This Ford T was started by Jack McRoberts in Australia.

After his untimely passing away in August 2013, his friends of the Wednesday Group , members of the Military Section of the Veteran Car Club in Western Australia took it up again and have completed it seven months later._

Photo shows The Wednesday Group with the completed LCP Ford T: Murray, Tony, Peter and Brian.

The Building of a 1917 Light Patrol Car

The original vehicle in 1917

In early 2009, I was at a loose end with restorations and someone suggested I should build a Model T Ford. That started me thinking about these vehicles and I believe I wandered into the Australian War Memorial (AWM) site, to look at something unrelated. I stumbled over a collection of photos depicting the Model T, in its WW1 role in Palestine and the Middle East. From there it was an easy step to firm up on the building of a Light Patrol Car.

There were two different types of Model T used by the British and Australians during the War in that theatre, commonly known as the “brass radiator” (1915/16) and the “black radiator” (1917 onwards). I chose to build one of the latter, mainly because of this photo from the AWM archives ….

… which seemed to me to be a good example of the breed and among all the photos of Australian Light Cars that I’ve seen, it is the sole wearer of this radiator badge/trench art.


In February 2009, I bought the basic makings of a vehicle from a seller in Perth and started to learn about Model Ts. The collection looked like this ……

Many of the parts pictured above were unusable and have subsequently been disposed of, but it was enough to start the vehicle build.

My first task was to ensure the chassis rails were straight. The T chassis was built using vanadium steel which was a fairly radical move for the times, but even so the rails tend to sag where the engine mounts bolt on and unless corrected, that can have an effect on subsequent steps in the build.
This photo shows the rig I used to remove a sag of about 19mm ….

You maybe able to make out the string line I set up, running from end to end of the rail and thereby judge the amount of sag that was corrected.

Henry Ford didn’t allocate chassis numbers to his Model Ts – they were simply recognised by their engine number, which is also how the vehicles are dated. These engine number lists are contained in Bruce McCalley’s “Model T Ford – The Car that Changed the World”, where I found that the engine number range for 1917 was C75,375 to C143,670, with the “C” indicating that these engines came from the Ford plant in Ontario, Canada. Most of the Model Ts in Australia and NZ originated in Canada to take advantage of the favourable tariff arrangements between Commonwealth countries.

Among the first mechanical tasks I completed, was the rebuild of a rear axle. For the first time but not the last, I discovered that Henry Ford regularly changed his design through the 18 years of Model T production from 1909 – 1927.
When re-building the differential, I made the mistake of trying to fit a later model torque tube onto an early differential housing and found the two mating faces had been machined differently. They were not from the same year and a change in design had occurred at some stage, with the result that I was obliged to find a compatible part and learnt a little more about the Model T.
The differential consists of straight cut gears, a torque tube connection to the transmission and the usual half shafts. Ford though, used babbit thrust washers in his original design and these had a marked tendency to break down over the succeeding decades with the result that the whole setup could come adrift. If that happened, the brakes which rely on the transmission and differential working perfectly, would be ineffective and apart from the parking brake, which originally was designed as a metal shoe on a metal drum, the car would potentially be out of control.

The modern day solution is to replace the babbit washers with a bronze product, obtainable through the various US suppliers, who cater to the Model T trade.

The picture below shows the 16 field coils attached to the back of the block and the rotating magnets bolted to the flywheel and transmission, about to be mounted onto the block, shimmed to allow a gap of .025 to .045” between the magnets and the face of the field coil. This then allows the magneto to develop voltage of around 3 to 30 AC volts, depending on speed.

It takes a few trial fittings to shim the field coils and obtain the correct spacing. The magnets, flywheel and transmission combination is very heavy, so the accepted solution is to suspend the lot, during the gap setting process.

This is the flywheel/magnet combination and also shows the four bolts which secure this to the crankshaft once the gap is achieved. As the V shaped magnets are all close to a century old, they need to be re-charged and there are various methods for doing this, some of which are quite sophisticated, while some are very basic. I simply wrapped a long piece of heavy duty household electrical cable around one leg of each magnet and applied a 12v charge, until I reached the point where each magnet would suspend a 2 pound cast iron piston. That was the go/no go test for a Ford magnet.

This photo shows the transmission bolted into place on the crankshaft together with the reverse, low gear and brake Kevlar bands now in situ, around their respective drums. The ‘U” shaped bracket is simply holding the bands in place till the top housing(or “hogshead”) can be installed and the adjusting bolts in that housing, slot into the band “ears”.

The numbers on the flywheel show where metal was removed during the balancing process.

I built the Patrol Car’s body from my interpretation of the photos available on the Australian War Memorial/Imperial War Museum sites, as well as those in any book I could find, though as is the case with many vehicle types, you often have to search long and hard for particular views. In my case while I had ample front views, there were no rear shots of the vehicle – until I came across these photos

While there’s plenty of good detail here, neither of these was clear enough to provide any real clue about how the tailgate was secured in the upright position. So I had to improvise …

While I devised my own rear body from available photos, I did obtain the wood body plans from a vendor in the US and was able to adapt these, to my right hand drive T. The vehicles used by the Patrols in Egypt and the Sinai were all produced in the UK, at Ford’s Manchester factory and so they were a mirror image of the US produced vehicle, with an opening door on the left (the US models had theirs on the right) and a false door on the right.

