Part I


by John Ironside

(This article was originally published in the March, 2012 issue of the Spark Coil.)

Our 1921 Model T Touring has been in the Ironside family since my father originally purchased it in 1955 and completed the first restoration. A second restoration is underway and so far the engine, transmission, cooling system, electrical system and front axle/steering system have been rebuilt. This is the story of my experience in rebuilding the drive train, which I believe had been in continuous operation for ninety years with the only maintenance being changing of lubricants.

First, let me explain that I am a retired engineer, good at tinkering, and probably a better carpenter than mechanic. But I have the strong urge to do as much of the restoration work on the car as possible. Hopefully this article can spur other Model T enthusiasts who might be a little reluctant about this type of project to believe it’s within their capabilities.

My first step was to research drive train rebuilding requirements by reading the MTFCA manual “Front End & Rear Axles”, watching our club’s collection of MTFCA DVD’s about drive train restoration, and sorting through relevant strings on the Model T Forum for added particulars. Being trained as an engineer, I needed a list. So the information was compiled into a six page outline that describes the steps for disassembly, evaluating the condition of each part, and reassembly of the entire drive train. Major headings in the checklist are as follows:

o Remove Drive Train
o Disassemble Drive Shaft
o Drive Shaft Inspection
o Reassemble Drive Shaft
o Disassemble Rear Axel
o Rear Axle Inspection
o Rear Axle Adjustments
o Final Assembly

The list includes two sections dedicated to inspections because it became evident that one of the big restoration tasks is to determine if existing parts are within original specifications, and therefore what new parts need to be obtained. Space was provided in the outline to enter actual measurements and designate if an existing part was adequate or new part needed. A draft copy of the Drive Train Restoration Checklist is on file with our club librarian. Hopefully our club members find this checklist helpful. For members that do rehabilitation of the drive train on their vehicles, I would encourage you to add comments about your experience, how the steps included in the checklist could be improved, recommended tools and supplies, which options for repairs you prefer, etc.

Speaking of tools and supplies, I found during my research that I was short a few items. First, I would need a device to measure wear on the parts, so I bought a digital caliper for about thirty-five dollars at Home Depot. This tool proved to be very useful at measuring the wear on existing parts and was helpful for a myriad of other tasks. Then there was a special tool for pulling the axle bearing sleeves which cost about twenty dollars. Next, if the thrust plate pins in the differential were defective, I would need a removal kit, which cost about ten dollars. The last two items were added to my parts order list. The fourth item that I thought I would need is a bench mount axle holder which is available from the parts suppliers for around $200.

I was thinking of an alternative to spending this amount of money, and I found it in a scrap 10×20 inch piece of ¾ inch plywood (see photo). At one end I cut a 3½ inch wide slot leading to a six inch diameter hole and then ran a router around the opening to bevel the upper edge. After attaching the scrap to my work bench with eight two inch wood screws, I had an axle holder that proved to work very well.


So now I was ready to start the actual work on the drive train restoration project. I will start with the experience of removing the drive train and the assessment of the drive shaft condition in the next issue of the Spark Coil.