Modern Problems with Early Motoring: The Replica Ford Quadricycle
Kevin Ammons: Welcome to the Preservation Technology Podcast. The show that brings you the people and projects that are advancing the future of America’s heritage. I’m Kevin Ammons with the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
Today we join NCPTT’s Alex Beard as she speaks with conservation technician Andrew Ganem and former performance engineer at Ford Racing Mose Nowland at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In this podcast, they will discuss the restoration of a reproduction of Henry Ford’s first vehicle, the 1896 Quadricycle.
Alex Beard: How are you guys doing today?
Mose Nowland: We’re doing fine, Alex. Thank you.
Andrew Ganem: I have no complaints.
Alex Beard: Oh great. I wanted to start by asking what you guys do at the museum and could you tell us a little bit about the projects you’ve been working on?
Mose Nowland: My name is Mose Nowland and I am a volunteer here at the Henry Ford Museum. I’ve only been here about three years now after a lengthy tour with Ford Motor Company. Retired in 2012 on a Friday and came to the museum on Monday because I knew it would be very interesting and diversified activities.
Andrew Ganem: My name’s Andrew Ganem. I’m a conservation technician. I go where I’m needed and then I do miscellaneous work. That’s working on cars to cleaning up someone’s office. I’ve been here for about five months, since the end of May, and I’ve enjoyed every day.
Alex Beard: Sounds great. I remember you guys had talked a little bit about a quadricycle project. Could you guys maybe tell me a little bit of the history of the quadricycle and let me know what you guys are doing right now, working on it?
Mose Nowland: Of course.
Andrew Ganem: Henry Ford had an experience in his youth and he saw a steam traction engine. That amazed him that something could move on its own power. Ever since then he always wanted to replicate that. As gasoline engines came to be in the 1890’s there was kind of a boom of inventors who were coming up with horseless carriages.
Henry Ford finished his in 1896 and that would be the quadricycle. It’s a two cylinder, about four horsepower horseless carriage. Finished it in late spring. At 2:00am he finished his project and he was about to roll it out of his workshop and he realized that the door to his workshop was too small for his creation to be rolled out. Very frustrated, he took an ax and he busted down the wall and he pushed his creation outside. Technically, the second horseless carriage in Detroit started its life and it’s made its journey all the way to here and it’s been replicated with the piece of equipment we have in the lab that we’ve been working on. It’s been here for 52 years?
Mose Nowland: Since 1963. We acquired it from a Ford engineer. He was actually an illustrator at Ford Motor Company. His passion was restoring Model A’s and Model T’s. Then he saw the quadricycle, its simplicity and the interest that people had towards the car and decided to replicate it. There were no plans available or anything like that, but being an illustrator, was quite gifted at design and methods of design.
The original quadricycle was on display in a museum in a glass cage. He was not allowed to approach the glass cage for measurements or even get inside of the glass cage. That did not deter him. He developed methods of estimating lengths, distances, diameters by standing out in the aisle and sometimes would adapt a little device that he could ratio the view of a part and make a drawing. He preceded that way.
He got about 50% of the parts made and the museum realized how serious he was with his project and the passion that he had for completing this thing. They did allow him to approach the original car and take some measurements, but that was towards the end of the program. He pretty much had his information he needed.
From there he would buy ready shelf available material. When it came to special machine projects, he would rely on the Ford experimental machine shop to make a part. They cooperated, it was sort of an under the table project. They cooperated with him and finally after the museum got wind of it and some other areas of the company got wind of it, it became an above board project and everybody cooperated.
He finished his version of the first quadricycle in 1963. That is the piece that we have here now. We are maintaining it and operating it as required for special events in the village.
Alex Beard: Thank you so much for that history you guys. I had a couple questions about that. How close is it to the original?
Mose Nowland: Well, it would take a specialist to pick out the differences. There is a slight mystery about the ignition system that is a mechanical grounding system inside of the combustion chamber. We’ve never been able to look inside of his original for his design, shape, and material he used for those moving pieces. But, George had imagined what they would be. I’m sure that he’s replicated pretty darn close because there were certain geometries that had to be accomplished that could only probably end up looking alike whether it was replicated or the original.
