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Ford Model T Speedster

Ford introduced the Model T in 1909 and produced millions at prices ($450 in 1913) that suited the working man's budget. Human nature and human ingenuity didn't take long to turn the Model T Ford's basic transportation into something a lot more exciting, though and by 1913 a large “aftermarket” had developed, offering a wide range of “speed parts” and custom accessories for the basic black Model T.

The Speedster was but one of many customs offered in 1913 by independent manufacturers, giving the owner a less expensive option to the very popular (and expensive) Stutz Bearcat and Mercer Raceabout.

Usually the chassis was lowered four inches, called “underslinging”, the wheelbase slightly extended, and the basic 40 HP motor “hopped up” with a Roof or RAJO Overhead Valve Conversion (OHV), a hot cam, balanced crankshaft with pressure oiling, and side-draft or up-draft carburettors.

And of course, the stock body was replaced with a sharp looking “Speedster Body” complete with a monocle windshield, and the heavy wooden wheels were replaced with strong and lightweight wire wheels. Some cars retained standard Ford wings and some did away with them altogether.

  click on any image to enlarge

A complete kit of radiator, hood, floorboards, rear gasoline tank, and body could be purchased for around $100. The Speedster body wasn't just for looks; it made the Model T go faster by making it lighter, cutting down the frontal area, and streamlining it. Just making these changes could add 10 to 15 miles an hour to the top speed.

Sometimes it was necessary to remove a leaf from each spring because of the lighter body, and you had to lower the steering column because the new sporty body sat lower.

  Speedster bodies could be just a cover over the engine with bucket seats out in the open and the fuel tank and spare tires behind like the Mercer and Stutz, or they could be streamlined from front to back, with a nicely tapered tail as in the example below.

If the hot-rodded Model T was to be used for race-track work only, the suspension could be lowered more radically and there were several ways of doing that. The best way was to have a new front axle made which effectively raised the axle spindles and lowered the front end. The back could be lowered by cutting off the side members in front of the rear axle and installing modified steel forgings.

Hotting up the engine was just as important as changing the body, and poer plant modifications included aluminum pistons, raised compression heads, larger valves and performance cams. You could use an earlier cylinder head with shallower combustion chambers, or you could plane 1/8 inch of the existing cylinder head. You could even buy an after-market sixteen-valve high-compression head for the Model T Ford!

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