Fred's List



Fred Houston's advice for how to have a good running Model T while maintaining a stock appearance:


We all want our Model T engines to run well. And the fact is, if we rebuild the mechanical components properly, they will run extremely well WITHOUT resorting to modern or later model devices which alter the looks and the unique features of the car, e.g. distributors, Model A or modern carbs, etc. All too often the Model T owner either gives up without giving the original stuff a chance or, more often, resorts to covering up a mistake in engine restoration by adding late model devices in an attempt to recover lost performance.

1) Rebuild and balance the engine/transmission using stainless valves in the exhaust ports. Use a stock carburetor. If you must change carburetors, go to a Ford NH. The Ford NH is used almost exclusively in the Montana 500 where cars average over 50 mph for 500 miles even with a dime sized restrictor plate. And you think you need a Model A carburetor for a stock Model T Ford?


2) Rebuild the magneto. Properly rebuild and install the magneto. A new field coil is a must and recharging the magnets individually is highly recommended. Model T performance on a good magneto is awesome.

3) All is not lost if you don't have a good magneto, but a 12 volt battery is recommended for good performance with the original ignition system.

4) Make sure the coils are rebuilt by a competent coil re-builder, e.g. Ron Patterson (the coil man).


5) Use a properly installed, centered Anderson Timer for longevity. However, any good timer will do in the short run.

6) Use a cam with stock or near stock specifications. This is extremely important for a good touring T (see
Cam Project). 

7) For the properly restored engine, use multi-viscosity oil no more than 5w on the low end or higher than 30 on the high end, e.g. 5w-30.

8) Use a standard rear end ratio (3.64:1) or a 4:1 ratio. Ford knew what he was doing. A stock T will not perform well with a 3:1 rear axle (see
Power & Torque).

9) No need to over oil the front of the engine. The magneto post outside oil line is an ample backup to the internal oil line. Always use a transmission oil screen to keep these lines open.

10) Install a high compression head or at least mill your stock head 1/8 inch (see Heads).


11) When rebuilding your engine and transmission, transmission tail shaft alignment is of critical importance. This is probably the number one reason for poor performing T engines. Sometimes it takes a lot of modern devices to offset this problem.  See what Murray Fahnestock said about this subject.  See alignment procedure.   


12) When rebuilding your drive train, make sure that your rear axle housings are not bent.  It was common practice in the old days to just throw the log chain around the rear axle to pull stumps or whatever. Itís seldom mentioned in rebuilding rear axle instructions, but itís easy to check the housing before assembly. It takes a large carpenters square and a yard-stick. Set the housing big end down on a concrete floor, C clamp the yard stick as an extension to one edge of the square, then measure the distance from yardstick to top end of the tube as the square is placed at four different locations around the punkin. It will be obvious if the tube is bent. 


If you do all these things you will have an awesome performing Model T engine for touring. You will more than hold your own against cars with distributors, high lift cams, Model A cranks and yes even Model A, Volkswagen or Lawn Tractor Carbs.