This is the last installment of Don’s memoirs before WWII, a wonderful description of the 1923 family car.
About 1923 Dad decided he needed a runabout loadable vehicle so he purchased a Model T Ford car. He then sliced it in half just behind the front seat and built a tray with sideboards and a hinge back flap so that he could carry his tools and any smallish lumber etc that he needed when on a building job. I suppose it was the first “utility” ever built. I was given a coat of green paint and was promptly christened the “Green Thing”.
It had to be started with a crank handle. The procedure was as follows: First you set the throttle and spark levers just in front of the steering wheel; then you moved round the front where a wire with a ring on the end of it protruded from thr lower front left of the radiator. This was the choke! You then pulled on the choke lever and turned the crank handle until the motor started, usually with a hell of a roar then settled back to a even rotation or stopped altogether. If it stopped you went through the system again until you got it running.
Now the Model T did not have a gear shift lever like later models. It had three pedals, one for a brake and two for the gears. There was nothing visible to tell you wether you were in gear or neutral. So occasionally when the motor started you had to leap for life or be run over. I know that there was some way to make sure it was in neutral but to this day I don’t know what it was. Dad knew but he sometimes forgot to do it.
Now our back gate had two very solid gateposts, hardwood about eighteen inches in diameter to carry two wooden gates. Dad had backed the Devil into the yard to unload and there it stayed overnight. Next morning he loaded up ready for work, opened the gates and began the starting routine. When he spun the crank handle the motor started with a roar and so did the Devil, Dad took off with the Devil in pursuit and lucky for Dad he made the gate but Devil rammed the gate post, snorted and stopped. So it was promptly renamed to the “Green Devil”. (photo)
Country roads in those days were nearly all gravel and corrugated. Car tyres were early editions of the tyres we no today. They did a beautiful job of transferring the corrugations from the road to the occupant’s rear ends. So to avoid this were worn side tracks were a feature of country roads wherever corrugations were bad. These tracks often wound their way amongst the trees on either side of the road.
Dad used to load some axes and a huge crosscut saw into the Green Devil, and head out the Orange Road to find some dead trees and collect some fire wood. On this occasion I was taken along to do the donkey work on one end of the crosscut and loading the firewood that Dad chopped with the axe. When we ran out of sealed road Dad took to the side tracks. We were bowling along at a bout 25mph when he decided to give me a driving lesson. He suddenly grabbed my right arm and hauled me across his knees into the driver’s side of the seat and said, “OK. Grab the wheel, your driving.” I grabbed and froze. We were headed straight for a tree so he put one hand on the wheel steered around the tree and said, “Keep it on the track, don’t hit any trees.” So scared stiff, I did the best I could to stick to the track with Dad helping out when disaster loomed. My feet only just reached the pedals and anyhow I had no idea how they worked. I don’t think Dad was very impressed with my efforts for I never got another driving lesson. I dare say we were lucky to survive my first.