No Reserve: 1912 Ford Model T Torpedo Runabout

Hiding away in this garage is a classic car that was restored by a previous owner. This 1912 Ford Model T Torpedo Runabout is a rust-free survivor, and it seems that it would take little effort to return it to a roadworthy state. The owner purchased the car with that thought in mind, but as so often happens, the project ran out of steam before it could start. Still, his loss could be your gain, because he has decided to list the little Ford for sale with No Reserve. Located in Pacific, Missouri, you will find the Runabout listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the auction to open at $15,900, but there have been no bids to this point. However, 55 people are watching the auction, and you have to wonder whether one of them might start the ball rolling shortly.

I wonder whether Henry Ford ever envisaged that when his “people’s car” rolled off the production line, that many examples would still be around and in good condition more than a century later. It’s hard to imagine any of today’s offerings still plying our roads in 2130, but that would be the equivalent. It seems that the previous owner may have treated the old Ford to some restoration work, and if the buyer wanted to return it to the road largely untouched, it would still turn heads. However, there are a few spots that might benefit from some attention if the car is to present at its best. The paint on the fenders is fairly fresh, although some scratches below the surface suggest that whoever prepared them used a coarse grade of paper in the final preparation. The scratches aren’t bad, and wet sanding the existing paint and following up with some polish might produce a decent result. There is some paint peeling on the fuel tank, but the rest looks pretty good. The Runabout is rust-free, and most of the exterior trim and hardware, including the gas headlamps, are intact. There are a few details to address with items like the hoses for the headlamps, but there’s nothing major. The top is in good order, as is the glass. It appears that the cosmetics of the Ford are good, and I can’t spot anything that would require urgent attention.

The news under this Ford’s hood isn’t quite as good, but it also isn’t bad. The car features the usual 177ci 4-cylinder flathead engine that would have pumped out a dizzying 20hp. The power finds its way to the rear wheels via the obligatory 2-speed planetary transmission which some owners have found a challenge to come to terms with. The motor doesn’t currently run, but it does turn freely. This photo clearly shows the sizeable crack in the cylinder head, but that isn’t all bad news. The owner is including another cylinder head in the sale, so if the buyer sources some gaskets, it might not take a lot of effort to get the Model T roadworthy again. Of course, with such a modest amount of power on tap, the Runabout is never going to be a rocketship in a straight line. However, the fact that it has survived for more than a century stands as a testament to the robust nature of Henry’s engineering.

There’s not a lot to say about the interior of this Model T, because it represented motoring at its most basic. The lack of creature comforts is one of the reasons why Ford could sell their vehicles at such affordable prices. Of course, the fact that they could produce them faster and in greater volumes than the opposition didn’t hurt their cause. The seat upholstery is in good order, as is the rubber floor mat. The wheel and any plated components shine as-new, as does the brass. Gauges consist of a speedometer with an odometer, and that’s it. Overall, this interior would look sharp if treated to a thorough clean, meaning that it will take more time than money to have it standing out in a crowd.

When you look at the era that spawned this Ford Model T Torpedo Runabout, it is amazing that it has survived so well. In fact, it is impressive that it has survived at all. Automotive technology was in its infancy, while the steel industry was still grappling with the thorny issue of producing steel that offered consistent performance and strength in all temperature extremes. But survive it has, and it has done so in remarkable condition. It seems that returning it to active duty would not be difficult, and it is a car that would attract crowds at any Cars & Coffee. There have been no bids to date, but that situation is sure to change. The question is, will you be the person to make that change?


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  1. Jay E. Member

    If you are going to invest 15K in a Model T, this is a good one to play with. “Brassies” have a lot more eye appeal, the red is a welcome change to black and the style isn’t as common as some of the other touring cars.
    I really like this car, the head work is easy to do and there isn’t much to getting and keeping them running. For me it is uncomfortable driving them on roads with distracted drivers, but on a limited basis, perhaps Sundays mornings, I could see venturing out on back roads close to home. It is priced fairly, with an upside if it were cleaned up and running. If it were closer I’d buy it!

    Like 5
  2. Brian

    At that price one could get a running driving Model T in better condition. Even a brass era car. They just simply do not have that kind of value.

    Like 1
  3. RKS

    Very first sentence “car was restored”
    Next sentence “car is a survivor”

    How does that make sense? Cool car tho.

    Like 2
    • Mike

      It survived long enough to be restored.

      Like 1
  4. Rick in Oregon

    The demand for these lovely brass era cars has declined as the population who loved them and owned them as youngsters has declined. Shame but a sad fact of life. I spent months trying to sell a ’26 roadster pickup, most lookers were my fathers age (80’s+) and couldn’t manage to get in or out of it if they did get in. Driving these is no pleasure either……

    Like 2
    • OddBallCars Member

      Nah, interest is actually building in brass cars. If you look at values, they are dropping on “older” like 1917-WWII, but pricing are climbing on pre-16 cars.
      I’m 44 yrs old and just bought a 1911 Hupmobile. A local guy is about the same age and running a restoration shop for pre-16. Friend of mine is visiting this weekend who is 23 and has 3 model Ts.
      I think the early cars are having a bit of a comeback. And why not? You can go 100mph in just about any cheap crossover you pick up today and it feels like nothing, but to take a brass car up a hill at any speed above a walk, that is a challenge! It really makes you appreciate how far they’ve come!

      Like 5
  5. John Traylor

    20 HP? I would hate taking it out on a 21st century highway.

    • John

      There were no highways back then!

      Like 1
  6. John Traylor

    20 HP? Kind of slow.

  7. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    These are show and parade vehicles. I once saw one at a show that had a scaled down version sitting next to it. It was kind of cool. The small version wasn’t a go kart style either, it had a front liquid cooled smal one lunger hooked to a downsized planetary transmission and differential. The owner was as proud of his cars as if it were a new Rolls Royce limousine. Maybe even more so since they were one of a kind matching set.
    God bless America

    Like 1
  8. jeffro

    No reserve? The reserve price is $15,900.

    Like 1
  9. Bob Mck Member

    I watch these when they come up for sale. I believe the owner may be a bit agressive for a nonrunning T. But perhaps I am wrong. I hope so.

  10. Howard A Member

    I can hear it now in the not so distant future, “what kind of car is this? No power ports? Spark advance,,what the heck is THAT? HAND starter,,,that’s it”,, I know, I laugh to keep from crying, but most people today couldn’t even get it started, much less out the drive. It seems I’ve driven just about every machine known to man, but have never driven a Model T. Even I would be flustered with how it operates. The price may be justified for something this historic, but as time drifts by, nobody going to want a Model T, and the trailer to pull it around on.

    Like 2
  11. Johnny Gibson

    My dad had a 1911 model, it was used in the film Gallipoli. It was a challenge to drive and handled better on the dirt than the tar. The arm breaking crank had a kick on it like a mule, so it was best to have a pretty strong girlfriend. The hand throttle, spark lever etc. kept you as busy as a one armed cabbie with crabs and if you jumped the hump on the steering the left turn become right and vise versa. I actually started writing this with fond memories but I didn’t appear to come up with many, guess I did like the car even though it was a bit of a handful.

  12. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Auction ended with 0 bids.

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