T Thoughts – John Brady
Mick Melia’s Ford Model T Ton Truck
As a child I listened to my father’s childhood stories about Mick Melia’s Ford Truck. Mick was a neighbour who had returned from America, having spent over thirty years there. On his return in 1926 he bought a Ford Model T Ton Truck, and a haulier’s licence. This was an amazing piece of equipment at the time and a huge step forward from the horse and cart.
By all accounts Mick was a colourful character. He came to the attention of the Gardaí on a number of occasions, including driving while under the influence of alcohol. My father had many stories about Mick, including how he would reverse uphill when the truck was low in fuel in order to make it home. It was years later that I learned the wisdom of Mick’s action, when I discovered that a Model T has a gravity feed of petrol to the carburettor.
In the early nineties I bought the remains of a Model T car. This car also had a lot of local history. I went on to fully re-build this car, and of course this reinforced my interest in Ford Model T’s and the Irish Model T club. In 2012 a friend of mine called me. He said ‘I think I found a Model T chassis’. I went to investigate and discovered it was a Ton Truck chassis. He had been demolishing an old shed wall and the chassis had been disassembled and used as reinforcement.
There was also a rear-wheel pullers for a Ton Truck in the wall. Luckily the concrete was of poor quality so the chassis re-emerged without any great force or damage. Now that I had a chassis for a Ton Truck I set out to find the rest of the project. As luck had it, a life time collection of T parts came on the market. I bought most essential parts e.g. back axle and wheels, front axle and wheels etc.
I found a drive shaft and tube in England. I already had an engine with a right-hand transmission. I then bought some hard-to-find parts from another Irish collector e.g. back springs and shackles, back brake shoes and a very rare commercial radiator. Having found a steering column and a right hand steering bracket for a Ton Truck I now had most of the mechanical parts, with the exception of two split retaining rings which hold the back tyres on the rims.
In 2015, a friend of mine who is a vintage enthusiast spotted a Model T Ton truck cab for sale on the internet. He immediately called me. It transpired it was for sale in Holland. The Dutch man explained that he had bought it in France many years ago. He had bought the complete truck. It had been disassembled and stored on a loft for years. He in turn stored it on his loft for a number of years.
He decided against restoring it and put it up for sale. The man who bought it said he did not want the cab. I purchased the cab and had it transported to Ireland. This brought me close to having the entire jigsaw.
In 2019 my wife Frances and I visited the South Island of New Zealand. While there, I contacted a Model T enthusiast who told me about a factory in Wellington which makes wheel rims for the vintage industry. I visited the factory and discovered they had a full selection of Model T rims in stock, and to my amazement they had new Ton Truck retaining rings in stock. I immediately purchased two and took them home with my souvenirs.
It is now May 2020. All events are cancelled due to Covid-19. What better time to start a restoration? I’ve unearthed the cab from the corner of the shed. I’ve also removed the steel cladding from one side of the cab, in order to assess the condition of the woodwork. All the woodwork will need to be replaced due to woodworm. The woodwork is complete and will make perfect templates. When I rebuild the wood framework, I will then concentrate on the steel cladding.
My next job will be to rebuild the running gear and engine. I look forward to 2021 when all club members will be back driving their cars and I hopefully will be acting out my childhood stories, driving around in my Model T Ton Truck.
15th May 2020