A distinguishing vestige of the era between 1908 and 1927 is the image of a black Model T Ford slowly chugging along a narrow city potholed dusty road, honking its distinctive “ahooga, ahooga” sounding horn.
In 1925, Johnson City’s Ford dealership, Universal Motor Corporation, was located at the corner of King and Boone streets, having previously resided on Ash Street. After the turn of the century, the emergence of motorized vehicles brought a significant decline in the horse-drawn buggy as being the principal means of transportation. A Model T roadster sold for under $400, traveled at 45 mph maximum speed, possessed a 10-gallon gas tank and achieved 27 mpg. Gas cost eight cents a gallon.
I recently acquired a 1926 automobile road guide that displayed a Model T Ford on the cover. The publication lamented the fact that many roads around the country were still unpaved, making it difficult for vehicular travel. Ownership and maintenance of this esteemed auto 80 years ago was no small endeavor.
Travelers planning a vacation were advised to carry an astonishing list of spare parts and tools with them: Open-end wrenches; adjustable (monkey) wrench; Stillson wrench; spark plug socket wrench; pair of pliers; chair repair pliers; mechanic’s hammer; large and small screwdrivers; assortment of files; spool of soft iron wire; box of assorted nuts, bolts and cotter pins; box of extra tire valves; tire pressure gauge; extra spark plugs and rim lugs; box of talcum power; several feet of high and low tension cable; roll of tape; extra valve and spring; grease gun, extra clip and bolts; extra fan belt; sheet of cork for emergency gaskets; and a small bottle of shellac; two extra tires with covers, preferably inflated on rims; three extra tubes, carefully rolled and packed in burlap to keep from chafing; a tube patching outfit for punctures and a blow-out patch or inner boot; tire pump in good working order; jack; 2”x8”x18” wooden plank to allow lifting the car on soft ground; tire chains for winter driving; extra cross chains; rope for towing a collapsible bucket; one upper and one lower rubber hose connection for radiator with clamps; box of cup grease, a spout oil can; and an extra can of oil.
The publication strongly urged proper lubrication efforts, including turning down grease cups and filling oil cups and oil holes daily. Crankcase oil was to be replaced every 1000 miles, universal joint grease every 500 miles. The guide offered these amusing and dated admonitions: “Keep your windshield clear of mist by rubbing sliced onion over the glass.” “Always stop for streetcars unloading or taking on passengers.” “While driving through large cities, watch the signals of the traffic officer on busy corners.” “A few (penny) postcards are much more practical to take along than postage stamps, which will gum together when damp.” And finally this attention-grabbing item … “Women drivers of motor vehicles should be given special consideration – and watching.”
After reading this old road guide, one has to wonder how a large family and the recommended spare parts and tools could possibly fit into a cramped Model T Ford for an extended journey. No one really minded this inconvenience though; this was the exciting era of the roaring twenties.