The Verdict: Ford Model T

Is it a saloon, racer, truck or rail car? It's all, and more

SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £250 (when new). Equivalent value of Model T today, £15,000
Performance: 40mph, 0-60 never, 20mpg
CO2: N/a
Engine: three-litre, four-cylinder, 22bhp
Also worth considering: Pony and trap

Meet the world's first SUV. Well, how else would you describe a genuinely multi-purpose vehicle, with excellent ground clearance and a high driving position, that copes easily with rough terrain?

The Ford Model T was designed so it could take livestock to market during the week, and families to church on Sundays. You could buy it as a tourer (as tested here), a two-seater, a racer, or a pick-up truck, among many variations available in its lifetime (from 1908-1927 over 15 million Ts were built). They even made some that ran on railway tracks. These days that would probably be called "modular platform sharing"; then it was common sense.

The car here is, technically, the last Model T Ford built. I say "technically", because this is the last of six Ts built last year from new parts to mark Ford's centenary this year. Authentic in every detail, it is almost priceless (so thanks to Ford for letting us play with it).

As all our testers agreed, the T was surprisingly comfortable, with well-sprung seats, loads of leg-room and a great driving position. Unexpectedly, for such a rudimentary collection of ironwork, most controls were light and smooth.

But it was a test of physical and mental co-ordination to get them to work in unison. This involved operating three pedals (from left to right: a clutch-type thing; a reverse pedal, and a brake), a fly-off handbrake, and two dainty brass levers on the steering column which operate the engine spark and throttle.

The overall effect was like rubbing your stomach and patting your head while riding a unicycle. No wonder they gave up on the man with the red flag; the insurance claims must have been astronomical.

Jennifer Spearman, 55, teacher from Hornchurch, Essex.
Usual car: Mini Cooper

"What an opportunity. Towards the end, I did get the hang of the controls but you would have to drive it a few times to feel completely in control. I have learned to fly, so I think that helped. Everything is the reverse of how it is in a modern car: you automatically want to keep pressing the brake to accelerate. It was easy to control the speed and the hand throttle worked well. It was extremely comfortable to sit in and lovely to drive, after you got the hang of it. It was quite modern really. I would love to own one. You really get to appreciate that there is no need to rush anywhere. It has a real elegance about it, a beauty that modern cars just don't have."

Daniel Morgan, 40, systems consultant, from Bethnal Green, London
Usual car: Mercedes E320 estate

"It was very comfortable, the seats were well-sprung and there was plenty of legroom, but you can see why they call them jalopies; you really bounce around. The speed was quite acceptable, I wouldn't want to go any faster, even in a modern car. It was tricky to drive, but as the Ford guys pointed out, if you'd never driven another car it wouldn't be any harder than learning to drive a modern manual. After I'd got used to it I could potter about in this happily, and driving it gave a fascinating insight into how people used to live. Life would be so much nicer if they'd stopped development of the car with this."

Adrian Warren, 31, strategic marketing manager, from Felsted, Essex
Usual car: Volvo S40.

"It was an amazing experience, but very frustrating. My brain knew what I should be doing to operate the controls but trying to get it all co-ordinated was really difficult. But I was very surprised at how easy it was to steer. You'd expect to have to fight with machinery this ancient but it was very easy to manoeuvre, with a good turning circle and the ride was pleasant. When you were on the move you could just sit back and enjoy it and the controls were quite sensitive to your inputs. You could really feel the speed; in a modern car it would have seemed like walking pace. It's not everyday you get a chance to drive something unique like this."

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