Ford's Model TT Truck of Many Uses

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Ford's Model TT Truck of Many Uses

  1. 1. Ford’s Model TT Truck of Many Uses 1926 Ford TT k Grant Lundin’s dad bought this truck brand new in 1926 for $600. This model with the deluxe cab was purchased from A.O. Skinner in Rathdrum, Idaho. T BY GRANT LUNDIN he long standby horses pulling wagons were no longer competition. The more flexible Ford trucks Today I want to tell about a decade during which could more easily negotiate wagon roads found on Henry Ford’s Model TT trucks dominated the truck- the ranches and woodlots throughout the country. ing industry. You might ask, “How could a vehicle as And these Ford trucks could also take the place of a flimsy looking as that, dominate anything?” Well, the passenger car for driving to town from the farm. So farm- answer is “What else was there to compete with?” ers and ranchers, as well as merchants, all needed them Back in 1917 was when Henry Ford started his and they were also affordable. By 1923, the license bu- production line of trucks along with his Model T reau records showed seventy-five percent of the trucks cars, which had already been famous for eight years. licensed on the road were Ford trucks. One wonders how many out there driven were never licensed. Anyway, that leaves the other twenty-five percent to make up all the other makes combined. 10 Nostalgia Magazine January 2005
  2. 2. The Big Guys k The TT Fords still held their place among the big solid rubber tire trucks of various makes, such as those shown here with the Long Lake Lumber Co. where Grant Lundin worked one winter. Two large 1919 White trucks hauled lumber at that mill every day. Parts and Accessories from Monkey Wards Warford. Many passenger cars also had this most helpful Repair parts were not only affordable, but plentiful, addition installed by their owners. Especially the heavier most mechanical parts being the same as Model T cars. closed cars. Many more add-on transmissions came on The main exception was the heavier frame and that awe- the market as well in this T heyday era. Two of the more some, almost indestructible worm drive rear end! popular transmissions were the Jumbo and Muncie. Just For repair parts, it was not that unusual to purchase a household words of the day. set of spark plugs or a fan belt, perhaps even a set of Water pumps too, were a needed accessory. Pa often bands, at the local grocery store. But of course, Sears and found his truck to be boiling in a cloud of steam on the Roebuck’s mail order catalogue carried most everything. steep pitches in the mountains while hauling heavy loads. Any part or accessory for a Ford car or truck, Sears’ or Curiously enough, the engine seemed to know when to Ward’s catalogues usually had them. Many pages were stop, and just quit running when it overheated. But it was devoted to special accessories drooled over by T and TT always ready to start up and run again when the steam owners. One of these special items, said to double the subsided. Finally, Pa had Skinner’s Ford garage install an performance of the trucks, was the 3-speed Warford aux- accessory water pump. Presto: now the pump, driven by iliary transmission; their feature was now six speeds a longer fan belt, was pumping the overheated water ahead with Warford gears engineered to be half speed to from the engine thru the radiator, taking over where the the Ford transmission ahead. So now you could split original thermo-siphon could no longer handle the steam. gears, and get your load off for faster start. Since these No more stops on mountain roads from overheating! were straight cut gears, changing speeds involved double As we talk about Ford accessories, mention must be clutching. Ford’s hand throttle was not at all handy for made of the almost countless manufacturers of Ford truck this, so the next thing to buy was an accessory foot pedal cabs, and dump beds as well. Ford wasn’t making much to mount on the floor board. This left your right hand free showing on cabs until almost 1924, when the all-steel to use the shift lever. It was also common for truck own- open “C cab” came with the chassis. The term “C cab” ers to install the Ford-made Ruxtell two-speed rear ends. was put on by a modern generation of hot-rodders for Then one could boast twelve speeds ahead with the these now much sought after sheet metal panels. Previ- Photo: Mac McDonald January 2005 Nostalgia Magazine 11
