- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

Contrary to popular belief, Henry Ford offered his popular Model T in a variety of colors from 1908 through 1913 and again, at the end of the Model T line, in 1926 and 1927.

About 75,000 Model T Fords were produced in 1912 and more than 168,000 were built in 1913. The variety of colors slowed production and so, when 300,000 Model T Fords were built in 1914, they were all black except for a few special orders. They remained exclusively black through the 1925 model year because black was the only color that dried fast enough to keep up with the speed of the Ford production line.

Long after the last venerable Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1927, Bob Lillard owned a 1927 Model T touring car. Like all post-1915 models it had a radiator shell painted black. He had always wanted a pre-1916 model with a brass radiator shell at the very least. The more brass the better, he thought.

In the autumn of 1974 Mr. Lillard saw an ad offering a 1913 Model T for sale. What made it even better was that it was a wooden-bodied depot hack. Ford sold basic chassis to some dealers who had wooden bodies custom produced and supplied by a variety of manufacturers.

By the time the deal had been made, winter had arrived. Mr. Lillard hitched a trailer onto his car and drove through a snowstorm to upstate New York. “I looked at the car, had breakfast and then went back and bought it,” Mr. Lillard says. “It was really nice.

“The seller told me how to go home another way with no mountains,” Mr. Lillard says gratefully.

Big brass headlights are illuminated by acetylene gas while the single taillight and dual cowl lights are simply mobile kerosene lanterns.

Brake lights and turn signals were not even a dream. The 20-horsepower, four-passenger vehicle was designed primarily to transport luggage from the train depot to whatever hotel or resort was the destination. The was negligible airport traffic in 1913.

The 1913 Model T Ford features a dramatic new lower cowl, two-wheel mechanical brakes, high-speed rear end and no instruments. A horn is operated when the driver’s left hand squeezes the big rubber bulb. “It’s a car to enjoy,” Mr. Lillard says.

When Mr. Lillard rolled his 6-foot, 10-inch-tall Model T off the trailer, the 99-inch wheelbase was supported on the front axle by 3x30-inch tires and on the rear axle by much bigger 3.50x30-inch tires. The entire rig is cushioned by buggy springs that provides a ride much like that offered 90 years ago. “It’s a whole new ballgame in driving,” Mr. Lillard says.

With the high-speed rear end Mr. Lillard says his Model T is capable of speeds of 40 to 45 mph. When he first got the car almost 30 years ago the beltway and interstate highways were relatively new. “I used to feel safe on the interstate highways,” Mr. Lillard says, “but not now.”

To this day the Model T Fords are quite capable if not pushed to high speeds.

A decade after Mr. Lillard acquired his 1913 Ford he joined 31 other Model T owners in the summer of 1984 on a trip from New York to Seattle.

“That’s when I installed taillights, brake lights and signal indicators on the car,” Mr. Lillard says.

At the end of the odyssey, several of the Model T owners flew home and had their Fords trucked home. After the six-week adventure Mr. Lillard and his wife, Margery, continued motoring across the country all the way back to the East Coast.

“It was tall enough inside to stand up and stretch,” without having to stop, Mr. Lillard says.

Before the trip he installed an electric windshield wiper and, of course, he encountered no rain.

Tired of guessing his speed, in 1995 Mr. Lillard installed a bicycle speedometer, which he reports as very accurate..

In the years since his coast-to-coast-to-coast epic trip, Mr. Lillard has driven — not trailered — his 1913 Model T Ford to Florida, Colorado and Canada.

After all those thousands of miles at the helm of his 1913 Model T Ford sparkling with shiny brass trim, Mr. Lillard has learned a fundamental fact of life that proves that when wishing, caution should be exercised.

“I want no more brass cars,” he states emphatically.

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