Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Doctor's Coupe

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 13, 2024, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

As I was visiting with a long-time car collector friend, he told me that he was going to sell his 1926 Ford Model T Doctor’s Coupe. I had a couple of cars that he was interested in and wanted to know if I would be interested in making a trade. I told him that I wasn’t interested in Model T’s. They were too old for me, and I knew nothing about them.

A few days later, he posted the Doctor’s Coupe on Facebook Messenger. When I saw the photos, I fell in love with the car. I had never seen a Model T coupe before. I decided to call my friend and see if we could make a deal. I made him an offer, and the Model T Doctor’s Coupe was mine.

A few days later, my friend delivered the Model T to my shop. He gave me a quick driving lesson after driving the car off the trailer. Model Ts are different from modern vehicles in the way they drive. On the floor are three pedals, just like the manual transmission cars of today. But the pedals serve very different functions. 

The left pedal is the clutch on the cars I am used to driving. When you push on the clutch, the car’s transmission disengages from the motor. But on a Model T, you press hard on the left pedal, bands tighten on the transmission, and the car moves forward in low gear. When you have built enough speed, you let off the left pedal, and the car shifts into high gear. This car has only two speeds forward.  Push down for low, and lift for high. 

On the right-hand side, you have a conventional brake pedal. When you want to stop, you step on it, just like in a modern car. The only difference is the location of the pedal. In the vehicles that I am used to driving, the right pedal is the gas pedal that controls the engine's speed. But on a model T, the right pedal engages a brake band on the outside of the transmission and slows the car.  The brakes on a Model T are weak, and you must be very careful when driving.

Now, can you guess what the center pedal is for? When you want to back up, you step on the center pedal, and the car backs up. The dual-purpose, hand-operated Emergency Brake and Clutch Release are also located on the floor to the driver's left. It is pulled back toward the driver and serves as the parking brake. But pushing the handle halfway into a vertical position puts the car into Neutral, essential for stopping and reversing.  Moving the handle toward the driver’s feet puts the Model T in top gear.

Modern drivers will not be used to two controls on the steering wheel. These two levers are positioned under the steering wheel. This one on the left is the spark advance, retard in the up position, advance down. On the other side is the hand throttle. The Model T has no accelerator on the floor; instead, the engine speed is controlled by this hand throttle. As you move it down, the engine goes faster and faster.

After driving around at my shop for a few minutes, I was ready to try the Model T on the highway. I needed gas in the fuel tank and headed for the nearest gas station. The highway heading into town from my shop has a fairly steep incline. The Model T struggled to make it up the hill as I mashed down on the low-gear pedal. I chugged along at around five miles an hour. 

When I reached the gas station, I opened the flap on the cowl and removed the gas cap. When I could see the gas nearing the top of the tank, I put the gas nozzle back on the pump, replaced the gas cap, and got back in the Model T. I was still nervous while driving. The controls were so different, and the little car was so slow that I worried about the traffic passing me at highway speeds. 

That evening, I watched many YouTube videos explaining how the Model T transmission and pedals worked. My new purchase intrigued me, and I wanted to learn all I could about it. I was also fascinated by the tremble coils the Model T uses in its ignition system. 

As I was getting ready for bed, a thought suddenly came to my mind. I didn't pay for the gas when I drove the Model T to the gas station and filled the tank. I am used to using a credit card for my gas purchases, but the station nearest my shop doesn’t have card readers at the pump. As I thought about it, I clearly remembered driving off without paying. 

I didn’t sleep well all night, tossing and turning, knowing I had not paid for my gas. First thing in the morning, I drove to the gas station to pay for the gas. I was embarrassed and apologetic as I walked into the station and told them what had happened. I felt like a thief, even though it had been unintentional.

I thought about the passage in Leviticus 5:17(NCV), “If a person sins and does something the Lord has commanded not to be done, even if he does not know it, he is still guilty. He is responsible for his sin.” I wondered, can we be guilty for sinful responses that seem to happen to us automatically? Can we consider sin voluntary if it is not consciously chosen? What if I unintentionally drive off without paying for my gas?

As I was paying for the gas, I had the assurance of God’s forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

Gentle Reader, God has promised to forgive us if we confess our sins. Part of confession is making things right. I hold on to the promise found in Hebrews 10:22 (NCV): Let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith because we have been made free from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”

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