No need for
Tom Daw has spent nearly a half century under
the hood of Henry Ford's horseless carriages
These days its unusual
to see much activity around Tom Daws repair shop in Wayland. Tom,
whos nearly 83, is retired after more than 25 years restoring and
rebuilding antique automobiles. But before he called it quits, Tom had
to finish building one antique car he actually started nearly 40 years
before a reproduction of Henry Fords 1896 quadricycle.
Daw takes a drive past his Wayland garage in a replica of Henry Fords
1896 quadricycle. In 1963 Tom read a magazine article about the vehicle
and spent years collecting parts and thinking about how to build the
machine before starting it. He says it became an 40-year obsession
until he finished it only recently.
Long before the Ford Motor
Company founder created his famous Model T, he experimented with the horseless
carriage. Fords first motorized vehicle looked more like a four-wheeled
bicycle than an automobile. It ran on a tiny two-cylinder engine mounted
on a frame topped with a bicycle seat, which was later changed to a carriage
seat. It wasnt the vehicle to revolutionize transportation in the
United States, but it was a start.
In 1963 Tom read a Popular
Science article about a Ford engineer building a replica of the quadricycle
and from that moment he was hooked on the idea of building one himself.
I still have the article
around here. Its pretty tattered and torn because Ive read
it hundreds of times, says Tom. It became an obsession. I
had to do it.
Tom managed the Wayland Lumber
Company for nearly 27 years. When the company was sold he found himself
looking for other work. He worked for several years for the Montgomery
Wards store in nearby Keokuk, Iowa, and began tinkering with Ford Model
Ts. He decided to quit his job and go into business, calling his shop
Tom Daw Antique Auto Restoration Center.
is known to have encyclopedic knowledge of Fords Model T automobiles.
One of my good friends
said, Well, you wont have enough business in there to open
the doors. And you know, it wasnt a month or two that I had
so much to do that it boggled my mind.
Tom started his business in
the 1970s in the midst of a renaissance of interest in Ford Model Ts and
Model As. But as he worked he continued to think about and study the Popular
Science article and convinced himself he could build the quadricycle.
Hed already begun collecting parts, or rather pieces that he could
make into parts, for the vehicle.
Of course everything Ford used
to make the vehicle he had to make himself, and Tom did the same.
It started with a farm
sale where I found a differential with what I thought were the right gears.
I bought it off a junk pile for a dollar, recalls Tom. Then
I bought the pipe for the cylinders. Six months later a friend of mine
found a round piece of steel 18-inches in diameter. That became the flywheel.
I just started stashing things and picking up things and finally I started
working on it.
At first I thought there
is no way I could build it because it would take a terrific amount of
skill and a large number of tools. Well, I acquired the tools and I honestly
dont think I had enough skills until I was 70 years old.
Fords original quadricycle
engine was a simple device that used no carburetor or starter. Ford started
the motor by dripping gasoline into tubes and hand turning the large flywheel
until the motor fired. He could also push start it, but because it didnt
have a clutch he had to quickly jump on before it got away from him.
The quadricycle also had no
brakes. Ford rigged a lever that loosened a drive belt allowing the vehicle
to coast to a stop. He often had to rub his feet against the front wheels
to bring the machine to a complete stop. A friend rode a bicycle in front
of the vehicle warning people with horses to get control of their animals.
makes a roadside adjustment to the engine of his replica Ford quadricycle.
By todays standards the engine in the quadricycle is a simple
design. Fords engine had no carburetor and no starter. Above:
With the original design in
mind, Tom built his quadricycle with a few modern conveniences like a
carburetor, brakes and an electric starter.
Ford was 33 years old
and could push start it, jump on and go. When youre 83 you dont
jump very far so I had to improvise, Tom says.
Using only the descriptions,
some measurements and a few photographs from the Popular Science
article, Tom figured out how to build nearly every piece of the vehicle,
except for one. He couldnt get a look at the main bearings on the
crankshaft so he visited the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., where
the original quadricycle is on display.
One advantage of Fords
engine design is that nearly every part is visible. Once Tom got a look
at the original quadricycle he carved wooden patterns of the bearings,
which a foundry in Keokuk used as forms to make the real thing. Tom says
that at $160 the bearings were his biggest single expense in the car.
Tom says he believes his replica
is the only quadricycle with a working engine based on the original other
than the two cars in the Ford museum. He has seen replicas powered by
lawn tractor motors, but he didnt want to take that easy route,
works on a Model T with a custom built body that he modified with
a passenger seat which helps his 81-year-old wife, Ida, get in the
auto. Tom designed and built a seat which slides on a set of rails
out of the Model T and onto the ground. Tom and Ida have traveled
around the United States for 30 years participating in Model T shows
That simple little engine
is the heart and soul of the car, says Tom.
Nearly 40 years after a magazine
article became an obsession, Tom fired up the finished engine and drove
off for the first time in the quadricycle. Hes been a regular at
fairs and festivals in north Missouri and southeastern Iowa ever since.
Building the quadricycle capped
a long career restoring automobiles that began with the Ford Model T.
Tom bought his first T in 1951, trading a Wizzer motorized bicycle and
$35 for the car. Thats a far cry from his pride and joy, a completely
restored bright red 1911 Model T which has cost him considerably more
to rebuild, including a set of original 1910 Model T headlights which
They were well worth
it, but I still had to think about it for awhile, says Tom.
Though he claims to be retired,
Tom still has a few projects left. Toms wife, Ida, 81, a Clark County
schoolteacher for 42 years, accompanied her husband to Model T shows and
tours across the country until her health began slowing her. Because Ida
has lived with arthritis nearly her entire life (she was diagnosed while
still in her 20s), Tom invented a passenger seat in one of his Model Ts
that slides sideways on rails out of the car and onto the pavement allowing
Ida to get into the vehicle comfortably.
|Tom added some
conveniences to his quadricycle like a starter and brakes. Tom now
enjoys taking the vehicle to area fairs.
Tom says his wife has always
enjoyed his interest in old cars almost as much as he has and will sometimes
sit in the shop in a comfortable chair and watch him work.
And if you ask Tom what tool
or gadget hes made that hes most proud of, hell tell
you without hesitation. Its a walker with a platform to stand on
mounted on four wheels that he uses to help his wife move around their
home. Thats the one thing Ive made thats done
the most good for someone, he says.
Tom is an encyclopedia of knowledge
about Model T parts, variations and history. In the tightknit Model T
collectors community hes still the person to see for help
finding parts or advice on rebuilding the Model T engine. His shop is
a parts museum.
But what is noticeably missing
from his shop is anything resembling shop manuals or plans. If shop manuals
for Model Ts existed, he still wouldnt rely on them.
If I need something,
I just make it. You know what they say, Necessity is the mother