Automobile, half-scale, Ford Model T 1912, Runabout, two-door, single seat, wood/metal/vinyl/rubber, made by Richard (Bill) Gilbert, Eastlakes, NSW, Australia, c1970
Richard Gilbert of Eastlakes, NSW, had always wanted a Model T Ford but the famous veteran cars, made between 1908 and 1927, were too expensive to buy. So in the late 1960s he decided to build one himself. It took him 1,000 hours over 2 years to complete with virtually everything made by hand including the wheels, upholstery, running gear and even the hubcaps. The half-scale representation of a 1912 Model T runabout is powered by a two-stroke lawnmower engine located at the rear in the petrol tank. The model car has a top speed of 45 kph.
The Model T is significant for being the car which was produced by Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan, in very large quantities and at such an inexpensive price that millions of people all over the world were for the first time able to enjoy the freedom and independence of motoring. An astounding 15.5 million Model Ts were produced between 1908 and 1927, amounting to half the world's automobile output in that period. The car was devoid of all the usual fancy adornments such as brass carriage lamps, plush upholstery and flower vases common in luxury cars. It was easy to maintain, simple, sturdy, versatile and had interchangeable parts.
This half-scale Model T is a good example of a homebuilt model engineering project undertaken at the tail end of the period when home hobby projects proliferated. The car was featured in the "Sydney Morning Herald" Hobbies Exhibition held in the Sydney Lower Town Hall in the 1970s.
"Richard's Model Way of Life" in "TV Times", 10 February 1973. p.12.
Assistant Curator, Science & Industry
The half scale Model T Ford was made by Richard (Bill) Gilbert, from the Sydney suburbs of Rosebery and later Eastlakes. Richard made extensive measurements of the full-size version and fashioned the parts all to scale using only a few machine tools.
Richard Gilbert was a part time Sydney actor. He started his acting career in the film "Smithy" (1946) and later television shows including Reg Grundy's "The Restless Years" (1977-81) in which he played Mervyn Baggott, an interfering neighbour, and Crawford Productions' "Division 4" (1969-75) and "Homicide" (1964-76). He also worked as a textile machinery maintenance mechanic.
Richard displayed his half-scale Model T Ford at various shows and it was driven around Oran Park Raceway by his 14 year-old daughter in a race for Model Ts. The model was donated to the Museum by Richard in 1983. For the centenary of the Model T Ford in 2008, the car was displayed in the Powerhouse Discovery Centre together with the full-size 1916 Model T Ford tourer in the collection.