Grampa's Car at the Upper Place 1912

1903/4 Ford Model A Runabout Body on a 1904 Model C Chassis?

Summer 1912

Grampa’s Rat-rod

“It’s 1911 Georgie, and I want a car. It’ll be a while before we can afford one of those new T model Fords, but I found a couple junkers and with a little tinkering I can build us a car. Joe has an old 1904 Ford Model C Runabout with a trashed body he wants to get rid of and Bill is selling his old Model A with the bad engine. The Model A body will bolt right on the Model C chassis. Bill still has the lamps off his A, I’ll get those too. Then all I’ll need is a hood over that ugly gas tank... I’ll come up with something. The front tires are pretty well shot but with a bit of old inner tube wrapped around them they’ll work for now.”

“Hey kids, pile on, we’re going over to the upper place”

Is That Really the Gist of the Story? I wish I knew. It’s plausible. Gramma and Grampa never had much money and it must have been a bit of a stretch own a car in those days.

Cobbling Together a Runabout

Someone, and it very well could have been Grampa, cobbled this runabout together from the parts of 2 or 3 cars. He was always a tinkerer; always building something from nothing. He taught me and my mother well! That’s Mom on her mother’s lap.

1903-04 Ford Model A Runabout with optional rear entry tonneau

1903-04 Ford Model A Runabout with optional rear entry tonneau

It appears someone took a 1903-04 Ford Model A Runabout body and mounted it on a 1904 Model C Runabout chassis with its longer wheelbase, keeping the fancy straight brass dash rail. The seat rails, and lamps could be from either car; they were offered on both models. The Model A was built in 1903 and 1904 with a total production of 1750 cars. The Model C was built in 1904 and 1905 with some overlap with the Model A and with a total production of 800 cars.

1904-05 Ford Model C Runabout

1904-05 Ford Model C Runabout

Lending credence to the idea that this is an assembled car is the rather crude custom vertical gas tank and hood. I have not found any production examples with a tank in place of a radiator. They all have radiators in the shells and hoods over front mounted engines. The Model C radiator shell and hood had softer lines, the radiator was in the shell, and a cylindrical gas tank was under the hood (these cars had a two cylinder horizontally opposed engine mounted under the seat).

The radiator in Grampa’s car was mounted below the shell/tank (behind the license plate). All the radiator shells and hoods I’ve been able to find were more refined in shape and the hoods hinged in the center to access a front mounted engine. All had a radiator in the shell. Grampa’s shell/tank was a simple shape of bent and soldered sheets and his hood was a simple bent sheet held in place with a strap. Any decent sheetmetal shop could have fabricated them.

G1908 Ford Model T

1908 Ford Model T

The side lamps and optional headlamp were the same design Ford used on the 1903-04 Model A. Grampa’s car was also sporting the fancy straight-across-the-top brass dash rail of the 1903-04 Model A. Both models came with or without the seat grab rails. The Model C had a curved dash and a simpler grab rail.

1903-04 Ford Model A Runabout with optional rear entry tonneau

1903-04 Ford Model A Runabout with optional rear entry tonneau


On a side note, zoom in and take a gander at what appear to be bandages on the front tires of Grampa's car. What’s that all about? I’m pretty sure those were pneumatic tires. It looks like Grampa used this old method of fixing a flat:

Tire patch method illustrated in Self Propelled Vehicles, 1905, page 130

Tire patch method illustrated in Self Propelled Vehicles, 1905, page 130