The early days of auto racing were quite a spectacle. Car’s competed not on paved ovals or in large stadiums but on hard packed dirt or clay surfaces often on private property or at local or state fairgrounds. The tracks were seldom purpose built for auto racing, often horsepower of the organic kind had previously competed or been shown there.
Safety of both the driver and spectator was often an afterthought. Typically a crowd was lucky to have even a bail of straw or hay separating them from the action, let alone a guard rail, concrete wall or fence. Inside the car a driver might have worn motorcycle leathers and goggles if they could afford them. The fuel tank usually sat right above your feet, and a few centimeters of canvas and wood was likely all that separated your posterior from the driveshaft, rear differential and ground below. Seat belts had yet to be invented, and there was definitely no such thing as a roll cage quite yet. Racing was truly a daring, and death defying sport for all involved.
We recently came across this relic of those exciting days of over three quarters of a century past. This Model T racer was a recent eBay listing. This relic was found in an Ohio barn where it’s been tucked away for approximately sixty years according to the seller. This piece of racing history awaits a new owner and hopefully a worthy restoration.
Plentiful and relatively inexpensive, T’s were popular in the early days of racing. You can still see the hand pump used to pressurize the fuel system, ideally this kept fuel flowing under hard cornering. The exhaust likely ran down the driver’s side in a single pipe. The driver’s door has been removed and a single piece of steel welded in its place for safety. There are two bucket seats, some races would have involved both a driver and a co-driver, or mechanic riding alongside – though we can’t exactly imagine trying to make any repairs while the car was in motion.
The body on this T has been shortened and rounded, the lights and anything not necessary for going fast was stripped. There’s no grille only the exposed radiator up front.Weight savings and slicing through the wind would have been paramount for achieving more speed as in those early days developing more horsepower was still in its infancy.
Other tricks included the lever activated shocks in the rear, possibly for use on rougher tracks. Imagine trying to keep this car going as it made it’s way around the loose surface on those skinny tires, let alone stopping on the feeble brakes.
The body retains some of its original yellow paint and the number seven can be seen painted on the cowling of both sides. There’s a lot of work to be done to get this one back to running condition. The floors have also disappeared along with the engine and transmission. Still we can’t help but think what a unique project this car would make, the potential here is almost endless.
The question becomes, do you restore it to some of its former glory, partially restore it and leave the body patina the way it is, use it as the starting point for a rat rod, or build it up into a shiny streetable aesthetic representation of the car’s legacy. As there is no exact history given, it makes us wonder, what kind of feats has this car achieved? Who was behind the wheel? Did it compete in any large or important events? How did it manage to survive the brutality of those early years of auto racing?
The starting bid had been set at $4,000 and the auction ended early, so we hope this old racer is off to a new home to have some new life breathed into it once again. Who knows, maybe we’ll see it resurface again with a new look?