The left hand opening door has a bead rolled into it and there is door outline, ie a bead rolled into the sheet metal, on the right hand side of these vehicles. I had not done any of this work before, but found that with a decent bead roller, the job was not as technical or as difficult as I had thought it might be.

The hard part is getting a vertical and a horizontal curve into the opening door, but that was achieved with a little bit of cutting, shaping and welding.

The result was …

While in the US in 2011, I made contact with the folk at the Stutzman Wheel Shop in Ohio, a family of spoke manufacturers (among a range of other wood products), who had been regularly commended on the Model T Forum (
The Stutzmans are Amish and their work focuses on the manufacture of wooden wheels for all types of ancient machinery. While their techniques are based in the past, they have significant modern machinery and some of the products that were shown to me in their workshop, were extraordinary. Although I didn’t buy one, I am told that they are capable of producing a wooden, one piece steering wheel. That’s very impressive bending.
As a matter of interest, I was interested to learn that the Stutzmans grow their own hickory trees where they live in Baltic, Ohio and harvest the product for use in the many items they produce for users around the world.
I ordered 50 hickory spokes for the four wheels (12 per wheel and two spare) and brought them back to Perth WA, where again with the help of the far more experienced contributors to the Model T Forum, I built a wheel press and pressed the spokes into the metal felloes –

The exhaust manifold is nearly always warped on these engines, due to the design and the lack of support, at the exhaust pipe end. Mine was no exception and had to be straightened – a job that was done with a fair amount of heat and using a jig devised by the Tulsa Model T Ford Club –

It starts to take shape

Currently (ie early June 2013), the vehicle is at this stage in its rebuild –


We were however able to tack together, the RH fake door panel and the front sheetmetal adjacent to the bulkhead. That worked very well and the welding of this will be completed next week, together hopefully with the welding of the LH side – not a great deal to here around the opening door.

We were also able to straighten out the lower windscreen frame, which I had obtained at the 2011 Hershey swap meet in the US for $10, complete with hinges ! It was bent around the vertical arms, but some adept work by Tony, saw the item restored to its proper shape and it fits into the cowl brackets just perfectly, now.

Apart from the many different paint shades, it’s starting to look a little bit more “together”.

More progress

Depending on the weather we hope to wheel the body/chassis out into the sun next Wednesday and give it a top coat of “Sand Glow”. That'll be obvious progress and worthy of a few photos !


A little progress is being made. The weather here, which has been inclement for some time (not really complaining, mind you), has hampered attempts to top coat the undercoated panels. However the skies were promising today, so we gave everything a final rub down and erected a convenient structure on which to hang the panels.

The front and rear guards as well as the LH door frame ..

The rear inside tub is also partly finished …and the door.

All the smaller bits such as the hood shelves, windscreen fittings and frames and the myriad of bolts, have been top coated as well. Hanging space in the workshop is at a premium, but it won't be for long.

I've got a little more paint to spray onto the rear tub, both inside and out, but I'll hopefully get to that next Wednesday. You can see in one of the photos (rear tub), that the wheels are now on omnidirectional dollies and it's much easier to move the vehicle into any required position.

The next step will be to fit the left and right door sheetmetal together with the LH door and once all that's pinned and screwed into place, the sequence will be bulkhead, splash guards, running boards then mudguards.

At that stage it will start to look like a T.

Apart from the guards, most of the body is now bolted up and the firewall is back in situ where it belongs. I just had to consult with Mr Dykes, to make sure I correctly attach the magneto and battery connections, on the coil box.

While I'm happy with the colour, I'm not that keen on the gloss. We have been mixing in some flattener with the full gloss paint, but so far it doesn't seem to have achieved much. I think we'll have to experiment with an increased dosage, in an attempt to get a more satin finish to the paint and then give the lot another coat. I also made a blue with my hammer on the RH side paintwork, when I was attaching the sheet metal to the vertical dash pillar and the result was some chipped paint, so that can also be fixed along with a few bug strikes from last weeks painting.

The next thing I have to put some thought into, is the Lewis Gun post. While I have no clear evidence of how it was located, from all the photos I've seen, it seems to be attached to the rear of the cowl (LH or passenger's side) and would logically use the chassis rail as the base. The Lewis weighs in at around 13kgs/28lbs, so a solid connection is obviously needed.

Completion of the Project

March 2014. It is now 7 months since Jack McRoberts untimely passing.
The Model T Light Patrol Car that he was building is finally complete.

Members of the Military Section of the Veteran Car Club in WA (mainly the men from the Wednesday Group that Jack worked each week with) finished it off for Jacks widow Margaret and it's now home with her in the garage. The group will maintain the vehicle and it will be regularly displayed in Western Australia. It looks magnificent and is a great testament to Jack and his friends.

A lot of time was spent researching the gun mount. This is what it ended up with from grainy AWM photos. The mount the Australians used was different to the British and basically consists of a rowlock atop some telescopic tubing attached to the chassis and the front of the cowl.

Ford T of the 1st Australian Light Car Patrol (1917)