Sport Runabout: 1911 Ford Model T

Most people credit Henry Ford with the development of the automotive production line. In fact, this credit goes to Ransom E. Olds, with his curved dash Oldsmobile being the first mass-produced car. Henry Ford took what Olds developed and ramped it up to eleven, building millions of dirt-cheap cars in dozens of body styles over several decades. The Model T was the first truly successful popular car, and is consistently ranked near the top in lists of “most influential car.” This 1911 model features a rare “mother-in-law” three-seat configuration and can be found here on eBay, where the current bid at time of writing is $18,100 and a buy-it-now price of $21,995.

This example is in excellent condition, and can easily be driven as it is. The interior is simplicity incarnate. The only things you’ll find are a few levers, a few pedals, a speedometer, and some seats. Anyone who knows Model Ts know that the three pedals aren’t like any other three-pedal set. The throttle is a lever on the steering wheel, the right pedal is the brake, the middle pedal engages reverse, and the left pedal is the clutch. Weird, right? Ford produced something like 20,000,000 Model Ts, though, so you won’t be short of people to teach you how to drive and operate it. Heck, even a YouTube video can do the trick.


The main feature of this specific example is its “mother-in-law” seat. Two seats under the roof, and a third way out back, out of earshot. I’m unclear on how many “mother-in-law” Model Ts were produced, but the Model T is one of those weird cars. A nearly thirty-year production run with millions of examples built has resulted in not only an extensive body of spare parts, but also a similarly extensive resume of body styles. You could get the Model T in anything and everything from a race car, to a pickup truck, to a family hauler, to a luxury car, to a well-equipped off-roader, and anything and everything in between.

It features a ton of modern luxury features like electric start, electric lighting, and wheel brakes. Of course, these are modifications; the electric start wasn’t added to Model T production until 1919, and electric lighting in 1915. I’m finding conflicting reports on when wheel brakes were added, as opposed to just a transmission brake, so maybe some resident Model T experts can weigh in here. Under the hood, you’ll find the bog-standard Ford four-cylinder in every Model T. What’s special about this one is not the powertrain, but rather the body. If you have someone you feel obligated to take with you on drives but aren’t terribly excited about being with, this car is made for you.


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  1. MattR Member

    Great write-up Ben. Lovely car. Love the brass and black contrast.

    I feel the need to queue up the Ernie K. Doe hit:

    Like 2
    • John Yasenko

      A young kid in Australia bought a Model T here in the states.
      His YouTube site has over 15 million views, young, misddle age and old, that have watched, how to start a Model T.
      very cool and needs to be shared.

  2. RSparks

    The mother in law seat is hilarious! It isn’t even under roof. That has to be a stab to ole Henry’s mom in law.

  3. David Frank David Frank Member

    Great writeup, great car. (The left pedal is also the gear selector, all the way in for low, out for high.) The brake lever puts the pedal half way down and pushes the brake pedal. They are fun to drive but take some getting used to. Here’s a fun video that Scottie sent me on how to drive one.
    He was thinking of buying one. I tried to tell him what they were like but this video finally convinced him.
    By the way, the original Model A, (1903, 1904) had a back seat compartment that could be removed leaving just the turtle deck.

  4. Peter Stephens

    Good write-up! Here’s a little more history on the assembly line.
    R.E. Olds started his initial version in 1901 after a disastrous fire at his Detroit factory. He managed to make 425 cars that year. Henry Ford didn’t implement his more motorized version until 1913, two years after this 1911 Ford was produced. Ford actually experimented with magnetos first on his version of an assembly line. Ford often visited Olds’ factory, many times after dark (so goes the family version). They were good friends, not close but very respectful of the other.
    Thanks for correcting the misconception about Ford’s role. R.E. doesn’t get enough credit for his contribution to the horseless carriage era.
    Thank you from the Olds family!

    Like 1
  5. Phlathead Phil

    She’s a beaut! There were other cars made with a MILS. Today, that would cause a firestorm of disapproval.

    Of course, IMHO.🤫

  6. t-bone BOB

    Ended: May 16, 2021 , 2:20PM
    Winning bid:US $20,995.00
    [ 55 bids ]

    Item location:Phoenix, Arizona

  7. Richard

    Lots of mechanical upgrades such as distributor, alternator, motor, rear end, later wheels. Makes the car far more practical to drive but maintains the correct look. Excellent car.

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