The Half T Boat


| January/February 1974



Flywheel Engine

Courtesy of Gilbert Merry, Route 1, Box 56, Lowden, Washington 99342

Gilbert Merry

290 Appletree Drive, Media, Pennsylvania 19063

I was prompted to send this material in by a query on page 2 of your May-June issue, from Bernard A. Hines . regarding the Half Model T engine. You can see from the article that I had first hand contact with this motor and it may therefore be of interest to others. -H. Upshur

We have a lot of Model 'T' Ford experience and variety in antique car circles these days, but this may be one that at least some readers have not heard about. The author has had first hand experience with this antique, however, in construction, use and quantity.

Back before the last World War the Chesapeake Bay was, as it is today, a source of quantities of crabs for northern city markets such as Philadelphia. Now crabbing was carried out in every manner ranging from a small row boat tending a half dozen chicken wire traps in the creek (as did the author) to a fleet of gasoline boats tending several hundred traps. However, the most common was two men with a small gasoline boat and perhaps 25 to 50 traps.

Tending crab traps requires a boat which just chugs along at low speed, stops frequently and starts easily. The cost of a marine clutch and reverse gear was prohibitive to the small Chesapeake Bay crabber, so he had to figure on starting and stopping the motor itself. The motor had also to be a cheap one, with low maintenance and parts cost; as the crabber was then, even as now, a poor man.

The Model 'T' Ford answered the need once again, since they were plentiful, cheap, economical to operate and any local garage, farm store, or Western Auto had parts galore. But the crabber went Henry one better and used only half the 'T' engine, as that provided more than ample power and gave him spare valves, rods and pistons to boot. The front half was used because it had the needed timing gears and distributor and the propeller was coupled to a flange welded on where the fan pulley came off. A four cylinder Chevrolet flywheel, also plentiful, was bolted to a flange welded on the other end of the crankshaft, the latter being cut off to just retain the center main bearing.