Homemade Ford Model T Pickup

Wisconsin man handcrafts fantasy truck: “1919” Ford Model T Pickup

| February 2013

Henry Hummelbeck owes his collection of old iron to practicality, patience and luck. But his pride and joy — a Ford Model T pickup he built by hand — he owes to his wife, Margaret.

Henry and Margaret moved to Chicago from Germany in 1962. Over the years, while working as a plasterer and drywall man, Henry began almost by accident to build a collection of old iron. “I am all the time interested in old stuff,” he says. When he saw a Model T in a customer’s garage, Henry told the owner how Margaret would enjoy the vintage automobile. A few years later, the man offered Henry the car — a 1918 Model T Roadster — and Henry bought it. “All I had to do to it was overhaul the engine,” he says. “Then I kept it in my garage in Chicago.”

A few years later, when Henry heard of a widow who wanted to sell her late husband’s 1929 Model A Sedan, he decided he would have a mate for his Roadster. The Model A has a 4-cylinder engine that puts out 40 hp and is capable of speeds up to 50 mph. Henry’s Model T Roadster has a 20 hp engine; it can be driven at 25-30 mph.

One day Henry and some friends were sitting in his workshop, looking at a picture of an old Model T pickup with its box filled with flowers. “We found that picture at an auction,” he says. “We got it because Margaret likes flowers, and she especially liked seeing flowers in the pickup.”

As the men talked, someone suggested they build a pickup like the one in the picture. Margaret was all for it: She had long wanted to put flowers in the bed of a pickup like the one in the photo. “She said, ‘make a flower wagon for me,’” Henry recalls, “so we decided to build one.” Ford did not build a Model T pickup in 1919, but if the company had, there’s a good chance it would have looked like Henry’s fantasy Ford.

Cardboard pattern

Henry found the frame for a 1919 Model T at a farm auction; the farmer had used it as the bottom of a hay wagon. A friend found a 1919 Ford Model T engine, and another friend came up with fenders.