Four years ago, two men - an antique car broker and a Ford engineer - set out to replicate one of the world's most famous cars: the 1914 Model T.
The pair chose the 1914 model because that's when Henry Ford decided to offer the Model T only in black. It was also the first full year of the moving assembly line and the first year of the $5 workday.
The work began in secret in 1999 in a garage in Redford, Mich., at Ford Motor Co.'s Advanced Manufacturing Technology and Development unit. After a year of planning, it took them 11 months to craft the first vehicle from scratch and another year to make five more models of the cars, called the Model T 2003.
The duo - retired powertrain engineer Bill Leyland and Guy Zaninovich, a broker and owner of Model T's - purchased one car as a model. Finding a car wasn't hard. Zaninovich estimates that of the 15 million-plus Model T's built about 25,000 remain.
The original car was a prototype for all the parts they had to make. "There were no blueprints, drawings or specifications, and no one had made the engines since Henry Ford stopped making them," says Zaninovich.
"We tried to copy the original design. We didn't do anything to improve the car. To test if we made a part right, we often bolted the new part onto one of the original parts."
The replica cars have more Ford-made parts than the originals did - 60 percent of the parts were made at Ford facilities. The rest of the 500 or so parts that went into the Model T were made by vendors that specialize in parts for antique car collectors.
Henry Ford made only about 30 percent of the parts for the original Model T's.
It wasn't easy making the parts; about 500 had to be copied from the original Model T and made from scratch by creating blueprints and design patterns from the original car. Engineering was done at Ford's Powertrain Operations Engine Engineering unit in Dearborn.
The design center did the design work. A transmission vendor in Livonia, Mich., which does prototype design for Ford, did many of the chassis components.
The chassis frame was made by supplier Tower Automotive, which called six months into its contract to tell the pair that one of the first companies it acquired, A.O. Smith, a stamping company in Milwaukee, had made the original 1914 Model T frame.
The wheels were carved out of hickory by an Amish craftsman who makes wheels for horse-drawn carriages.
Keeping true to the design, they added gas-lit kerosene lamps and used ash wood for the body, overlaying it with metal.
Some changes had to be made. The back of the leatherette seats are of a synthetic material rather than cloth, and the seats are stuffed with foam rather than horsehair. The paint is black but with a base and clear coat and applied in a modern paint booth. The original black bodies were baked at temperatures of 400 to 500 degrees.
Hard to spot
Zaninovich, who has restored dozens of Model T's, says he can tell the difference between the old and new cars. But he adds: "If I see one of these 10 years down the road, I could just walk by it and not notice."
The real giveaway is the serial numbers: 2003-001 to 006.
And price is a major difference. The original Model T sold for $550. The replicas have a value of $40,000 to $50,000 each.
How much they cost to make, Ford Motor Co. won't say.