The Parts Car 1911 For Model “T” Torpedo Roadster
Article and photography by Richard Butschi
Purchased as a “parts car” in 1978 in Marshalltown, this Model “T” was never intended to see the road. In fact, John Goedeken, of Covington, had been buying and storing many vintage auto parts for use on a project involving a 1911 Touring “T” which accommodates six passengers. Since Goedeken was deep into a veterinarian practice, there was little spare time for auto restoration and the Torpedo sat untouched for almost 35 years. Retirement in 2008 gave John plenty of time to pursue his automotive dreams and the Touring was complete in 2012. He still has that car, which he shows, along with a “daily driver” 1914 model similar to the Torpedo, that he and wife, Karen, get out on the road. During the restoration of the Touring car, John changed his tune about the Torpedo, and started some preliminary work and finishing it in 2015. As Goedeken states, “Every nut and bolt is new, rebuilt or refurbished” along with the original drivetrain.
Henry Ford’s first “T” was completed in 1908 and by 1927 15 million of them were built and sold. Brass was used extensively on models from ‘09 thru ‘12, due to its strength and availability, but it also added greatly to its beauty and value. Many collectors seek these cars, exclusively. Ford had the idea of producing a “sport” model in 1911, where the hood was extended, moving the dash rearward, shortening the runningboard and streamlining the fenders. In 1912, the body style reverted back to standard form - consequently making the ‘11 model particularly desirable to collectors.
Little change occurred over the years of Model “T” production. The engine horsepower rating stayed at 20 hp which was fed through the 2-speed “planetary” transmission, which had no visible gear shift “stick.” It was activated via a 3-pedal system on the floorboard. The clutch was located on the left, which when depressed halfway put the car in neutral. All the way to the floor was low gear and after the car was up to speed, the pedal was lifted and now in high gear. The brake was on the right. The middle pedal would eventually activate reverse, but first acted as another brake. The throttle lever, or “gas pedal” was located on the right side of the steering column, while the lever on the left of it regulates the timing advance. Sounds complicated; so no texting while driving a “T”.
The most striking feature of these vintage beauties is the brass fixtures. There is an intriguing canister mounted on the running-board which contains calcium carbide. When water is added, acetylene gas is produced, which is piped to the headlamps and lit with a match accessed by the glass door on the lamp. The taillight and dashlights are simple kerosene lanterns – a tradition brought from the horse and buggy days. The white tires add to the classic look, as white is the natural color of rubber. Later, charcoal and carbon black were added to the rubber mix and gave us the tire color we know today. Body colors are also significant with “T”s. Black was not an option until 1914 when it was the “only” choice because of its durability and low cost. From ‘08 thru ‘13 gray, blue, green and red were used on particular models, with Torpedo roadsters all being dark blue.
Goedeken naturally became a member of the Antique Auto Club of America and entered his first show with the Torpedo in 2015 at Auburn, IN, where he earned his “Junior” award. There are about 8 of these nation-wide shows each year. After winning the “Jr”, AACA bumps you into a “Senior”class. The Torpedo earned its “Sr.” badge the very next year in Mankato, MN, where judges noticed its high quality. Later that year, John and Karen received notice that they would be presented a national award for “Best Restoration of a Brass Model T” at a gathering in Pennsylvania. In the summer of 2017, Goedeken attended the exclusive Grand National Show in Kansas City. The GNS is a once-a-year show where previous Sr. winners are invited to compete against each other. Goedeken drove away with top honors! Not bad for a “parts car,” huh?