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WW1 Ambulance


U.S. WWI M1917 Field Ambulance -  Built on the 1917 Ford Model-T chassis.

(The photo below shows an ambulance near Reims France during WWI)

   The M1917 Ambulance rear body was made of wood. The first manufacturing contract was awarded to the Ford Motor Company in July 1917 and completed in September 1917. Ford Manufactured more than 2,400 1917 Ambulance bodies through the course of the War. The Model T chassis and the Ambulance body were shipped separately and joined together once they were delivered in France.

   The M1917 Ambulance's light weight made it well suited for use on the muddy and shell torn roads in forward combat areas. If stuck in a hole, a group of soldiers could lift one out without much difficulty.

   The light wooden body was mounted on a standard Ford Model "T" chassis.The four cylinder engine produced about 20 horsepower. There was no electric starter; the engine had to be cranked by hand.

   The vehicle could carry three stretchers or four seated patients and two more could sit with the driver. The M1917 Model T was well liked by the drivers and affectionately nick named "Tin Lizzie". Red Cross volunteer drivers including writer Ernest Hemingway and cartoonist Walt Disney, drove the Model T Ambulance during WWI.

Since there are no surviving M1917 Ambulances left over from WWI .....

    I decided to reconstruct the past by using an original 1917 Model T Ford with a 1920 engine. I found this car in a Model T graveyard in a field in Eastern Kansas.  With the the help of my friend Dave Gird, we loaded the old "Tin Lizzy" on to his trailer and delivered it to my workshop in Kansas. My project car arrived June 2009 and the below photos show the condition of the car as it was found.

          Dave Gird - Wondering what I'm going to do with this rusted hulk                         Dave Gird and Mark Freimiller positioning "Tin Lizzy" on the trailer


    As we towed the "Tin Lizzy"  through towns and on the highways, I could see people take notice and their heads would turn with curiosity. As I looked behind us in the rear view mirror, I could see the old Model T happily bouncing on her spring suspension. It almost seemed like the car was smiling......happy to be saved from the earth......happy to have another chance to live in this century.

My project car as it was first delivered into my workshop June 2009


Photos June 2009




    I had never worked on a Model T before so I had a little learning to do. I contacted the online Model T parts houses for free catalogs, and I searched the internet for information on the Model T Ford. There are some great websites for Model T Clubs and Organizations. I will list some links later on so you can visit their web pages.

    The first order of business was to dis-assemble the vehicle; evaluate the parts; then create a shopping list for what what parts I needed to replace. Then I created another list of parts that I could restore and re-use.

    I turned the engine over with the hand crank - it rotated freely and was not frozen up - at least the motor was not blown and there was a possibility of re-building it.......

I ended up starting that old engine after it had been sitting since the 1930's
without an overhaul !!!!!!

see page 3

    It takes patience to take the old Model T apart. You need a lot of penetrating oil; a good wire brush to clean the bolt threads. A torch and a cut of wheel works for the stubborn bolts that are too far gone.

    I have to say is was a real joy exploring Henry Ford's automotive triumph. Learning the simplicity of the design and the genius that was the Model T Ford.

    As I removed parts, the frame became exposed and the mechanical portions of the car become very accessible. Everything on this car was going to need some level of restoration....there was no coasting and no free ride for me.


Home               Model T Page 2

David L. O'Neal
shellshock at ww1history.com
Kansas, USA

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