The Car and the Driving Looking back on our trip. by Ben Hardem
Driving it Home
    Drivetrain:  When I bought the car, it had a standard drivetrain behind the engine.  My preference, considering the trip we were undertaking, was to install an auxiliary transmission to give me the climbing power that I knew we would need to cross the various mountain ranges we would be facing.  I choose the KC Warford transmission for several reasons.  It would be easier to install and it would give me both an under-drive and an overdrive. The under-drive would get me up the climbs we would face and the overdrive would let me cruise at comfortably 40 mph on the flatlands in non-mountainous regions.  I am very pleased to have chosen and installed the Warford transmission.  I shipped the Warford and a set of Rocky Mountain brakes to Anchorage and installed them both in about 8 hours after I arrived there to pick up the car.

    Chassis & Steering:  The chassis and steering mechanism turned out to be well prepared for our drive.  All of the shackles and bushings had been replaced and I made sure all oilers were in place and grease cups or fittings were in place and lubricated before we left Anchorage.  I did not lubricate the car every day but did tend to it every three or four days.  The steering shaft was not installed totally correctly and the system would steer over center if I was not careful but after I learned what was going on, I could work around it and it did not become a problem.  That is on my list to fix soon now that I am home.
    All of the wheels had been re-spoked with new wood and I never had to worry about any of them.  The left rear wheel wobbled some and several drivers along the route brought that to my attention but I felt that it was within acceptable limits and have not addressed that yet.  I am not sure if it is the wheel, the rim, or the tire that is the issue but it may very well be a combination of all three that can be corrected by rotating the rim 180°.

    Tires:  As usual we were often asked the question; “Where do you get tires for that car?”  All of the tires on the car were new Universal brand tires.  They did not wear well in my opinion.  The right rear tire was slick after 3,900 miles and I replaced it with the spare.  The spare that is now on the ground is about 1/2 gone.  The left rear tire is now slick after 6,400 miles and will need to be replaced immediately.  I normally use Firestone tires and did not have to replace any of them on my 12,000 mile round trip to Alaska and back in 2001.
Montana Majestic Mountain T Tour
Installing a tire flap in Tok, AK.
On The Road Again
Yellowstone then Home
   I had never even had a flat on either the 1987 or the 2001 trip to Alaska but this year had a blowout flat in Denali National Park on July 8th (see the July 8th daily report).  I feel the cause of the blowout was the lack of using flaps in the tires when they were installed.  It is my opinion that flaps are absolutely necessary to keep the tube from being pinched between the tire and the rim when it flexes as the car is turning corners or driving over rough roads.  I had five tire flaps shipped overnight to Tok, Alaska, and installed them on July 12th.  I had no additional flats from any cause in the final 6,000 miles of the trip.
    NOTE:  Most Model T’ers will say that a 1926 car should have 21” tires.  This car has 30x3-1/2” tires.  The 30x3-1/2” tires were actually stock for 1926 open cars that were shipped without starters and generators.  That was news to me, also!

    Body:  The Touring Car body was well suited to the drive we were undertaking.  We had adequate room in the back for our luggage and supplies needed for the trip.  Being on such a long trip, we had quite a lot of luggage (in my opinion, not Nancy’s) and, being we were traveling in remote areas,  I felt it was necessary to carry a good supply of spare parts.  There were some things needed that we didn’t have but, other than the connecting rod, nothing stopped us from progressing each day as planned.  The connecting rod went out on the afternoon we arrived at Whitefish where we were going to be staying in one location for a full week and where we had no specific driving plans for the next two days.  Now that is were good planning comes in - okay, good luck is helpful too.  We got a replacement rod and had the car running before our touring plans started again.

    Spare Parts:  The spare parts and tools you should carry on a trip like this one are really no different than you would carry for any week long national tour.  The mixture will vary slightly because, on this type of tour, you really should plan on doing whatever it takes to keep the car running and drive it home.  If you are traveling with other Model Ts,  you can plan the spare parts and tools to take that do not need to be duplicated by everyone on the tour.  One part of my plan is to take a large variety of spare parts that are small and do not take up much room.  Those parts are so easy to carry and cost so little that you don’t want to leave home without them.  Items such as valve springs, valve keepers and cups, woodruff keys, screws for the Bendix spring screws for the Bendix cover, and the Bendix spring etc. fall into this category.
    Contingency Plan:  My expectation was to attempt to recover from anything short of a catastrophic failure such as a wreck that damaged the frame or an engine failure such as magnets coming off and destroying the hogshead and pan or a broken rod through the side of the block.  What then?  Rent a car, drive home, and come back with a trailer and pick up the pieces.  The important point here is to realize that, as my wife Nancy says, “With AAA and a MasterCard, you can get home from anywhere.”
The Driving:
   The Roads to Choose:  There is no hard rule on what roads to choose.  There is certainly nothing different about picking the roads for a long tour than picking the roads for a regular hub tour.  The best roads we have found are state highways that are two lane but have wide shoulders to drive on to let faster drivers pass.  We try to avoid holding up traffic by pulling over onto a paved shoulder but we do not sacrifice safety to do so.  Watch for debris or bicyclers on the shoulders and watch for upcoming narrow bridges that may close down the shoulder.
    We also like to drive dirt and gravel roads because you can see so many sights that you would never see driving a heavily travelled road.  True, the unpaved roads can sometimes be rough but, when you drive a Model T, you have no business getting in a hurry.  I have encountered only one dirt road in all my trips that I did not enjoy traveling on.  It was in Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation in southern Utah/northern Arizona.  It was like driving across the desert where there was no road.  It was not fun so I turned around and went back off of the road (but only after 9 miles - I’m stubborn!)  

