Driving the T keeps a novice busy
It sure looks like a buggy without the horse in front.
"I'm supposed to drive this open thing with the wind whipping up and the temperature at 28 degrees?" I say.
How difficult is it to drive an exact replica of the 1914 Model T?
My first mistake is going to the driver's side to get in. No door.
"You've got to get in on the passenger side," says Guy Zaninovich, the consultant who built six replica Model Ts for the Ford centennial. "Model Ts didn't have a driver door because there was too much equipment on the left side," such as the emergency brake lever and a canister with the mixture for the gas lights.
After I slip behind the wheel, I push the spark lever up all the way - it's the lever to the left under the steering wheel. Then I turn the key.
But wait ... I have to get out again.
Zaninovich tells me to go to the front of the car and lift the starting crank (it's a handle) "in one easy pull."
Three attempts and a lot of groaning later - women in 1914 must have been strong - the engine grumbles to life.
I clamber back into the car. There are three pedals. Brake, gas and clutch, right?
Wrong. The clutch is the pedal on the far left, the brake is the pedal on the right and the gas is the lever on the right side of the steering wheel. The third pedal, which is in between the clutch and the brake, is reverse gear.
Zaninovich tells me the wheel doesn't move up and down, the seats don't adjust, and you can't press a button to have the top rise from the back. Very funny. Do I appear so 21st century?
Not so complicated
The steps to driving aren't that complicated.
1. Put my left foot on the left pedal - the clutch - but don't press it down.
2. Throw the brake lever - the vertical lever on the left - forward to disengage the parking brake and put the transmission into neutral.
3. With my right hand, push the notched lever on the wheel down to give it gas.
4. Push the left pedal down to the floor.
We move in low gear at about 10 mph around the track. Zaninovich is my speedometer; there is no gauge. The wind is howling over the short windshield. No wonder they wore those crazy goggles, hats and scarves while driving the Model T.
To get into second gear, I let up on the gasoline and take my foot off the left pedal. Up it shifts, by itself.
We're whirring around the track at nearly 40 mph - about 15 miles from the Model T's top speed. The car feels light, stable and agile.
I am glad I am on the track. Put a couple of horses and a handful of buggies on the road and perhaps I wouldn't be feeling so confident, because stopping isn't simple.
Push, press, push and stop
I have to push the right-hand lever all the way up, press the clutch in halfway, and then push the right foot pedal - the brake - all the way down. The Model T comes to a smooth stop.
Time to get out. Turn the key, right? No, says Zaninovich.
Pull the brake lever up - like you would in today's manual transmission car, and turn it off. And if you don't want someone to steal the car - every Model T would start with the same key - take the four ignition coils out and bring them with you.
Nothing to it.
You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Diana on