an 80-m.p.h. car. The particular car I remember so well went out to Iran for three years and performed well in the deserts, without trouble. Its owner has now bought a V8 French Ford-Vedette of 22 h.p. with Lockheed hydraulic brakes, and a very nice job this seems to be.

Finally there were my Model T, two-speed Fords, the Model T known as the “Flivver,” or the ” Flying Bedstead,” beloved of all who handled this high-built car of the millions; the joke-car of the music-hall; the jest in the early custard pie comedy films.

I learnt to drive on a Ford in 1921, and, in 1933, I bought two Model Ts of 1925 and 1926 vintage, for £5 the two!

They were for use on the farm towing poultry houses, but one was licensed and put in order for the road, and this car covered thousands of miles with great reliability for five years, after which, having no further use for it, its engine was taken out and used for a chaff-cutter!

It never got ditched or bogged thereby, as by judicious use of the epicyclic gears it could rock itself to and fro until it came out!

A man who handled a Model T, with its foot-operated gear pedal (and separate reverse pedal, which could be used as a brake), would soon learn to play a cinema organ!

Care had to be taken to remove the low-tension trembler-coils in damp weather and store them overnight in the kitchen, whilst the commutator, with its greasy (well covered with insulation tape) wires near the front end of the crankshaft, was a source of mystery to many of us.

Firing was apt to be very irregular and “going on to three” often occurred if this system, or the coils, got out of gear. Steering was always vague, and the car apt to lurch without warning; the lamps used suddenly to go orange, due to violent shorting of a bare wire on the chassis frame. The car vibrated and rattled like an early jazz-band, but when it did this it was always “full of go.”

Gear bands and foot-brake wore for long distances if a good lining was obtained in the first place, although, due to being parked out in the open in all seasons, starting in my case was apt to be a little uncertain from cold; when she did start, one had to beware, as, with a feeble hand-brake, coupled with “band-creep” in the gears, the old lady tended to push one against the nearest wall, and there were no dumb-irons or bumpers to save one from an unpleasant end!

To obtain the best results from all Fords use a light “20”-viscosity oil, and with the early ones retard the ignition lever before starting operations!