   Nancy is usually hesitant to try the unpaved roads that I want to drive but after going down them she ALWAYS has liked them and admits that it was a good idea to try them. (She wasn’t with me in the Navajo Nation.)  Our advice is try the dirt roads.  You can always turn around.
    We try to stay off of the interstate highways especially in big cities.  One advantage of the interstates is that they always have four lanes and you won’t be blocking traffic if you drive in the outside lane.  They usually have wide shoulders, too, but there is frequently a lot of debris on the shoulder that can cause you trouble.  The speed and frequency of the 18 wheelers is what makes the interstates so uncomfortable for us so we try to avoid the interstate highways as much as possible.
This turned out to be one of our
favorite roads on the trip.
    Your Durability:  Don’t overlook your own durability.  In additional to a durable car, a trip of this nature takes a durable driver and a really good wife.  I got lucky on both counts.  However, we both started to wear down after we left the MTFCA National Tour in Whitefish, Montana.  If you are planning a lengthy trip of this nature, I would caution you to definitely plan one layover day during each week.  We did not have any layover days after the Montana tour and wished we had planned one or two.  We stayed in different locations for 13 days in a row.  That means any maintenance was done before or after the day’s driving was done and we averaged almost 200 miles per day.
    Your Fears:  I have a saying regarding long trips in a Model T that always holds true.  “The farther you are from home, the more noises you hear in your car.”  Be prepared for this.  Try not to overreact but be realistic about your car.  Model Ts make noises.  The noises change from day to day but you don’t worry about them when you are driving around close to home.  When you get a thousand miles from home, you really can start hearing things that are bothersome but are usually not anything to worry about.  I’ve found that they usually go away and some other noise crops up the next day.

    Enjoy your trip:  The most important aspect about your Model T is the enjoyment you get out of it.  The new people you meet.  The conversations you get to have.  The smiles and the waves you get to return.  Enjoy your trip.  Expect to get tired but don’t let it wear you down.  If it stops being fun, take a day off.  If that doesn’t work and it’s still not fun, it’s time to quit and go home.  Model T-ing is all about the fun you can have.

Nancy and I both appreciate the many comments we have received about this web site and are glad that you have found it worthwhile to view and enjoy.  We hope that you will be inspired to take your Model Ts out on the road a little more and even use them for a vacation trip in the future.  Please be careful and be safe in your travels.  

May your roads be smooth and your Model T run well!

Ben Hardeman
Runs great...
  ....Drive it home.
Runs great...
      ....Drive it home.
Getting to Anchorage
   Contact Us      About Ben & Nancy
Looking back by Nancy: Life on the road.
Looking back by Ben: The car and driving.
 TTP Logo.gif
Links to the Sponsors of this site.
The Car:

    Many Model T’ers may be asking, “What have you done to that Model T
to make it suitable for a trip such as this one?”  The answer is that the car is
much the way that Henry had made it.  The key has been that all of the parts
of the Model T were restored to good condition at the same time and it was ready
to go.  There were no secret features that made it more road worthy than it was
when it was shipped to Nome, Alaska in 1926.  The important restored features,
in my opinion were as follows:

    Engine: The engine was restored by Ross Lilleker for Bruce Campbell but, at
the time it was restored, Bruce Campbell was not expecting the car to be used for
anything other than routine “local” touring.  The engine was not very special.  
The block had several significant freeze cracks which were repaired with
“stitching” and JB Weld.  The crankshaft was
.040 undersized which is smaller than Ross
would normally use but the customer didn’t
want to buy a better one.
There were no new components added to the engine other than the normal pistons, rings, babbitt, transmission bushings, etc. that normally wear out and require replacement.  It is a basic stock Model T engine that has been rebuilt.  The engine performed very well with the only significant repair being the replacement of the No. 2 rod after I left an oil petcock open and caused it to run low on oil. (An operator problem, not an engine problem.)