Remembering My Old Fords

Author Photo
By Staff

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An Aultman & Taylor No. 133, owned by Mr. J.H. Rathert. This picture was taken at the J. H. Rathert's Threshers Reunion.
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An I.H.C. single cylinder tractor passing in front of the grandstand pulling a plow at the J. H. Rathert's Threshers Reunion, held in Forman, North Dakota in August 1967. Courtesy of Cerard Wodarz of Wyndmere, North Dakota
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Diagram shows the toeing position of a tractor's front tires when making a hard right turn.
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An interesting Coltman Engine. "Verticals" predominate.  Courtesy of Denis McCormack of Timonium, Marylan
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 An ancient and rare Ericsson 1/2 hp hot air pumping engine.
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A pair of beautifully restored "Ideals" from the Herndon Collection. 

The enclosed article, while not being strictly Gas Engine, might
be of interest to some who read Gas Engine Magazine. I will say that I’m quite a
theorist, as you may have concluded by now, but in most cases have
to know the why of about everything that I work with. The part on
steering may be well known to many, but still I believe there are
some who do not know or understand it, perhaps because they have
never given it much thought–Lewis Cline

The other day I received the two books I ordered, and found the
“Model A Ford Album” in particular to be very interesting.
It surely brings back memories of the “Good old days” and my old Fords. What
wouldn’t I give to live them over in more ways than one. I have
owned three Model A’s, a 1930 Ford Roadster, a 1930 Ford Town
Sedan, and a 1931 Ford Coupe. These were driven a
good many miles with no major trouble. Most of the trouble was had
with the 1930 Roadster as I recall. The majority of the roads in
those days were either wash-boardy gravel or dirt. Ford had
substituted braces from the frame to support the headlights from under the front fenders. Also the rod between them were of stamped
steel instead of the forged steel formerly used. The following year they returned to forgings. These braces would break where they were
attached to the frame and would no longer hold the fenders and headlights
rigidly in position. Also while driving fast over those wash-boardy
roads, the windshield wings sometimes would fall off in the road
and of course then had to be replaced. It would seem that modern
knee-action was much more needed than nowadays, now that most of
our roads are paved. I had troubles also with the shock absorbers. For me they did not stand up very well. There was no air cleaner on
the carburetor intake, yet many of those Model A’s ran over one
hundred thousand miles on the original pistons and rings in very
dusty road conditions. Nowadays, with our pavements and very little
dust, air cleaners are provided. With that good old solid front
axle we had almost no trouble holding wheel alignment. Whereas
nowadays with knee-action, after the first year or so, wheel
alignment must be done at least yearly.

I bought the 1930 Town Sedan used. As it was using some oil when
traded in, the dealer had re-bored the cylinders. Shortly after
that I was in town one day and a fellow hailed me and asked where I
had bought it. He said it looked familiar and that he was the one
who had traded it in. He said the dealer had re-bored the motor and
told him that the tool had run off sideways so the job would not
stand up for long and I’d better get rid of it soon. I thanked
him for the advice but I kept it 3 years after that, driving
it some forty-thousand miles, and never had any trouble. When I
traded it off its next owner was a friend of mine, who drove it to the
west coast and back a couple of times and it still was going
strong. I figured the dealer must have just told him that to get
him to trade cars. With the exposed spare tires in those days and
years, previous tire covers for the spare used to be in vogue. They
generally had some advertising of a dealers printed on them.

Here’s one I heard back then, though I doubt if it really did
happen. It seems that a fellow bought a tire cover from a filling
station. In about half an hour he came back and told the attendant
that he had installed it on one of his tires and it did not last
ten miles. That part I do not doubt.

I secured a “B” cylinder head and tried it on a couple
of my Fords. They were used generally only by State Police and were
of the high compression type. Had to use Ethyl gasoline then and
set spark timing back somewhat. Cars had a little better pick up
with them, and perhaps 3 to 5 miles more top speed. I could not see
as gas mileage was any better though, and the Ethyl gas cost more.
Burning Ethyl gas also seemed to make for more valve and spark
plug trouble.