Alex Beard: How would the original quadricycle- still currently at the Henry Ford Museum correct? How is that displayed now?
Mose Nowland: Yeah. That is displayed in a time, what would you say? Evolution of the vehicles. It’s right at the head of the row of the progression in automotive technology and models that were built.
Alex Beard: Not in a glass case anymore.
Andrew Ganem: Not anymore.
Mose Nowland: You still can’t get close to it.
Alex Beard: How many reproductions are there actually?
Andrew Ganem: There are numerous reproductions around the world. I don’t know if we could count them. George made three. Two are here at the museum, one running, one is said to be in running condition, although I’ve never seen it running. The third one is non-runner made specifically for the Ford Motor Company and it’s in their world headquarters on display.
Alex Beard: The one that you guys have been working on, you guys have gotten it running. How is it running? Is it running smoothly? Can you just talk about the challenges of the project?
Mose Nowland: It’s quite a challenge to keep it running, Alex. The engine runs with a tremendous amount of vibration and it’s very hard on components and connections throughout the car. We have successfully, and we understand our predecessors had maintained the car and used it, has had the same problems. It’s been problematic from day one I’m sure.
Anyway, Andrew here had a nice experience this summer at the Old Car Festival. I was not part of that, but I understand that they got it to run 30 minutes at a time before something fell off of it or whatever. No disrespect for the vehicle. It’s designed to destroy itself.
Alex Beard: Andrew, can you tell us a little bit about your experience driving it around?
Andrew Ganem: I can. Our Old Car Festival is two days in September. All of our trial runs with the vehicle before that weekend were on very hot, humid days and it would only want to go for about 10, 11 minutes on a good run. The Old Car Festival weekend we were having very cool weather in the mid-sixties, which was absolutely perfect, and we were able to get around this factor of weather and humidity, which was actually freezing the gasoline as it was going into the engine, which is a whole ‘nother scientific thing that I won’t get into.
We were able to get around that factor and see what was actually- what the other problems were and then work them out. The biggest problem we found was that the way you set the timing is you have to remove the head of the engine and get inside of the cylinder and adjust a screw that’s on a hammer that ignites the spark plug. Those timing screws were either advancing themselves or more commonly retarding themselves and the engine wouldn’t run correctly and it would eventually peter out after about 20 minutes of run time.
We were extremely happy with being able to run it for longer than 10 minutes, but we were still very determined to get it running in a reliable way. After every 20 minute run, we’d have to take it apart and reset everything and then put it back together. Let it cool down first because the only thing slowing us down was how hot that engine gets.
Alex Beard: What type of fuel does it run on?
Mose Nowland: It runs on gasoline. And, a moment ago Andrew mentioned the gasoline freezing, which has been a terrible problem for us, because it’s actually a frosting of the carburetor and the air/fuel mixture goes wacky at the time. It’s not stoichiometric enough to support combustion. It appears down in the deep throat of the intake manifold. You never know what problem you’re up against whether it is the carburetor icing or if it’s one of the other things that commonly fails.
To get a lengthy run is, as Andrew pointed out, appears to be with the humidity and air temperature will either let you run for a continued period of time or maybe 30, 40 feet in travel.
Alex Beard: Yeah. That’s so cool too. I know that in the village they do the Model T rides so I bet it was interesting for people to see you actually driving around a quadricycle reproduction.
Andrew Ganem: It was a lot of fun because it wasn’t just the Model T’s going in the village as they do every day, it was everybody who brought their car was also driving around. It was a lot of fun being in traffic in a car that’s from 1896.
Mose Nowland: It’s probably, without a doubt, the oldest vehicle for the weekend event.
Alex Beard: Still going strong, kind-of.
Mose Nowland: Yes, sporadically.
Alex Beard: On a good day.
Andrew Ganem: Right now we’re currently- it’s partially disassembled right now because we’re going to make it very reliable over the winter.