  3. 3. A Model TT compete with this? k Yup, these large trucks, strong as they were, could still count on seeing the handy little Ford TT trucks hauling everything from logs to cattle. ously it was common to order a custom wooden cab ception. Ford dealers had a continuous market of T cars through the dealer when you bought the chassis. Nowa- and TT trucks, plus parts for the eighteen years of pro- days, when I see a wooden cab truck, recollections come duction through 1927. back of a very shaky 1920 truck of Bill Richmonds in It is understandable that it is hard for those of this gen- Rathdrum. On the back was mounted a large one cylin- eration to even believe that these trucks were actually der gas engine driving a saw blade for sawing wood. Each used for hauling logs. We think of logging trucks as fall, Pa hired this rig to saw up a winter’s supply of wood Peterbilts, Macks, and Kenworths, but I can name off at our ranch. Even as a small lad, I became very familiar many loggers from my day whom I knew well from our with its machinery as there was always a day’s work for area, during the 1920s, who made their living hauling me connected with it, taking the sawed wood away from logs with these single tired trucks and trailers. A few I the blade. The engine driving the saw was called a hit- knew were Jess Finney, Charley Finney, Shorty Weeks, and-miss engine as the governor would allow it to fire Sam Tirnell, Perly Smith, and most of the Howell boys: only when power was needed. The inertia of two heavy Bill, Isom, Fred, and Charley. flywheels kept it rolling in between times. But when it did Pa’s truck was already doing universal hauling duty. fire, everything shook. Cab and truck and all. I could Cordwood, fence posts, live stock, anything on the ranch, never believe that cab would stay in one piece all day. even hauling gravel on roads for the county’s annual Every board in it shook. Yet, the following year, it would spring time filling of the winter time ruts in the roads for still be there. the Georgetown community. A time of prosperity for anyone who wanted to work hauling gravel with his truck Logging With the Ford TT or use a hand shovel for loading. Two or three days of Ford dealers were everywhere all through the teens and working for the county for a paycheck was an important twenties. Actually, most all over the world. Our small time for the community. It seems the county only owned town of Rathdrum, Idaho, population 500, was no ex- a three-horse road grader in our district. One year, I 12 Nostalgia Magazine January 2005 Photo: Mac McDonald
  4. 4. pulled that grader easily with my model TT cut-off truck tractor. Of course the bigger saw mills and logging companies used the larger trucks with their hard rubber tires for heavy hauling. But the TT Fords still held their place among them. An example in my experience was the Long Lake Lumber Co. where I worked one winter. Two large lumber haulers at their mill, used every day, were 1919 Whites. For their day, they could haul huge loads. It was my job, as I began my day at 7 a.m., to get them started. A long handled starting crank hung at the front, but in the winter time it took much more coaxing. The first thing was to build a fire under the oil pan. This would free up the congealed oil to circulate again, and make it easier to crank. Then its magneto spark would better ig- nite the more vaporized gas mixture. But they couldn’t do without their Model T tractor, a shortened truck used for towing trailer loads of lumber in the mill yard. It ran every workday. One day, the engine totally gave up, after its many years of hard usage. It seemed like the whole mill almost came to a stop. They Versatile Rig k Hofius-Ferris Equipment Co. used this had me as their mechanic lay aside the important duties truck for local deliveries. and sent me out to find another engine to install without delay! and frosty that morning and the engine wouldn’t fire up. He solved that shortly by putting a jack under the rear Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch wheel and pushing the lever into high gear. With the At our ranch, Pa was proud of his big logging team of wheel turning in high gear, the engine kicked off almost horses as well as a heavy working wagon he bought new right away. in 1918 for logging his bountiful timberland. Now Pa, as Pa just wasn’t impressed, though. He said, “If I’ve got an exponent from the old country; had but little insight to go through this every morning, I’ll just buy a new on things automotive, and tended to avoid them. But truck!” horses he understood, and was highly experienced with So back to Rathdrum he went to see his friends at real horsepower. I recall stories he would tell of hauling Skinner’s Garage to look at a new one. I’m sure Mr. Skin- freight on wagons driving six horses on a winding road ner was glad to see him coming. He showed Pa a new through the sagebrush from Shantigo to Umatilla, one they called a ’26 model with the latest features, through Eastern Oregon. What a challenge! But like namely, an all-steel cab with doors that had roll up win- many people of the older generation in that day, he’d dows with three position pull-up straps. A Ruxtell two- never laid hands on the steering wheel of a truck. speed worm drive rear end went with this and was an Until one day, with his wagonload, he met a Ford truck added 200 dollars. Pa fell for it, though I heard him say, coming back from his first trip before Pa had got started “I don’t know how I’ll ever pay for it” part way with the horses. With those experiences hap- The total price: 600 dollars. pening quite often, and the fact that most everywhere But moving to fast forward here: That truck did far that working people were gathered, Ford cars and trucks more than pay for itself. It was a real workhorse. There is were the main topic of conversation, Pa could see the a long-standing joke to his