Ford Motor Co. built thousands of cars before it built any trucks. Today, Ford is selling more trucks than cars.
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The first Model T Ford car was built in 1908. It was easy to drive, had a unique two-speed floor-operated forward transmission, a reverse pedal and a brake pedal. The reverse pedal could also be used quite effectively as a brake.
“I will build a car for the great multitude,” Henry Ford said, and he did, selling more than 15 million Model T cars with each featuring a four-cylinder, 20-horsepower engine, 30-inch-high wood spoke wheels for high road clearance and a brass radiator.
In the auto industry’s early days, durability and dependability were the gauges of quality. In 1909, Henry Ford entered two Model T cars in a transcontinental race from New York City to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle and won, beating cars costing twice the price of the Model T.
If Henry was to build a car for the great multitude, though, he had to get the costs down. Ford didn’t invent the assembly line but by 1913, Ford had improved his assembly line’s productivity time from 12.5 hours to 1.5 hours.
Early on, independent coach builders saw commercial uses for the motorized vehicle and started adding stake beds and enclosed bodies to transport cargo. Henry Ford noticed and began to offer the Model T with longer wheelbases and stronger frames as a rolling chassis.
Finally in 1917, Ford offered a one-ton truck called the Model TT for $600, which was almost double the $325 price of a Model T chassis. While some of the components were significantly strengthened, it still used the same 20-horsepower engine.
By 1920, more than half of the trucks in America were owned by farmers and based on the Model T. In 1925, Ford offered the 40-horsepower Ford Model T Runabout pickup. This was the first American factory-built pickup and sold for $281. That really put them in the truck business, selling 33,800 trucks its first year. Ford was well ahead of any competition, as Chevrolet didn’t offer factory-made pickups until 1931.
Next in line for Ford in 1926 was the Model AA pickup, which was based on the Model A car. It had the more accepted four-speed manual transmission. The 1930s were tough with the Depression, but Ford still marketed stylish cars and trucks. In 1932, Ford Motor Co. introduced the famous flathead V8 engine in their cars, which was used through the 1953 model year. The pickup got the V8 two years later in 1934.
This issue’s featured vehicle is a 1934 Ford pickup owned by San Ramon resident Glenn Feldman. He has owned it about four years and loves it.
“It looks today like it did when I bought it. Since I bought it, I have built the wood sides (boards), and I did the interior.”
Back in 1934, trucks were work vehicles and not build for comfort or luxury. Manufacturers didn’t include unnecessary items like arm rests, passenger side sun visors or passenger side windshield wipers. In fact, they didn’t even include interior door panels or roof liners. Keeping the cost down was the plan. It’s still a 1934 truck, but this isn’t 1934.
“I was a custom cabinet maker for 18 years,” he said, “I went to a car show in San Leandro, and I ran into a guy that had a stripped-down 1932 version of this, and he said, ‘Look at the inside of this truck.’ ”
That owner had made an interior using Masonite for the door panels and roof liner. Feldman had priced out upholsterers to renovate the inside of his truck at prices of $10,000 to $12,000.
“I wasn’t going to pay that kind of money,” he said.
With his cabinet-making experience, though, doing the same job himself was no problem for Feldman, so he went to Home Depot, bought some Masonite and built the interior. It looks good and cost him about $100.
It’s interesting to learn why collectors choose the vehicles they do. Feldman’s reason was that “I have always admired square-bodied vehicles of the 1920s and 1930s and I’ve always been a pickup truck person. 1934 was the last year Ford used a square cab for the pickup truck and the last year the four-cylinder engine was used in the truck.”
This truck has been modified so it has the popular 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet V8 engine with a five-speed manual transmission. There are too many other modifications to mention, but it has coil springs and manual rack-and-pinion steering.
It’s almost a daily driver. Feldman drives it couple of times a week, or just more than 3,000 miles a year. He has no plans to sell it, but he has no one in his family looking forward to owning it either. He’ll figure out a solution for that problem later.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com. To view more photos of this and other issues’ vehicles or to read more of Dave’s columns, visit mercurynews.com/author/david-krumboltz.