Early Fire Chief’s Ride: 1913 Ford Model T Speedster

Located in Plympton, Massachusetts this 1913 Model T Speedster is a testament to the amazing evolution of the fire department chief’s car.  Nowadays officers at public and even many volunteer fire departments are issued large SUVs or trucks for use in transporting necessary tools and gear while also serving as a mobile command center.  Things were obviously quite different in the early 20th century and this remarkable fire chief’s car, available here on eBay,  is certainly a unique piece of automotive history.  Bidding for the car is currently at $5,656 with plenty of time left in the auction.  But if you’d rather scoop it up immediately its seller is offering it at the BIN price of $26,975.

Predating roof-mounted lightbars, or even a roof for that matter, this fire company “apparatus” (to use an industry term) came with quite a few bells and whistles for its time.  There’s a multidirectional dash mounted brass spotlight and a monocle windshield that offered the chief semi-protection against driving rain, sleet, wind, and insect-to-face collisions.  The seller claims the car was restored in 1951 to its original red paint scheme with gold leaf trim, much of which is now cracking and peeling.  The fenders look solid and all of the brass components, including the headlamps and honeycomb style radiator with Ford emblem, show oxidation but fortunately very little corrosion. The wooden spoke wheels are in amazing condition but the steering wheel, although solid, is heavily faded.

A Prest-O-Lite acetylene tank is mounted below the driver seat but it’s unclear whether it still powers the headlamps.  Perhaps one of the coolest things about this car is it still wears an old Western Massachusetts Model T Club badge which is affixed just below and between the two seats.  The Model T Ford Club of America website doesn’t list a Western Massachusetts chapter, so perhaps the organization is now defunct.  Lots of nice close-up photos are provided in the ad and the seller claims that despite the car being left untouched for the past 68 years only a few light repairs will need to be performed.  It’s reported to run and drive great and upon request, the seller is willing to provide video proof in support of that claim.

At some point, perhaps during the 1951 restoration of the car, the original motor was replaced with one from a 1924 Model T.  The 2.9 liter inline 4-cylinder can be hand cranked and there is a starter solenoid button between the seats, but the seller advises a new Bendix is needed.  As previously mentioned, the motor is reported to run smoothly and although the gas tank seeps from the edges occasionally, the seller warns that as with all Model T’s, some fluid drips and leaks should be expected.  If the seller has information about where and for how long this car saw service, unfortunately, it isn’t revealed in the listing.  Whether this Model T ends up in a museum or private collection, the seller is hoping someone will preserve it to allow future generations to enjoy and learn from.

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Comments

  1. NotSure

    How could anyone not want a car called a “Speedster “? Even if she is 106 years old?

    Like 6
  2. crazyhawk

    I can’t help but think how tough people were back then. No heated steering wheel or GPS. Just guts and grit. I LOVE it! Good write-up.

    Like 6
  3. gbvette62

    I doubt that it was a “fire chiefs car”. More likely it was one of the thousands of Model T speedsters built in the last 100 years.

    T speedster conversions have been around as long as the Model T itself. The Speedster conversions that first popped up in the teens, and are still being built today. T bodies were metal with a wood inner structure, and many have deteriorated over the years, making the speedsters a cheap and popular alternative to restoring an original T touring or sedan body.

    The seller states that this car was restored in 1951. My guess is that more likely in 1951 someone found a 1924 Model T (per seller it’s titled as a 24) needing a body, and built this car from it. The radiator, headlamps, side lanterns and running boards are not Ford parts, further leading me to believe this is a built up speedster.

    I love Model T’s and have owned a number of them, including ’11 and ’23 speedsters. They’re fun, quirky little cars to own and drive. Considering the state of the market for pre-war cars, I personally think this car might be worth the current bid ($5600), and maybe twice that restored, but I’d be surprised if it gets anywhere near the “buy it now” price.

    Here are a couple of the speedster kits currently available.

    http://www.rootlieb.com/speedster-kits.html

    https://www.macsautoparts.com/ford_model_t/model-t-ford-speedster-body-kit-complete-includes-parts-810-837.html

    Like 13
    • Jay B Staff

      Great insight and info gbvette62! I believe you may have provided an explanation as to why no information is provided about what fire department this car served, or rather, didn’t! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Like 1
    • Fireman DK

      Exactly what I was going to say , as both a Model t Speedster owner and Retired Firefighter and long time Fire Apparatus buff……
      Neat Speedster, way too much money.

      Like 2
  4. Jay E.

    I have also owned several T’s including a 14 and a 24. Fun cars, but always requiring light tinkering if used much, which can become tedious.
    Hate to say it, but I think gbvette is closer to the truth on this one. I seriously doubt someone was manufacturing a Chiefs car with aluminum angle braces in 1913. If it were a custom Chiefs car, I am sure there would be a manufacturers plate, such as Howe on it as well, and it would be much better built.
    It is a nice project, but has been bid up to its unoriginal value, even as a “Brassie” Someone had fun with the red paint.

    Like 8
  5. Sal

    $26k?????? Where do these people come from?

    Like 6
  6. Bob McK Member

    Isn’t that a lot of money for this? Looks like it needs to be restored to me.

    Like 3
  7. Bill Wilkman

    I can remember when the preferred fire chief’s car was a well optioned Buick. SUVs just don’t hold s candle to these rides.

    Like 1
  8. Fireman DK

    Now here’s some typical Vintage Chief’s cars….

    Like 5
  9. Fireman DK

    Another Rig…

    Like 4
  10. Fireman DK

    and yet another …

    Like 5
  11. Fireman DK

    and lastly, have to love this one with the full size bell……

    Like 6
    • TBAU Member

      And the full size moustache…

      Like 3
  12. Robert L Roberge

    Could have bought the next door neighbor’s ’16 complete roadster (basket) for $2500 in 1990. Guess I shoulda.

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