starting it for the first cold wheels of progress were getting well ahead of him. morning when he cranked it. Guess what! It just wouldn’t And so it happened on an October day, Pa found him- start. It was then he remembered the jacking up a wheel self in Spokane, determined to go modern with a good routine he’d learned form the Spokane sales man on that used Model TT truck. He had expected to find used ones used truck for half the price. plentiful, but it seems they were being snapped up as something many others were also looking for. He did find Reliable Rig one. The auto dealer was asking only 250 dollars. The This all soon came to be just routine stuff, and it still salesman went out to start it up, but it was just a bit cold beat harnessing and hitching the horses. There was no Photo: Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (L97.1.38) January 2005 Nostalgia Magazine 13
  5. 5. Assembled Line of Ford TTs k Martin-Perry Corporation, “Largest Commercial Body Builders in the World,” shows off its craftsmanship in 1925. doubt the Ford truck was here to stay. It could be de- boys, waiting to hear the stories of the many days of ex- pended on when Pa’s big eight-cylinder Studebaker, sit- citing adventures that Pa would have to tell. And they ting in the shed alongside the Ford TT, had continuous were very real! These towns and places he told of were a ailments no matter how much fixing it received. new world to us. We had never heard of Worley, To us kids, it seemed we were going somewhere all the Harrison, Rockford, Rode Lake, or Hoodoo Gulch, let time now, and the fact that we must sit on the back on alone Fourth of July Canyon! But Ma, she had to stay the flatbed truck, while Pa and Ma sat in the cab, both- home to milk the cows. ered us not one iota! At seven years old, we almost lived From then on, our truck found more than enough work with that truck when we weren’t in school. It served at home on the ranch. It was the fall of 1927, and Pa had double service: shopping trips to town when it wasn’t on won the bid for a hundred cords of wood for the the road hauling cordwood or fence posts from the Rathdrum school. Dry, split, and delivered. The previous woods. It played the major part in hauling livestock to winter had been spent cutting wood, and now he had the market as well. truck to haul it. With the livestock market only twenty-seven miles away in Spokane, hogs and steers could be delivered with an Boyhood Adventure hour and a half drive. Even with driving the gravel wash- For us eight-year-olds, there was a place to fill, espe- board Trent Road for a half of the way from Rathdrum. cially on the loaded trips into town. We took turns on Pa, along with his closest neighbor and son-in-law, be- these many days of hauling. One of the special “kid jobs” longed to a county dairy and livestock association. To- was to be ready with a chock block for a rear wheel when gether they found a job using Pa’s truck to deliver bulls Pa parked the truck to unload. I remember watching the for the association’s bull trading program. Pa’s new Ford woodpile grow each new trip, four feet high, four feet truck, well equipped with cattle racks, seemed to hold wide, eight feet long for each new cord, till the pile be- these cattle men’s confidence to haul their highly prized came a total eighty feet long. All of it brought there by cattle. But think what a laugh that would bring to today’s that little Ford TT truck. The smell of those dry pitchy fir farmer, considering those muddy, rutted roads that con- cordwood sticks linger to this day. stantly required chains, and only a 20 horsepower engine These were summer days of adventure for us boys, not for power. easily forgotten. How could one forget the tremendous But at home on the ranch were two seven-year-old steam locomotives that we’d occasionally meet on the 14 Nostalgia Magazine January 2005 Photo: Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture
  6. 6. Carmen Mfg. Co., 1921 k When the twenties were roaring, delivery trucks of all shapes and sizes were part of the city landscape. tracks at Rathdrum where the trains stopped at the water Some Truck tank. Our little truck would shiver and shake when the Here’s another adventure: This time Pa rolled the truck engineer blew off steam, as we sat waiting to cross. over on a steep hill, and the three of us had to climb out I remember too how delicious a cantaloupe tasted, a side window. On a steep pitch, Pa had to catch in the which Pa bought at the store. We sat on the truck running shift linkage. It fell out and left the Ruxtell in neutral. Pa board eating that melon on an early morning before yanked the parking lever back but it wouldn’t hold any- breakfast trip at Rathdrum. thing, so here we were flying down the hill backwards in It has been said that if you are looking for adventures, neutral. Now a Model TT is not known for its ease of just drive a Model T. Well this truck was no exception. It’s steering while backing up – especially not when racing easy to recall many adventures. downhill backward. Well, Pa was hugging the four-foot One evening when the sun was setting very low, Pa and dirt bank, which was helping some, until