The rust bucket

Burkhard’s Model T has now moved from shipping container storage to his garage workshop, on borrowed wheels (his are being rebuilt). Because of course, just borrow Model T wheels. No problem! They’re actually from Francisco, who told him about using rear axle housings to keep the front end level — notice them to the left of the photo.

Model T restoration

He thought the jacket draped over the back shouldn’t be in the photo, but it struck me as perfectly symbolic: well, at least this thing has value as a coat rack!

Model T restoration

Burkhard chuckled as he lifted body panels, demonstrating how flimsy the whole thing is.

Model T restoration

I think at this point I would decide that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. Burkhard is undeterred.

Model T restoration

The bodywork in a Ford Model T is build over wood framing. This door is mostly good, but much of the other wood in this critter is rotted or destroyed by bugs. Researching a while ago, I read that Henry Ford owned over 100,000 acres of forest land to provide wood for Model Ts. I also read that — perhaps — they cut up pallets from parts deliveries to use in Model Ts. Perhaps. Just under 15 million of these cars were produced, between October 1908 and May 1927. Insane!

Model T restoration

Here’s another view of the Tin Lizzie.

This will be interesting. Stay tuned…!

Model T: new parts, old parts, tire changing

I checked in with Burkhard yesterday, to see the status of the Model T project. He told me that they day before, he had felt like a kid at Christmas after a box full of parts arrived from the United States.

Here they are: bushings, suspension and steering bits. And the aftermarket springs.

Model T restoration

And what of the beast itself? Look at this picture and see if you notice something strange, as I did:

Model T restoration

His friend friend Francisco, who turns out to be the owner of the working Model A pickup, tipped him off that the rear axle housings are perfect for supporting the front end. Logs supported the rear end.

Model T restoration

There’s a little more unanticipated, slightly tricky welding required.

Model T restoration

The wood framing for the body panels needs to be replaced. Most of it is pretty straightforward, but there are a couple pf pieces – not pictured – which involve compound curves.

Model T restoration

The parts department: spares for both cars.

Model T restoration

You may well recognize the cylinder head and starter. That weird thing on the left is the flywheel and gear box, consisting of two gears and reverse. Pressing the pedals tightened bands around them. The braking for the vehicle also happened here, which suggests that there’s no such thing as a Model T screeching to a halt!

Model T restoration

Then Burkhard showed me this gem: a unique tire-changing tool. The rims, which attach to the wooden wheel with five bolts, are not one continuous piece. When tightened with this tool, they effectively make the diameter smaller, allowing for a tire change on the side of the road. If you’ve ever watched your car’s tires being mounted, you’ll appreciate the ingenuity of this.

Model T restoration

No need to go further. The rim’s not refinished, and it would still require a tube, but pretty darned cool!



It begins: the wheels

Immediately after I posted yesterday, Burkhard sent me current photos. I think maybe he’s having some fun with me, because the last one is definitely smaller than the next two, and even accounting for perspective, the closest looks bigger.

Model T wheels

I’m not sure why he feels a need to fix them — it’s just a few bug holes and Model Ts don’t go very fast.

Model T wheel closeup

But he’s picky. No doubt will insist on new tires as well.

Model T wheels pre-restoration

I think that’s a front hub below. You can actually buy one new for USD 289.95. Might make a nice coffee table conversation piece. The new spokes will be made from fresno, or ash, used for ax handles up north (along with hickory).

Rims and hubs, ready to go for refurbishing. Local cost to put each wheel back together with new spokes is USD 100, which seems like a good deal now that I’ve looked online.

Model T wheel disassembled

And meanwhile, some new antique firewood!

Model T spokes for firewood

On to the T

“Don’t laugh,” Burkhard said as he opened the container door.

It’s a Ford Model T he plans to restore. Notice the little round springs – those are aftermarket additions. Apparently the T had a rigid suspension. Ouch.

He confesses that the radiator has already been restored. And though the hood and fenders have been primed, there’s some serious fender rot which will require some TIG welding. He’ll get someone else to do that, since he doesn’t want to invest in a [Tungsten Inert Gas] welding rig. Since I’ve never learned even basic welding (even though my father’s company in the ’70’s made radio-frequency welding machines for similar sheet metal applications), it’s all rather magical to me.

Inside, make yourself comfortable on top of the gas tank.

But nah wurreez; you’re protected by the firewall, that separates the controlled-burn part of the operation (engine) from the potentially-uncontrolled (i.e., gas tank) part. You’ll note that the firewall is made of – drum roll, please! – wood! I’m feeling safer already.

Although it looks like a disaster to me, he says this engine – and car – is in good shape. Unlike the A, he doesn’t plan to rebuild the engine. Turns out that the Ts were such a bitch to drive that when the A came out, they were simply abandoned, so existing ones have much less wear.. As I pointed out a few months ago, Model As have turned out to be venerable beasties.

If you’re curious, do a Youtube search for “how to drive a Model T.” Three pedals: the right is the brake, the left the shift, and the middle, reverse – do I have that right? In any event, you could probably drive a Model A with minimal effort. A Model T, uh, no.

I don’t know what all this crap piled on the back of the vehicle is. I’m not sure I want to know.

This should make for a fun ride – stay tuned!



My friend Burkhard, of German descent from Namibia, moved from a rather remote part of the interior of Uruguay to a place not far from our little country property. And immediately started projects. One of which was buying a Ford Model A.

To restore.

Which meant taking the whole thing apart. No, I mean really apart.

And from three engines that looked like this, creating one with the best parts from each. He substituted adjustable valves – a later innovation (i.e., not original) that apparently saved days of labor.

And then, of course, one has to put the whole thing back together.

Today it had its first public-road debut. Having been a farmer all his life in Africa, he knew about windmills, and had helped with ours on our barely-used chacra (14+ acres/5.6 hectares). He mentioned that it probably needed lubrication, and since I was halfway through mowing the knee-high grass, and he was offering, we arranged to meet there this afternoon.

And there he was!

He also helped me find a plumbing solution for an annoying oversight from our Uruguayan “of course I know everything” contractor Martín, and then putt-putt-putt was on his way home before he had to use the vehicle’s lights, which are humorously (as long as you’re not driving in the dark) dim.

All photos except for the last two are his. I’ll try to do better next time.

Next time – did I mention he also bought a Model T that he will begin restoring in a few weeks?