Monday, September 27, 2021

5 cars I would eventually consider to fit a souped-up reproduction of a Ford Model T engine

Widely praised as one of the first "people's cars" to reach a commercial success, with its production run extending from September 27, 1908 to May 26, 1927, the Ford Model T was originally powered by a 2.9L side-valve 4-cylinder engine with some features that rendered it quite noticeable. Among others, a 2-speed transmission with planetary gearsets and fully integrated to the engine assembly, just like it's now standard for the motorcycle industry, and the ignition relying on a flywheel-mounted magneto also resembling the setup fitted to modern motorcycles and better suited to rough environmental conditions than some other ignition systems which relied on a distributor. In spite of the modest performance with a power rating of only 20hp at 1600 RPM while the torque was 83lb.ft./112.5Nm at 900 RPM, there are some upgraded replacement parts still available through specialist suppliers, rendering it even possible to enable a Ford Model T engine reaching speeds more comfortable to some modern driving conditions than the most frequent claims of a 45 MPH/70 km/h top speed. It's also worth to remind the Ford Model T engine not only outlived the production run of the car it was originally intended to, soldiering on until August 4, 1941, outlasting 3 generations of "full-size Ford" replacements for the Model T, so maybe it's not so exaggerated to consider how an eventual reproduction of this engine fitted with improved performance parts can be suitable to other vehicles, of which I would actually consider at least 5 as eligible to this approach.

1 - Jeep CJ-5: possibly the closest to an austerity comparable to the Ford Model T around '83 in Brazil and the United States, the CJ-5 had many different engine options throughout its production run which took place in many countries, and at least in Argentina it featured a 2.5L Kaiser Continental L-151 side-valve engine until '78 with option for either a 6.86:1 low compression ratio or a 7.3:1 standard. As most of the high-compression cylinder heads meant to the Model T feature a 6:1 compression ratio, and some go even further into 8:1 which could even withstand to a CNG conversion better than stock Argentinian engines, this would already be a good starting point in favor of what could be seen at first as "outdated". Sure other improvements would be desirable, maybe a stroker crankshaft and a higher-lift camshaft, and as far as off-road performance goes it's worth to remind the dual-range transfer case featured on a 4WD Jeep, which on low-range may be comparable to the Ruckstell 2-speed axle which used to be offered as an aftermarket improvement to the cross-country abilities of the Ford Model T;

2 - Ford Maverick: the Brazilian 6-cylinder versions were fitted with the Willys Hurricane engine instead of the same Thriftpower Six of their American counterparts, because Ford was definitely out of pace when it comes to engine offerings in Brazil. Even though a Model T engine would be very unlikely to become an actual improvement, neither stock or with some old-school performance upgrades developed around the earlier days of hot-rodding, it would be quite tempting to do in jest for Ford and the management of its Brazilian branch;

3 - Lada Laika: this would be definitely odd, one of the engines which became more relevant to define what the so-called American Way of Life evolved into, fitted to a Fiat derivative originated in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Well, considering the engine of the Ford Model T's direct replacement had been made under license in the early days of the Russian motor industry still under the Soviet Union, it may not be so hard to explain why such an engine swap which could spark a diplomatic incident would be interesting as a matter of curiosity;

4 - Gurgel Carajás: this Brazilian SUV from the '80s resorted to a Volkswagen powertrain, adjusted to allow the fitment of the engine at the front with a rear transaxle. Considering the Ford Model T used to be highlighted for its off-road performance even though it also only resorted to rear-wheel drive, maybe an upgraded copy of its engine would be interesting to see fitted to a Gurgel Carajás, even though it had a milder off-road capability compared to its smaller rear-engined predecessors;

5 - Simca Vedette/Chambord: actually based on Ford designs, even featuring versions of the Flathead V8, maybe this is among the least strange options to try fitting an upgraded Model T engine. As the V8 fitted to the Simca Vedette ranged from 2.2L to 2.4L displacement, and the bigger variant being the only one fitted during the extended production run of the Simca Chambord in Brazil, an attempt to replace it would be presumably met with fewer objections than a similar attempt considering the larger variants of the Ford Flathead V8 which were featured on full-size Ford until '53 (or '54 in Australia). Definitely it would be worth to increase the compression ratio and a higher-lift camshaft if a Model T engine could be swapped into a Simca Chambord, eventually reaching power ratings closer to the 2.2L Aquillon V8, yet at a much lower RPM.


  1. I'm enjoying the insights on your blog. Another car that might be suited for a new Model T engine would be the Volvo Amazon, originally using 1.8L or 2.0L engine. I feel the increased torque from the T engine's greater displacement would transform the car and allow higher gearing for easier highway travel.
    Thank you for an excellent blog.

    1. The torque of a stock Model T engine is quite low, and so is the peak torque RPM. Yet with some improvements to the engine itself, possibly the Volvo Amazon could also benefit from it.


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