a rear wheel we kids were heading home across the prairie on a dirt found a track right up the bank, neatly flipping the truck road, and approaching the Milwaukee tracks. Suddenly, over on it’s side. So the three of us were happy to be able the engine of the Milwaukee train appeared on the tracks to crawl out the passenger side window. From there it before us! No room to spare here, and before we knew it, was only a short distance home, where we harnessed the Pa had yanked the steering wheel a full right turn and we horses, and they had the job of pulling the truck upright. were crashing down a bank and through a barbwire fence Then I drove the team home, while Pa headed the truck set up for two corner fence lines. What a tangle that was. back to the woods for another load. That truck wasn’t We were actually wrapped up in barbwire! phased a bit! As we watched the train go by, Pa said, “Wonder what that train crew thought, watching our truck driving into Blackmer TT Truckers all that barbwire!” Though our young lives were pretty much circled Of course, there was the truck to untangle from the around that truck, there was nothing unusual about it, TT fence posts and barb wire before it could be backed out trucks were every where, Rathdrum as well. The on the road again – that is, after we’d gotten through Blackmer City Dray was well-known and well-used in the shaking! community. It consisted of two Ford open cab trucks, Photo: Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (L87.1.19459.21) January 2005 Nostalgia Magazine 15
  7. 7. owned and operated by the Blackmer family. Mr. Blackmer, a polio victim I think, could be seen on the street most any time in his wheel- chair, wherever there was any one to talk to. But he had two sons who grew up in the hauling business. There was Max and Rex, and their TT trucks were a familiar sight on the streets of Rathdrum. We even met them far back in the hills hauling cord wood. Now I’ve missed the most important figure in the business – Mrs. Blackmer, owner, manager, and truck driver. A short, hardworking woman, and left-handed, you could tell she meant busi- ness when she took hold of the crank. The whole front end would be jumping up and down when she started cranking that truck. I always remember her truck for the gas tank she’d mounted on the cowl, just below the windshield. This was to give full gravity feed to avoid back- ing up a hill when low on gas. Leftovers With the advent of the new model A cars and AA trucks in October 1927, the Model T pro- duction era came to end for both cars and trucks. It was true the whole world had been Clean Conveyance k Trucks with modified bodies left horses waiting in anticipation for the new model A and buggies back in the horse-and-buggy days. Fords. By 1927, Chevy trucks, as well as GMC, International, Dodge, Graham Brothers, and of course the new Ford AAs, were all coming in strong. I yourself farmers. Sears and Roebuck’s catalogue could know because we watched all these trucks coming off the supply a circle saw and mandrel. mountain with their log loads. From my desk by the A truck could be shortened up to recreate a very useful schoolhouse window, I could see the logging road less small farm tractor. This kind of project was quite popular than a hundred feet from the school building. Yes, it was during the 1930s Depression era. the end of an era for the T Ford trucks. At least for haul- Another purpose for the heavy worm drive rear end ing logs. was as a suitable trailer with a bunk for log hauling behind So now, what happened to all these leftover TT trucks the new Ford Model AAs in 1928. behind the barn in every farmyard in the country? Well of By the late 1940s, another use became popular for the course most eventually disintegrated, and that process worm rear ends. They were quite useful to build cable was speeded by their great usefulness as parts for every winches to load a logging trailer on the back of a log truck repair and construction job imaginable on the ranch. And on return trips. Ford was now building much bigger, these once old reliables were also used as a play toy for heavier trucks to haul bigger payloads. These recon- children, both large and small, to sit in the cab of a no structed cable winches were driven by a power takeoff longer useful truck just holding the steering wheel. Pre- from the truck transmission. tending to drive brought many hours of pleasure. Yes, I But the end has not come yet. There are still many was one of these kids. Ford TTs running. Some better than ever, because some Back then, many ranchers needed a wood saw to cut collectors have thought enough of them to gather up their winter’s wood supply. It was handy to have an old those parts thrown away so many years ago, and build truck to supply the engine to build one for most do-it- them back like new again. Grant Lundin ran the Antique Auto Ranch on Dollar Road in the Spokane Valley from 1961-1984. He and his twin brother Claire used to play piano, guitar, and fiddle for Grange Hall dances. 16 Nostalgia Magazine January 2005 Photo: Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (L89.81.7)

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