T Thoughts – Robert Lambert

1915 Model T

As every Model T owner knows, starting the car by hand is fairly straightforward, or is it? Standard procedure before attempting to start the car is to prime the carb with fuel, set the advance/retard and throttle levers. Finally, when everything is set, turn on the ignition switch and give it a wind… If at first you don’t succeed try, try and keep trying eventually you will be on your way.

Every driver’s fear when starting their car by hand is that the engine will kick back. Everybody knows the mantra of check your settings not once but twice before cranking the handle. I guess you know where this story is going!!

Scaphoid fracture – more commonly known as “Chauffeur’s fracture” since it often resulted when a car backfired whilst still holding the starting crank handle.

I am the owner of a 1915 Brass Touring Car. Originally built in the USA, the car was imported into the UK and I purchased it in 2016. The pros of the car are numerous including Bright Shiny Brass that loves to be polished, a Magneto that works and Electric Headlights!! The only con for this car is that it is Left Hand Drive. Not really a problem as you get used to it and it does not affect the driving of the car in any way.

Scaphoid fracture – more commonly known as “Chauffeur’s fracture” since it often resulted when a car backfired whilst still holding the starting crank handle.

On September 10th last year, I had travelled to my lockup to clean the car as I was registered to attend the IVVCC Brass Brigade event at the beautiful 5* Lyrath Hotel that weekend. After spending the afternoon cleaning, polishing, greasing and oiling it was time to put the car back into its garage as we had an early start on Saturday to travel to the event. Before I attempted to start the car, I turned on the ignition switch and at the same time I observed that the throttle lever was in the correct position.

I gripped the starting handle as per normal (thumb under the handle) and as the car normally starts with only a quarter turn of the handle, I expected it to start straight away. What I didn’t expect was for the car to kick back, it did and I was not prepared. In the blink of an eye, with the sound of a snap (similar to breaking a dried twig) I had succumbed to the dreaded Chauffeur’s wrist.

This brings me back to the only con that I had for the car, it is Left Hand Drive. I had cut a corner in my haste to get home. I had checked the throttle lever as I leaned in from the offside front door and assumed that the advance/retard lever was ok too. If the car was a Right-Hand Drive,

I would have been leaning in to turn the ignition on from the nearside front door and would have seen that the advance/retard was advanced hence the kick back. It had become apparent that when I was polishing the Brass Steering Gear Cover, I had accidently moved the lever, not realising what I had done my fate was sealed. Instead of spending a weekend in the 5* Lyrath estate I ended up in the not so 5* Beaumont Hospital.

Unfortunately for me, the break, although in my arm was very close to the wrist joint and the A+E Orthopaedics team made the decision to operate to insert a plate and screws to hold it all together. I was doomed!!, Friday evening in A+E, I was in it for the long haul.

Thankfully by midnight I was sent to a ward in preparation for my operation on Saturday. Saturday duly came and went but alas no operation. Sure, isn’t Sunday another day. Sure enough 1st thing Sunday I was whisked away, didn’t even get my breakfast in bed. Around 1pm I returned to the ward job done.

Thankfully everything has healed, although I have less power in that wrist now and I have a fear of starting the car but in time this will change. I guess a Model T is like a wild animal, you can tame it but you never know when it will bite you!!

Safe driving everyone.

Robert Lambert

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