A Piece of History, 1919 Model T Ford
Tidbits of Shelby County History

This week’s article was written in June 1897 by George B. Harrison for the presentation of the Model T to the Shelby County Historical Society from S.L. Yeary.

Henry Ford changed the world in numerous ways. He established the assembly line, and he paid his workers the then unheard-of wage of 5 dollars a day. His automobiles set standards in the racing world for both speed and endurance and his innovations in automobile engineering are unparalleled. Ford built the widest variety of machine imaginable, including tractors for the farm, luxury automobiles still unmatched by anything but the Rolls-Royce, and airplanes that are still in service in certain parts of the United States and around the world.

But, by far, he made his most valuable contribution in September of 1908, when he introduced to the world his 1909 Ford Model T. The Ford slogan at that time was “The Universal Car”, and that is exactly what the Model T became. There had been many cars before this time, but they were out of reach for the average citizen. The Model T changed all this as it became ubiquitous. When the last Model T rolled off the assembly line in May 1927, 15,007, 033 of them had been made and they were present in every country in the world.

There were countless stories and jokes about the Model T, or “Flivver”, or “Tin Lizzie”, as it was affectionately called. There were even songs about the historic automobile. They included, among other, The Little Ford Rambled Right Along, The Packard and the Ford, Flivver King, On the Old Back Seat of the Henry Ford, It’s a Rambling Flivver, and I Raise My Fordto be a Jitney.  Henry Ford was amused by the jokes about the Model T and once said, “They sure helped it popularize it and I hope they never end.” I would like to share with you a story about the Model t. It was said that a Model T driver needed three parts fuel, one part humor, and some bailing wire to get where he was going.”

Filling Station

A Cadillac pulls up, and the driver says, “How far is it from here to Houston?”.

“One hundred and forty miles,” replies the man at the pump. “Gimme twenty gallons of gas and a gallon of oil,” says the driver and he drives on.
A Buick drives up, and the driver says, “How far is it from here to Houston?”

“A hundred and forty miles,” replies the man at the pump. “Gimme ten gallons of gas and half a gallon of oil,” say the driver and he drives on.

Along comes a flivver. It rattles up, the driver unwinds himself, gets out and stretches, and asks,“How far is it from here to Houston?”

“Oh, about a hundred and forty miles.” “Is that all? Gimme two quarts of water and a bottle of 3-in-1, and hold this son of a gun until I get in.”

It was also stated that Henry Ford once said you can have a Model T in any color you want, as long as it is black. From 1909 through 1911 they came in a variety of colors as they did again in 1926 to 1927.

Today Ford Motor Company is an international industrial giant and one of a handful of automobile manufacturers in the U.S. Over two thousand and two hundred manufacturers of automobiles have come and gone – Marmon, Studebaker, Overland, Star, Whippet, Sears, and Pierce-Arrow to name just a few – but Ford has remained, and this organization was built on the success of the famous and now historic Model T.

This Model T was originally sold to Jim and Mary Lowe by Hemphill Motor Company in Hemphill, Texas. It was kept in the Lowe Family for many years and eventually came back into the possession of Hemphill Motor Company. In 1958, S.L. bought the automobile and began restoring it to its’ original condition. He completed the restoration work in 1960, and until 1987 he drove the car in many parades in both Center and Tenaha, Texas. It was featured in both the Texas Sesquicentennial and the Tenaha Centennial in 1986. It has served the “29ers” faithfully for many years. S.L. stated to me and asked that I convey to you on his behalf that he hoped “that those who viewed this automobile would think of those times when it was new and remember that the Model T was as important of a technological advance in those days as the computer chip has been to current times.”

The basic price of this automobile in March 1919 was $525. It is designated as a Touring car and was the first year that electrical starting equipment (commonly referred to as a “self-commencer”) was available. This option cost an additional $75 and added about 90 pounds of extra weight. 1919 was also the first year that demountable rims were available as an option. This item added about 70 pounds of extra weight and $21 to the price.

S.L.’s Model T has both options, and new in 1919 would have sold for $621. It weighs approximately 1600 pounds. The top speed (although there is no speedometer) is around 45 mph.

The car is powered by a twenty horsepower, four-cylinder, water cooled engine, the Model T would get approximately thirty miles to the gallon (depending on whether the gasoline, kerosene, distillate, or moonshine was used as fuel.) The Model T engine, magneto, and transmission form a true power plant as they are all assembled together into one combined crank and transmission case. They even used a common oil supply which is circulated to the engine, transmission bearing and gears by rotation of the flywheel an its magneto parts.