Alex Beard: Is it still in the conservation lab? Do you guys have any plans on putting it on display on the floor possibly next to the original?
Mose Nowland: It is still in the conservation lab. We’re preparing and collecting material to make our modifications. We had a terrific learning period this last fall at the Old Car Festival because the boys were able to run the car at a greater consecutive amount of minutes than we’ve ever had. When you do that then you begin to sort out what the problems are.
The vehicle’s currently in our lab and we will be making some new pieces for the ignition system. I’ve never known of it to be displayed out on the floor in competition with the original, but we do use it as a utility vehicle for different film events and on display at the Old Car Festival.
Alex Beard: How are you guys going to make some new parts? Do you guys have molds that you guys are able to use?
Mose Nowland: Basically it’s just flat stock material that you mill into shape. I have the privilege of using a Bridgeport mill to make items like that and then round stock for shafts and so on. We purchase tungsten rod for our contact surface so it won’t erode under the high voltage discharge. It’s basically whittling it out of metal and they’re one of a kind parts.
Alex Beard: Thank you guys so much. I’m really glad that you guys are able to get that car running. It’s a great piece of history and a good learning tool. I hope you guys just continue to learn more about it and work on it a little bit more in the conservation lab.
Mose, could you just tell me a little bit about how you became a volunteer at the Henry Ford Museum after your long career at Ford Racing?
Mose Nowland: Certainly. My career at Ford was pretty intense for the most part because of being in the racing group and attending race season and fixing things promptly. In the Ford racing activity if something failed on Sunday, it better be fixed by next Sunday.
Anyway, I became acquainted with a lot of processes and suppliers and things like that through that program. Everything handled expeditiously. Then the museum started to acquire some of the cars that I was involved with on the track. Our automotive curator at the time, Mr. Bob Casey, was aware of my affiliation and experience with these vehicles. When he had a question or acquired a new car and wanted an evaluation of that car, he would call me to come over to the museum and spend half a day with him inspecting the vehicles and getting him acquainted with it.
About that time he kept leaning on me, what are you going to do when you retire. He knew that I liked to stay active, so I decided that when I did retire that there was two places that I was going to spend time effectively as a volunteer. That was at the Henry Ford or with the Yankee Air Museum. The Henry Ford being very close to home and easy to access and such a diversity of things to work on, I chose to come to the Henry Ford. That’s the path I took to get here and I’m enjoying every day of it. I don’t need to be here as much as I am, but I try and apply my skills wherever they fit.
Alex Beard: What are a couple of the automobiles that we have on display that you worked on?
Mose Nowland: There’s five vehicles out here on display that I have worked on, because I have such a variety of racing experience and fabrication machine shop activities. We have, of course, the 1967 Ford GT40, the Mark IV that won Le Mans in 1966 and ’67. I did work on that car and service it in France for the 24 hour race. I was also fortunate enough to work on a Jim Clark/Dan Gurney Indianapolis cars. That was in ’63, ‘4, and ‘5 and pitted the cars at the races in those years.
Then there’s a couple of NASCAR stock cars here that I worked with the owners and teams engine wise, engine design and development of the special parts. Then there’s one car, we have a presidential limousine that I was a shop supervisor when the Ford Motor Company was building that car for Washington DC and the Secret Service. That car is also here. There’s five cars that I’m acquainted with out on the floor.
Alex Beard: How do you feel about that Mose, walking to work every day and passing some of the things you’ve worked on?
Mose Nowland: I’m very proud of the fact and I’m very appreciative that I get to walk by them and work on them today if needed.
Alex Beard: Yeah. We’re actually going to put some images of some of those vehicles and put some images of the quadricycle running in the village and put a short video online too if any of the listeners would like to see some of these cars that we’re talking about. It’ll be online on NCPTT’s webpage along with the transcription of the podcast.
Mose, also from a preservation standpoint, are there any things that you would’ve changed or modifications you would’ve made to some of the things that you had worked on at Ford Racing now that you know about using archival materials or trying to prolong the life of some of these vehicles?
