This Avfuel beauty is a Ford Model TT, one of approximately 195,000 produced between 1922 and 1923 before mass production. As a sturdier vehicle than the standard Model T, the Model TT came equipped with special gearing and a rear axle known as a “worm gear”. Straight off the Ford assembly line, Model TTs were not produced with the rear cab you see on our model until 1924. Only the front fenders, hood and steering column came standard; however, many consumers chose to outfit their Model TT with a custom cab and bed configuration, constructed by contracted cabinet makers. The specific design of the custom cab depended on the truck’s function – farmers often preferred a stake bed, while gas distributors preferred a tanker design. At the time, gas stations were sparse, so businessmen would drive these tankers from city to city, selling fuel and oil directly out of the truck to car owners and the aviation market.
Avfuel stumbled upon the Model TT in a barn acquired with the purchase of Rengo Brothers, a regional fuel supplier, in 1992. Avfuel staff discovered the Model TT covered in hay bales and miscellaneous metal parts while traipsing through the barn to pick up fuel farm equipment. Its restoration quickly turned into a labor of love, resulting in the gorgeous fuel truck we have today.
Our Model TT required a ground-up restoration, stripping it down to the frame for a complete rebuild. Superior Collision completed the work on the frame and the front end, while the Henry Ford Museum assisted with rebuilding the unique engine, dissimilar to modern designs. With minor modifications, it now starts and runs smoothly.
The standard TT transmission was outfitted with a rare, aftermarket, six-speed Warford auxiliary transmission. The Warford allows for higher speeds and low gearing, rendering it difficult to drive as it requires both feet and hands to work synchronously. As for the wooden wheels and the braking system, a local Model T expert ensured they were assembled as precisely as possible.
In an effort to keep the body and cab intact, the hand-bent sheet metal was gently removed from the wooden frame. All of the wood was remade by a professional cabinet maker, including the sides and rear cab, preserving the oak’s natural finish to stay true to the Model TT’s origins. We successfully reattached the original sheet metal to the wood, and had a new seat and roof made in accordance with original specifications.
After completing the restoration, we contacted Trailer Tech in Pontiac, MI, who created the stainless steel tank you see today. We wanted the truck to be useful and functional without compromising any of its antique charm, so we decided to outfit the truck with working fluorescent lights, a wing opening, and drains hidden within the piping so it could be used as a large ice chest. The truck also includes custom electrical work, so as to hide wires from obvious view. The back cabinet is fitted with a TV and the wooden sides can fold down to accommodate pamphlets or display genuine gas and oil containers. The cans were hand-painted by Avfuel’s own Randy Harrison, while the well-known Detroit pin-striper, “Jim the Painter,” did the custom lettering and pin-striping on the truck and wheels. This extensive renovation was truly a labor of love by all involved.