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An F.W.D. Model T Racer, A Poor Man’s Miller

We have always wondered about this car, who built, who owned it, where was it raced? The photo has enough clues so that maybe the location can possibly be pieced together or hopefully one of our readers may know more about this “Ingenuity Special”.

It is modeled on a front-drive Miller and is based on Model T components. It features a Model T engine and transmission turned around and hooked up to the center section of a T differential. Like the Miller, it is equipped with a tubular front axle possibly from an early car set on its side. Two types of U-joints are used for the half-shafts and the hubs and spindles are unknown components.

It appears to be equipped with an OHV racing head and based on the locations of the header and the down-draft Winfield carburetor, it may have been a Frontnac rocker-arm unit. It is also on a set of professional grade racing wire wheels and has rear wheel brakes on a simple tube axle. Both ends of the car are sprung on quarter-elliptic springs.

The Studebaker just behind it is about a 1930 model, which dates the photo to at least that late. Note the Model T to the left with the “Auto Races” sign on the windshield along with what appear to be a several Model T based racers in the background. Let us know what you may know.

If you enjoy Model T Ford racing cars be sure to see a 1929 Fronty Ford catalog (scroll down) we have posted here. And you can also see a few Model T Ford speedsters here.

13 responses to “An F.W.D. Model T Racer, A Poor Man’s Miller

  1. Even though it is fuzzy, to me the LaSalle it sure looks like it has a Minnesota license. I can see the “B” on the left hand side of the plate – Minnesota “B” plates were for passenger cars that weighed one ton or more. For the 1930s, the following Minnesota plates would show up light background with dark digits in a black and white photograph: 1930, 1933, 1937, 1939.

    Who has the original print in their possession? Looking at the original print with a magnifying glass, a person could probably tell the year of the license plate.

    Also, the “ERSON” that can be seen on the tow truck in the second photo indicates a Swedish name such as Anderson or Peterson. That is another indication that Minnesota may be the location.

    • Eric…Thanks, that is what we are hoping that someone would know were the plate is from. Also the partial name I am sure will help out.

      We don’t know where the originals are, these photos came from postcard which are not all that large. Thanks again.

  2. While I know nothing about this model T racer, I do notice that it has a much lower center of gravity then any of the racers of it’s day. Makes me wonder if it cornered and handled better then any of the other racers. Maybe not judging from the second photo.

    Also in that second photo there are bill board ads on the track wall in the back ground advertising someones cottage cheese, then further to the right of the picture we see a what appears to me a “rubber and fuel co.” ad. Not much to go on there.

    • It may not have handled better as I almost remember reading somewhere that the Miller and other rwd cars had always been more successful on dirt and other shorter oval tracks than the fwd versions.

      • David, your recollection re Miller is correct. In The Last Great Miller: The Four Wheel Drive Indy Car, 2000, author Griffith Borgeson clearly explained the short comings of cardan-type universal jointed front wheel drive racers (p.2). on p.4, author wrote of 4-cylinder’s power impulse on irregular race surfaces. Lastly, I too in this book’s early pages that rear wheel driven racers were preferrred above front wheel drive on dirt tracks, because of the lack of weight on the front driving wheels. The subject of this article appears to be doomed on all 3 counts.
        Michael Ling

  3. It looks like a modern fast racer with the low center of gravity. It would have been cutting edge for its time. The front joints would not bend well as modern cv’s. He could have been in a curve and could not correct and wind up in the field. The guy in the cap, driver? He looks like it was a bad race day. I’ll bet it was scrapped after this race for RWD.

  4. Curious choice of tread pattern for front and rear if this is a fwd. Could it be an attempt at 4wd? The rears have a much more typical tread pattern for dirt track use in that era. I’m no expert, but it seems like more than 50% of the power to the rear with that choice of tread.

    Looking at the apparent damage to the windscreen radiator cap and probably the carb and intake the car was upside down. I hope that’s the driver standing there in the second picture.

  5. Just wondering about the 4wd discussion. The seat looks like it sits fairly low. Is there room to get the drive shaft back to the axle and still not run through the driver?

  6. I think this is my grandfather’s car. I’ll have to check the original photos that I have. If it was indeed my grandfather’s car, then it was built, raced and retired in Southern California. He designed, built and raced it. I found my copy of the article and it says that he eventually converted it to four wheel drive, and raced it that way for a short time. It was finally rolled at Ascot Speedway, which could be the car shown in the second picture. I do not have that picture. Wow, what a treat.

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