23 August 2007

Horseless Carriage

In Eliza's Hope I have a scene where Jewel Bennett goes on a picnic with her new found friend, Caesar Gallo. He owns a Model T or what was known as a horseless carriage. Knowing next to nothing about these wonderful old automobiles, I had to go to the source. I contacted the Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club on the web. The president was kind enough to give me two contact names - Dave and Jim. People love to talk about their passions, and I received such wonderful information from these two owners of Model T's. Dave actually went as far as reading the chapter where I featured the automobile, making terrific suggestions so it read more authentic.

This is the great thing about writing historical fiction. I learn something new every time I begin a new novel.

Some facts I picked up about 1913 Model T's:

Jim B. did some research when I asked him about 1913 Model T colors. They were virtually all a very dark blue. You will see these models in various colors on the road today, but they have been repainted to reflect the new owner's preference. Like the red car above, its a snazzy color, but originally it probably was blue.

They didn't have self starters. There were several strange knobs and dials to turn. So how did you start a Model T. Jim gave me this bit of information, and rather a longer explanation, too. I'll give you the short version!

Spark level is on the left. Push it all the way up.Throttle is on the right. Pull it 1/4 of the way down.Crab adjustment is under the dash. Turn it 1/4 to 1/2 counter clockwise.Pull crank up 1/4 turn (without wrapping thumb) twice to prime.Turn switch to either "bat" or "mag"... try "bat" first.Pull crank up 1/4 turn (without wrapping thumb) rapidly until it starts.....or if it has a starter button, push the button.If the switch is on "bat" and is working OK, you'll hear the coils buzzingon and off as the engine cranks.When it starts, immediately move the spark lever to 3/4 of the way down,and adjust the throttle to idle.When it warms up (about 1 minute), put the carb adjustment back to whereit was.

This is how it ended up in my story, an excerpt from Eliza's Hope:

Caesar let go of his grip. He stood and held out his hand. "Come. I'm going to teach you to drive."

Jewel stared at him, unable to figure him out. One minute he tried to seduce her, and the next, teach her to drive? Unable to contain her nerves, she laughed, all her tension dissipating. "You expect me to control that hunk of metal?"

"You call my baby a hunk of metal.” He pressed his fist into his chest. "I'm deeply offended."

Jewel cocked her brows at him. "I apologize, but I'm not driving."

"Fear not, I'm an excellent teacher."

Caesar opened the passenger door for Jewel to scoot into the driver's side. She squared her shoulders and firmly planted her feet. No way would she get into that steel contraption, and to make her point, she placed her hands on her hips.

"I will not let anything happen to you," Caesar urged. "I promise."

She frowned.

"Come, when did you ever back down from a dare?"

Jewel's frown dipped further, and she settled into the driver's seat. Frightened by all the fandangle knobs and levers, she watched Caesar set the levers. Then he walked to the front of the motorcar and pulled the crank a quarter of the way up.

"Turn the switch to magneto," he instructed.

Jewel looked at the confusing dials on the dashboard but found the one marked magneto and did as he asked. When he pulled the crank a buzz rattled under the hood. He pulled the crank up again. The engine knocked and caught. He came up to her side and pointed to a lever near her left arm. "Move this three-quarter of the way down."

As she moved the lever down, the engine vibrated under her seat, and the steering wheel shook. "I can't do this!"

Caesar touched her shoulder. She didn't realize he sat next to her, to busy concentrating on the task set before her.

"We'll let her warm up a little. Listen, this is important. There are three pedals on the floor."

Jewel took notice of the pedals by her feet and listened intently, fearing she'd forget. Visions of the motorcar careening off the road paralyzed her hands to the wheel. "I can't do this."

"Anyone can drive. Listen. The foot pedal to the far left is the forward pedal. When it's pressed down you’re in low gear. Letting it all the way up puts you in high gear. The middle is reverse and the right one is the brake. It's simple."

Jewel hesitated. "I don't want to do this."

Caesar stayed seated, saying nothing. This man was stubborn as a bull. Shaking her head, she warned he was making a mistake, but he laughed and urged her to move forward.

Pressing on the left pedal, she eased the car onto the road. The car lurched along with her heart. Caesar coaxed her to continue. He kept his hand on her upper arm and this fueled her courage. The motorcar's weight made it difficult to steer, and she gripped the steering wheel tighter. Curling her lips in concentration, she focused on the surface of the road, praying to avoid the potholes.

Happy Reading!
Eliza's Hope