HOME

VEHICLE INDEX


DATING A MODEL T


When I bought this touring it was advertised as a 1922. It's a 1923.
It's very common for Model T Fords to be titled and registered under the  wrong year.  This is largely because of the tradition  of cars being  sold by Model Year, not Calendar Year.  This goes back to the early years of the auto industry and to the beginning of the Model T. When the first T's were produced in October, 1908, they were called 1909 Fords. The following paragraph from Bruce McCalley's Model T Encyclopedia further explains a source of confusion:

It is important to remember that the Model T did not truly come in annual models. Changes were made as they were developed. When we speak of, say, a 1917 Ford, this is not to say that all Fords of 1917 were alike. The “typical” car of the period would fit our descriptions, but there could be variations. In many cases we have no accurate data on just when changes were made. An example would be the 1917 cars, which first appeared in August of 1916. The brass-radiator cars built before the change would be called “1916” while the black-radiator cars would be “1917,” even though both were made in 1916.

Nevertheless, Bruce listed the Model Years as follows (but note frequent use of "approx.") I think that through is a more accurate word than to, so after many of Bruce's entries I'll list my interpretation in brackets.

1909: October 1908 to July 31, 1909. (Ford called the cars built after July 31 “1910 models.”)
1910: August 1, 1909 to November 1910, approximately. [August 1, 1909 through October 1910, approximately.]
1911: November 1910 through December 1911 approx.
1912: January 1912 to September 1912 approx. [January 1912 through August 1912 approx.]
1913: September 1912 to August 1913 approx. [September 1912 through July 1913 approx.]
1914: August 1913 to January 1915 approx. [August 1913 through December 1914 approx.] 1915: September 1914 (Sedan), October (Coupelet) and January 1915 (open cars) to August 1915. [Thanks to Mike Walker, who posted the following corrections from Trent Boggess for 1915 on the MTFCA forum:

Bruce was mistaken about when 1915 model year closed cars were built. Research by Trent Boggess indicates that 1915 closed cars were produced only in December of 1914 and Jan. and Feb. of 1915. There were 976 Sedans and 1,172 Coupelets produced during that 3-month period. No 1915 model closed cars were built after Feb. of '15.

There are pictures of 1915-style Sedans and Coupelets at the Benson archives which are dated Sept. and Oct. 1914. I assume that those pictures are what led Bruce (and others) to believe that '15 closed cars were produced earlier than they actually were. These are prototype cars, not production cars, built and photographed for publicity and catalog pics. Those cars have many typical 1914 parts and other features which did not appear in the production cars.


Here are some other excerpts from the message which Trent sent me back in '08:

"There is no cost book for March 1915, but the April book lists production for both March and April 1915. No sedans or coupelets were produced in either of those months. In fact, 1915 sedan and coupelet production ends in February 1915 and does not resume until October 1915 (1 coupelet). In November 225 coupelets were produced and 1 sedan. And in December 213 coupelets and 130 sedans were made."

"Other information I found indicates that all of the 1915 style sedan and coupelet bodies were manufactured by Fisher Body Company. The bodies arrived fully painted and upholstered. All Ford had to do to them was to add the side and tail lights and brackets and bolt them onto a chassis."

"One last note of interest: there were very few open cars built in January 1915, only 110 torpedos (roadsters) and a mere 36 touring cars. Apparently the body manufacturers had difficulty forming the curved cowl that was characteristic of 1915 and later open cars. Touring production recovered in February with 5674 touring cars produced."

Based on Trent's research and Mike's comments, I would list the 1915 model year
like this: December 1914 (closed cars) and January 1915 (open cars) through July 1915.]

1916: August 1915 to August 1916. [August 1915 through July 1916]
1917: August 1916 to August 1917. [August 1916 through July 1917.]
1918: August 1917 to January 1919 approx. [August 1917 through December 1918 approx.]
1919: January 1919 to August 1919. [January 1919 through July 1919.]
1920: August 1919 to August 1920. [August 1919 through July 1920.]
1921: August 1920 to August 1921. [August 1920 through July 1921.]
1922: August 1921 to September 1922. [August 1921 through August 1922.]
1923: September 1922 to July or August 1923. [September 1922 through July 1923.]
1924: August 1923 to August 1924. [August 1923 through July 1924.]
1925: August 1924 to August 1925. [August 1924 through July 1925.]
1926: August 1925 to August 1926. [August 1925 through July 1926.]
1927: August 1926 to May 26, 1927.

How can you pin down the year of a given Model T? Sometimes a car is found with detailed documentation of its history, but that's rare. In most cases, because of changes that may have been made to the vehicle, you can't be 100% sure. But you can usually be reasonably certain, at least for purposes of registration and  description. Two keys to identifying the model year are the engine serial number and the car's features. For cars made after December of 1925 you can add the frame number, which makes identification almost certain. “Motor number was first placed on frame side member R.H. on Dec. 12, 1925. Motor No. 12,861,044. Information obtained from Mr. Burns, Final Assy., Highland Park.”

Of course, a car may have received a replacement engine which could be from an earlier or later year. For that reason, looking at what parts are on the car is equally important.

So how do I find the date of the serial number, and how do I know what features were used in a certain year? See the encycopedia and the Rodda books listed here. There is also a printed version of the encyclopedia: Model T Ford: The Car That Changed The World by Bruce McCalley. You may find an early hardcover printing, or the 2013 paperback version from Krause Publications. My recommendation would be for the CD version because of the extensive addtional material it includes. The MTFCA website has a less extensive and detailed version of the encyclopedia here.

HOME

VEHICLE INDEX