1920 Ford Model T "Centerdoor" Sedan

Owner: The Lord God Almighty
Earthly caretakers: John M. and Amy Daly Family Millington, IL.

1920 Centerdoor Before pic 1920 Centerdoor After pic
1920 Ford Model T Centerdoor Sedan within days of it's arrival in our garage. Notice that the doors have been removed to keep the body from falling apart.
Click on the picture to see the full size photo.
1920 Model T Centerdoor Sedan after restoration in 1998. This was the first showing for this car. It was at a family gathering. Many rides were given that day.
Click on the picture to see the full size photo.

This 1920 Ford Model T "Centerdoor" Sedan is owned by John M. and Amy Daly of Millington Illinois, though they would say that they are only caring for this car and that it really belongs to God. They have owned the car since 1993 when they bought it from a man in Park Ridge, IL who had owned it for many years. The car had not ran in over 30 years when the Daly's acquired it, but with about an hour tinkering, John had the car running again. The Daly's undertook a complete frame up restoration of this car over a 5 year period. The result is a beautiful Centerdoor Sedan that was honored as the feature car at the 2000 Old Threshers reunion. The car has also participated in many local car shows, tours and just plain driving around on the weekends.

Ford Model T Centerdoor Information

Original Ford Sedan Add
An original Ford advertisement showing the sedan body style. This add is from around 1922. Note the depiction of white tires.
Click on the picture to see the full size photo.
Though the Ford Motor Company started producing the Model T in 1909, the "Centerdoor" Sedan body was not produced until 1915. I say "Centerdoor" Sedan because Ford never called it a "Centerdoor". Ford advertisements labeled only as a 5-passenger Sedan.

The sedan bodies were made by at least two different body builders: the Fisher Body Corporation and the Wadsworth Body Corporation. The Fisher Body Corporation built the Body on the Daly’s sedan. There are subtle differenced between the two manufacturers.

The "Centerdoor" Sedan body was built from 1915 till 1923 when it was replaced by the Fore door sedan and the Tudor sedan. Over the period from 1915 till 1923, around 500,000 "Centerdoor" bodies were built. In 1920 alone, around 81,616 "Centerdoors" were built. The Centerdoor featured here was built on October 19th, 1920, and was one of 3415 Model T's built that day.

The centerdoor body style made Ford one of the first automobile manufactures to offer an enclosed automobile that the entire family could fist into. Remember that ford offered an enclosed 2-passenger coupe in 1909, but the centerdoor which was first offered in 1915 would hold 5 passengers. At the time, the open touring cars and roadsters were the most popular selling body styles, but only 10 years later, the sedan would become the most popular body style.

There were issues with the centerdoor body that made it undesirable at the time including:

  • The public saw them as top-heavy and unstable.
  • They had a lot of glass and safety glass had not yet been invented.
  • The wood in the bodies was susceptible to rot.
  • They were difficult to get in and out of.

As a result, most of these care ended up in the junkyard and few are seen today. Because of this, Bruce McCalley called the centerdoor "the rarest of the common bodied Model T's" because, though many were produced, few are left today and even fewer make it out to be seen in public.

The History of the Daly's Centerdoor

Not much is know about the history of the Daly's car. It was bought through an add placed in the Model T Ford Club Internationals bi-monthly magazine called "The Model T Times". "Centerdoor Sedans do not come up for sale often, and when they do, they usually command a hefty price, much more than we could afford" said John. "When we saw the add for this car, we were not really in the position to be able to afford it, but felt that it could not hurt to go and look at the car. Long story short, we loved it and bought it."

The previous owner had informed the Daly's that he had bought the car with several other Model T's many years before. He had always hope to restore it, but had gotten to the point of realizing that that was not going to happen, so a decision was made to sell the car. The previous owner had also said that he knew that that the car had not run in at least 30 years.

After getting the car home, some minor work was done to the engine, like installing a carburetor, fixing an ignition wire and putting water in the radiator. "Since the gas tank was not connected, and I did not really want to but gas into the tank before checking it, I filled the bowl of the carburetor with gas using an oil can" said John. "I turned on the ignition, pulled it over once with the choke on and on the second pull, it started right up and ran like a champ until the gas in the carburetor was used up. I was so thrilled that I repeated the process. What I did not realize was that the little paw that hold the car in neutral was worn so bad that it would not hold the car in neutral. Upon starting the second time, the vibration caused the hand lever to move forward putting the car into high gear. As the car pushed me across the garage, I pushed hard on the radiator, until the gas was used up in the carburetor. Luckily it ran out before we hit the wall."

During the restoration of the car, John found several items indicating that the car had spent part of it's life in Wisconsin. "I found a gas tank dipstick under the rear seat from a Ford dealer in a town north of Green Bay Wisconsin" said John. "And when I took the interior panel off of the driver side, I found a flyer for a speech by the governor of Wisconsin that happened at an armory near the same town as the Ford dealer. I do not know if this car was purchased there or not, but I am willing to bet that it spend part of it's life north of Green Bay Wisconsin.

What is the deal with the white tires?

Original Ford Sedan Add photo showing light tires
An original Ford add showing the sedan body style for 1920 with light (white?) tires. This photo, and many more like it are what prompted the Daly's to put white tires on their car.
Click on the picture to see the full size photo.
"That is a question I get asked a lot" John said. "When I was doing research concerning the car, all of the original photos and graphic illustrations I found showing a 1920 Model T Centerdoor had what looked like white tires. We loved the way it looked so we were determined to have white tires on our car. It may be that the tires were only used for the photos, and that cars coming off the assembly line would have had black tires. I do not know. I know that white and other color tires were common on earlier cars, but around 1914, carbon fiber was added to the rubber to increase the wear of the tires. My theory is that, since the new black tires may have been more costly than the old outdated white tires, Ford may have used the cheaper tires longer. I do not know for sure. All I know is that the photos I have show light colored tires and we love the way they look.

What is in the future for this car?

When asked what the future holds, John said, "We are going to drive the wheels of of this car and enjoy it. If there is anything left of it when I am done, it will go to one of my children it they are interested. If they are not, we will find some young family who is and may not be able to afford a car like this, and give it to them." Until that time, the Daly's tell us that you will always be able to see this car at the Old Threshers Reunion which is held over the Labor Day weekend each year in Mt. Pleasant Iowa, and at local shows in the Plano/Sandwich Illinois area. "Or you may just see us out driving around." Make sure you stop and say hi if you do see them.

Rear view of Centerdoor
A final parting shot showing the rear view of the Centerdoor Sedan. Note the oval shaped window that was a trademark of this body style.
Click on the picture to see the full size photo.

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How to contact me...

   Address: John M. Daly
P.O. Box 244
Millington, IL 60537
   Phone: 815-695-9451
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