Friday, June 16, 2017

The most historically significant car EVER

It's hard to heap too many superlatives onto the following ride no matter how altered it is from its original state. Behold this super rat rod parked right in front of my building:
This started life as a 1927 Ford Model T Tudor in (what else?) Black. More specifically Double Deep Black. When the Model T was introduced in 1908 it was available in Gray, Green, Blue, and Red. The famous policy that stemmed from Henry Ford stating that "the customer can have any color they want as long as it's Black" didn't actually start until 1914.
Yes that says FARMALL on the grill. This grill originally came from a late 1930s International Harvester Farmall tractor. All Farmalls were bright red in color when built. In addition this grill has been cut down a bit; there would have been a 4th bank of 4 horizontal openings on the bottom.
Rat rods stemmed from people cobbling together working hot rods from mismatched pieces of various cars that were wrecked, abandoned, or thrown away. However like a pair of $1,000 distressed jeans they are now high dollar, high concept approximations of true rats. Maybe this body shell was found in a Texas field but it's definitely had several dozens of thousands of dollars sunk into it since.
I have no idea which V8 engine powers this thing but those open headers must be extremely loud when it's running. This thing is a catchall of rat rod styling cues: German iron cross on the visor, aggressively chopped roof, channeled body where it's sunken down between the frame rails, keg fuel tank where the back seat used to be, exposed engine with unique grill, metal spider web details in the door openings, and a matte faux patina color body.
Those big Ford spoke wheels with the V8 symbol on the caps are great.
This is the last year for the fabled Model T which concluded a spectacular 18 year run. This is the car that put America behind the wheel. Henry Ford invented the modern assembly line to crank these Tin Lizzies out at an unheard of rate of 1 every 3 minutes. By the time this one rolled out of the Highland Park facility in Detroit Ford had built 15,000,000 of them.
Besides the roof height the body shell maintains most of its 1927 look. The Model T had these flat doors unlike the rounded ones of its replacement. That trim line that runs under the windows would curve up around the rear of the rear side window on the later Model A. This rat still boasts the original insanely charming taillights too.
"The Golden Rat" is the name of this beast (the quotations marks are theirs). With the body aggressively channeled and lowered and the fenders removed the wheels look pretty amazing.
Originally the roof was canvas stretched over a wooden frame. Most early bodies had wood frames as well with metal affixed over it for the shell. This roof has been replaced with a massive sheet of metal that has hundreds of louvers stamped into it. There is no window glass except for the windshield so having that many holes in the roof is moot.
This shot gives you an idea of how low this thing actually is. The highest point of the roof sits below the level of the hood of the truck behind it!
Ford produced 8 different models from their first Model A in 1903 until the T was introduced in 1908. Supposedly the Model T was so new in every way that they decided to start all over again with the Model A as its 1927 replacement. These final Model Ts had standard features that were impressive for such an everyman car at the time including a sun visor, windshield wiper, rearview mirror, and a dash light. Remember this was pre Great Depression when most of the roads were unpaved and in disastrous condition so niceties like a rearview mirror weren't taken for granted. The front seats even slid forward and backward to adjust for legroom!
The price for the cheapest Model T (the Runabout) in 1927 was a mere $360! That was less than half the cost of the first examples from 1908. Until 1972 when the VW Beetle usurped it the Model T was the best selling car in history (the Beetle topped out at 21.5 million while the Toyota Corolla is currently in the lead with 40+ million and counting). While it is true that the 1901 Oldsmobile Curved Dash automobile was the first car built on an assembly line the production was nothing compared to the Model T (a total of 19,000 of those Curved Dash models were sold between 1901-1907). This car changed the way Americans lived, where they worked, how they planned communities, and how most products were assembled in the future. Because there were so many produced they are still available in every level of condition. Within the past year I saw one advertised locally that was registered, inspected, and ready for daily use in its original factory specs for under $10,000. I've never driven one and only sat in a few that were parked but I'd love to one day. In the meantime hats off to "The Golden Rat"!

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