Mose Nowland: Without a doubt there’s some changes I would make. I have been constantly thinking about some of the activities I was involved with. I’ve also followed technology connected with those components and yes, we would get about four years more current in technology usage.
When I left the company we were in 3D design. That was a big leap forward from the early years of racing. Even since then, the technology’s advanced tremendously. Things can move faster and better and more accurately right now. Absolutely.
Alex Beard: An interesting mix of keeping the performance in mind for the vehicle, but trying to preserve and extend the life of the vehicle now being at a museum.
Are there any projects that you did work on while you were at Ford Racing that you look forward to seeing conserved?
Mose Nowland: Oh yes. In fact, every one of those cars out on the floor I am very proud that I’ve left footprints on them somewhere. It’s very comforting to know that they’re being conserved and other people are enjoying them.
Alex Beard: Andrew, have you worked on any of the cars that Mose has worked on?
Andrew Ganem: Alex, I have. I’ve had the privilege to do that with you.
Alex Beard: Oh yes. The race car.
Andrew Ganem: Yes. Mose has worked on a NASCAR stock car that was driven by an underage driver and the driver won. Was it the Daytona 500?
Mose Nowland: Yes.
Andrew Ganem: Won the Daytona 500. Since he was underage, they couldn’t spray champagne, so they sprayed Coca Cola. This car is on exhibit covered in Coca Cola and confetti. About every year it attracts a lot of dust and they take foam cosmetic wedges and gently remove the dust without disrupting the confetti. When the confetti is disrupted, it has to be re-adhered to the car.
Alex Beard: We don’t want to disrupt any of the signatures of the people that worked on the race team.
Andrew Ganem: Of course. not.
Mose Nowland: I just wanted to add that the- It is a Wood Brothers car, number 21 Fusion that Bayne (Trevor Bayne) drove. They stop in here twice a year, the Wood brothers do, just to take a look at the car and see how it’s being treated. They’re very, very fussy about don’t knock off any of the confetti or change anything. We’ve got terrible black scars on front and rear bumpers where the boys get into the commonly known drafting exercise on a track at 190 mile an hour. We’re not allowed to clean that up. It’s sitting there just the way it had come off the track. They’re keeping tabs on it.
Alex Beard: Yes. I did remember that stuff actually sitting there. I didn’t know if it was dirt, but I sure didn’t touch it.
Do you guys have anything else you’d like to add? Everything you’ve talked about today has been really interesting.
Andrew Ganem: I’d like to make a concluding statement to the quadricycle. I’d like to say that our replica quadricycle has built up a reputation of being the quadricycle everyone sees running around the village during Old Car Festival and has made its own impact in history that’s probably just as important as our original quadricycle.
Alex Beard: Yeah. I can see that the visitors aren’t as far removed from the original nowadays that they see this one actually functioning and running around and having a life of its own.
Andrew Ganem: Carrying on the torch if you would.
Mose Nowland: I’d like to add one thing if I may. A previous year when I was out at the Old Car Festival in charge of the quadricycle, I had two different occasions where gentlemen would approach me and ask me for particular pictures of the car. I’d kind of pull the ropes to one side and let them come in and photograph it. Both of them claimed at the time that they were replicating a car like it also. I offered my email address and phone number. I’ve had contact with them on both occasions, both fellas that are attempting to build them, on suppliers and style of material that was used on it.
That’s an example of the interest that the car has had. People see you going down the village road and wanting to ride with you and things like that is just tremendous. It’s always a big hit and that’s why we’re so dedicated to keep the thing running.
Andrew Ganem: Definitely.
Alex Beard: Yeah. Maybe someday, Mose, some people will try and make some reproductions of cars you’ve worked on.
Mose Nolan: I’m sure they will.
Alex Beard: Thank you guys so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I appreciate it.
Mose Nolan: You’re certainly welcome. Thank you for the privilege of joining you this morning.
Kevin: Thank you for listening to today’s show. If you would like more information, check out our podcast show notes at www.ncptt.nps.gov. Until next time, goodbye everybody.