With the new cylinder head, the motor seemed to have a sort of rumble to it and did not run
as smoothly as before. It sounded and felt most like a loose main
bearing. I had all the speed and pick-up I wanted with standard
compression, so I soon put the original head back on. Using the
original head I raced a fellow one night who was driving a Dodge
“Fast Four” (Alter Chrysler took over the old Dodge Co.
they changed the motor to five main bearings from three and used 6
Volt system with separate units for starter and generators, similar
to the rest of the cars at the time. (The old Dodge system used a 12
Volt Battery, with a Northeast single unit combination starter and
generator) This car they called the Dodge “Fast Four, The
fastest Four in America.” I beat him quite badly, running up to
65 miles an hour. Next day I met him on the street and he asked me
just how fast will that Ford of yours go anyway? I told him about
65 was the limit. Well he said his speedometer showed about 75.
That must have been how they got all that speed.

Nowadays you can buy a tape recorder and have music (Minus the
commercials) while you drive. Back then I heard of a record player
you could install, and play any tune you wanted on it, but when the
speedometer reached 60 the tune automatically changed to “Nearer My God to Thee.”

The article on steering I think is very good. I notice
they mention Toe In to be about 1/16 of an inch. That is right as
long as the wheels are set straight ahead. I’ve never seen it
mentioned and it may not sound right on first thought to some, but
when they are turned to either right or left, they commence to toe
out, increasingly so until they reach the limit (Or are cramped
shortest). This of course is due to the fact that the outside front
wheel turns in the widest circle and does not need to be “cramped” as short as the other one. This may start an
argument with some.

I went through that with a fellow years ago. He had bought a
tractor which would turn very short, and was telling me that it
would turn shorter one way than the other. I thought nothing of it
at the time, realizing it might be possible, but sometime later he
wanted to show me just what he meant. Just where he got the idea
that it would make it turn shorter one way than the other I do not
know, but he seemed to think that when it was cramped off short
that both front wheels should be turned equally.

amount of explaining seemed to get across to him that his idea wouldn’t work.
I’ve since though perhaps a picture would have helped. Supposing you wanted to turn the tractor off short to the right. It
then would pivot on the right rear wheel, so, draw the line A-B,
Then at the right front wheel, draw a line perpendicular to it.
That is the way the right front wheel should set to make the turn,
Next draw the line A-C, then a line perpendicular to that. That is
the way the left front wheel should set. (Remember it is pivoting
on the right rear wheel). Notice the front wheels are not parallel,
but now toeing out. When making
the turn the left rear wheel will make a circle, the radius of
which will be the distance between it’s center and that of the
right rear wheel.

The unequal cramping of the front wheels in turning is planned
and accomplished by making the tie rod shorter or longer than the distance
between the spindle belts, depending on whether it’s to be set in back of the axle or in front of the axle. This is true on any vehicle using
the so called automotive type of steering gear. It does not apply
to the swinging axle type.

In a previous article I mentioned some rubber tired wagons using
car axles where the front axle had been turned around, and the tie
rod had been left shorter than the distance between the spindle
belts. This would make the front wheels toe in when turning instead
of out, and the left front one would be aimed for the
shortest turn and the right front for the widest. Therefore there
would be some skidding sideways of the front wheels while turning.
It is rather hard on tires and wheel bearings, particularly if the
wagon is heavily loaded. It would be very difficult I believe, in
most cases to lengthen the tie rod enough, bending the steering
arms outward to maintain the front wheels parallel while headed
straight ahead; due to the brake drums being in the way. Also, the
wheels on a car axle being set so close to the spindle belts; so
the best way would be to leave the tie rod behind the axle and by
means of a drag link connect the tie rod to the tongue which is to
be pivoted at the axle and extended back of it.

A tractor of the tricycle type does not need to have the front
wheels turned off at right angles to it to make a square turn, only
at right angles to the wheel it pivots on. I have always had
trouble expressing myself clearly, but hope in this case that I
have managed to get across what I mean.

The human brain is a funny thing, it starts working when we are
born, and stops when we get up to make a speech.

“What I Want is a good time without hangover, expense, or

Published on Jul 1, 1968

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines