Old Cars and Young Girls
Young folks today don’t know what driving used to be like. Today we have power assisted steering, automatic transmissions, hydraulic brakes and headlamps you can actually see with.
And self-starters. The old Model T Ford had a crank sticking out of the front underneath the radiator. You had to push in on the crank and twist it around to start the engine. That is, if it would start. Now, there is no telling how many arms were broken by those old cranks. If the engine misfired, the engine would turn backward. This would result in the crank suddenly flying around backwards. The natural way of grabbing the crank handle is with four fingers around the handle and the thumb on the opposite side of the crank handle. When it misfired the thumb would be trying to oppose the backwards motion of the crank and it would be impossible to get out of the way of the crank as it flew backwards, struck your arm and broke it.You had to learn to keep the thumb on the same side of the handle as the fingers. Even then it was risky business cranking the engine.
Just under the steering wheel were two levers. On the left side was the spark setting that allowed you to advance or retard the spark, thus making it easier to start. However, after the start up you needed to advance the spark according to how fast you were going. On the right side was the gas lever, which you adjusted to change the speed of the engine and the speed of the car. It didn’t have a ‘foot feed’ like later cars.
On the floorboard near the steering column were three pedals. The right one was for the brake. Purely mechanical…the harder you pressed the more brake was applied and the sooner you stopped. Also to the left of the driver was a long lever sticking out of the floor for the parking brake. To crank the engine this lever was pulled back to apply the brake and disconnect the drive. Once the engine was running, the driver jumped onto the seat, pressed down the left pedal and released the park brake by moving it forward. Then you let out on the foot pedal. If you wanted to go backwards you would use the center pedal instead of the left pedal. Is all this clear?
In rainy weather you would reach up to the top of the windshield in front of the driver and move a little crank back and forth that was connected to the wiper blade in front of the windshield. As long, or as fast, as you cranked the wiper would wipe. When you stopped, it stopped.
Also for rainy weather you would put up the curtains. These were leatherette, solid material that had small openings maybe 5 or 6 inches in size that were covered with isinglass (pieces of mica, thin enough to be transparent). The car had no heater and needed no air conditioner; you got plenty of wind in your face.
On each side of the car between the front and rear wheels was a platform called a “running board.” It was needed as a step to get into or out of the car. Cars were built high off the road. They needed to be, because the roads were often just two muddy ruts.
Later, the more modern Model A Fords had enclosed sides and glass windows, electric windshield wipers, the new engines, a clutch and transmission with a gearshift to change from low to higher speed or reverse. You had to learn how to change gears without clashing the gears. If you were stopped on a hill you had to learn the knack of operating the brake and clutch pedals smoothly and prevent the car from rolling backwards when you started to go again. If you happened to be driving a truck you had to double clutch to change gears. Now that was a trick but if you didn’t do it properly you could strip out the gears. Driving is so much easier now.
Now I must admit I don’t have anything to say about young girls. I just wanted to lead you on, get you to read all of this. And you did!