5 July 2006

Third Time's a Charm

1962 – First try. Having just finished a ground-up restoration on a 1912 Model T Ford Touring Car, I was looking for a new project. While doing research for the T Touring, I discovered that Ford built a Delivery Car in 1912 – sometimes referred to as a Pie Wagon or C-Cab Truck. With only a few pictures and no known genuine survivors, I was faced with the task of building a complete new body. As I was an Industrial Arts teacher at the time, I didn’t think it would present any problems that I couldn’t solve. So I went about the task of acquiring 1912 chassis parts. All parts were purchased, including correct brass, and a running chassis was eventually put together from the unrestored parts. It was entered in the Lake Forest (Illinois) Auto Show and came away with a prize for the Most Challenging Restoration!
 
1963 – I moved from Bensenville, Illinois, to San Francisco. The Touring car was sold, but I took the running chassis with me with the thought of building the delivery car there. Teaching was important, but I decided that I’d like to go into business for myself. The business consisted of partial and full auto restorations, brass restoration and building new brass radiators for Model T Fords. Many T’s, A’s, V-8s, and assorted cars and parts were restored. And all the while, the 1912 chassis languished in the rear of the shop gathering dust – no time to work on my own projects. Besides, I now had a wife and family to support, so the chassis would have to go. Joe Chmielewski, a member of the local Horseless Carriage Club, finally talked me out of it and it became part of Joe’s collection of cars. Various parts of the chassis became parts of Joe’s T restorations.
 
1975 – Second try. My two boys, Michael and Robert, showed an interest in Model T’s. So I thought it would make a great “Father and Sons” project to build a Delivery car using a later chassis and all reproduction parts to keep the cost down. I purchased a complete unrestored 1919 chassis (less the wheels) from Ed Archer and Larry Streeter, both from Hayward, California, who used the wheels on their Baja “T” Race Car (that’s another story). Reproduction brass lights and sheet metal were purchased and the chassis slowly took shape. Bill Ortman of Berkeley, California, claimed to have found an original delivery car body and made several replica bodies from it. Bill graciously allowed me to make drawings and take measurements of the replica body. All I had to do now was build one! The business now took a slightly different direction. We stopped restoring cars and concentrated on building radiators exclusively. We now made radiators for all model T’s and all Model A’s along with special one-of-a-kind radiators. Due to time and space restraints, I again, reluctantly sold the chassis and parts.
 
I eventually stopped building radiators and tried various other business ventures, including making specialty items for model train layouts, which led to my biggest restoration challenge - the complete restoration of a 1947 Twin City Zephyr Dome Car. It took 6 ½ years to complete and then it was put into Charter Service behind Amtrak trains. What an adventure! Due to increased costs and upgrade requirements the car was reluctantly sold to the Montana Daylight where it ran for several years.
 
1999 – Third and final try! A complete unrestored authentic 1912 chassis (make that basket case) was purchased from Richard Gould of Folsom, California, along with some sheet metal. The parts were trailered home and work began in earnest. I did the chassis work, the brass restoration and all of the painting, the engine was rebuilt by Dave Daigh of Durham, California, and the new wheels were made by George Garrigan of Sonora, California. The radiator came from my 1912 Touring that I had sold in 1963 to Ed Main of Elmhurst, Illinois. When he found out that I was building round tube core radiators he ordered one. I agreed to build one for him, only if he would trade my old one in, which he did. It now adorns the front of the Delivery Car. That radiator is over 40 years old, still holds water and cools just fine.

Building the body for the Delivery still presented a challenge. I was fortunate this time to obtain a set of plans from the Ford Archives which gave almost all of the details of the body. When I compared the drawings that I had made from Bill Ortman’s replica body I found some measurement variations. The body would fit on a standard Model T chassis, but the overall shape did not seem quite correct. The original body may have been built for Ford, but I suspect that it was an aftermarket body. So I went with the Ford Archive plans. It is constructed of maple framing with ash floorboards. Many hand forged steel brackets were made to hold the whole body together. The frame is covered with 1/16” sheet aluminum to cut the weight and hopefully keep it from drumming as we go down the road. I tried bending the slats for the roof cold, but they would soon split - so it was back to the drawing board. The slats, as well as the drip molding, needed to be steam bent. The Internet provided the information for building a steam bending setup. Using 5” ABS pipe, a Coleman stove, a 5 gallon can with spout and a length of radiator hose, I was able to steam bend all of the parts in one day (25 slats and 2 drip rails). It was a crude set up but it worked very well. The top is made of canvas, which is heavily painted in water-resistant black paint. I even made the decals that are found on each side of the car. They were copied from logos found in 1911 and 1912 Ford advertising literature.
 
The “King’s Bakery and Crown” logo on the side are a tribute to my father, William H., and my grandfather, William J. Brommer. My father worked with my grandfather, who owned and operated this large commercial bakery in Detroit in the 1920s and 1930s. They made deliveries to the Ford Motor Company – in Ford trucks, of course.
 
I finally realized my dream even though it took over 40 years to achieve. It still needs a little fine tuning but is a joy to drive and share with others. And my sons are still interested in model T’s. Recently I gave my older son, Michael, a driving lesson in the T and he did just fine. Next in line are my son, Robert and daughters-in-law, Kimberley and Linda, who want to learn how to drive a Model T too. My wife Karen already knows how to drive the truck. Even one of my grandsons, Jordan, has gotten his hands all greasy, helping his Grandpa fix the Model T. It’s truly a family affair.

This article first appeared in the November/December issue of the Model T Ford Times.
 
William R. Brommer

 

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