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Old 08-26-2018, 07:49 AM   #1
Doug 845
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Default Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

How do the lights work on pre electric T's? I see mentions of gas used (carbide / acetylene?). Where do you obtain the gas for the lights? Do owners have to get special permission to drive these models without hazardous placards? As far as getting a Model T inspected by NYS, I'm pretty sure that the local quick change oil lube tech wouldn't even know how to light the gas for the lights for an annual NYS DMV inspection. Is this step even required by NYS?
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:00 AM   #2
24ruxstel1339
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Default Re: Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

I can't answer for NY inspection...
But they had a carbide generator that sets on the driver side running board.
Snyder's sells them, but they are rather expensive.
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Old 08-26-2018, 09:01 AM   #3
Jack Innes
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Default Re: Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

The headlights on many pre 15 cars burned acetylene usually supplied by an acetylene generator or a "Prestolite" tank. The generator used calcium carbide that looks like the "lava rock" found in BBQs today and water. When the water drips on the carbide acetylene gas & chalk are created. The chalk being the waste product.


The Prestolite tanks are the "B" acetylene cylinders available from welding gas suppliers today. Those used in cars usually had the valve offset so they could be used horizontally clamped to the running board. You sometimes run across tanks that have the Prestolite name on them & test dates that go back to the early car days.


Calcium carbide is sometimes available from welding supply outfits or the companies who supply spelunkers since they often use acetylene miners lights while cave exploring.


Calcium carbide can be dangerous if improperly stored. It should not be shipped by mail or air. But I do not think there are requirements for warning placards or permits. A rusty can of carbide stored in a wet basement could leave your estate with a vacant lot to sell.


The side lights & tail light burn kerosene which is readily available.


I know nothing about NY inspections but there is likely someone on here that operates an early car in NY who can tell us what is required.







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Old 08-26-2018, 10:20 AM   #4
Doug 845
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Default Re: Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

Thanks for the replies. As far as maintenance on the carbide generator, how often do you have to add water and carbide? How do know when the chalk / waste needs to be cleaned out?
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:12 PM   #5
Jack Innes
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Default Re: Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

For the type of use these cars get today it is wise to clean the waste & remaining carbide out after every use. It also is good to drain the water. A major problem in the days of regular use was that people let the waste build up & then damaged the brass tank when chipping the waste out. The water tanks will crack if frozen as well.


A 100+ year old generator, ready to produce acetylene, parked in a trailer or garage has the potential to create a disaster.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:50 PM   #6
29spcoupe
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Default Re: Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

NY does require inspections on early cars. If there are lights, they must work. I have electric lights added to my brass T's so I can use the car at night if I have to. I know others that have gas lights on their cars, but I don't know if NY allows them. I would check with DMV. General rule of thumb: if it is on the car, it must work.
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Old 09-01-2018, 01:39 PM   #7
Dodge
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Default Re: Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

Snyders and others have a conversion to put electric bulbs into these early lights they work real well if you want lights. On the other hand a properly working original gas light ste up is something to behold when working correctly.
Some Horseless Carriage regions put on a gas light tour every year, much fun.
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Old 09-06-2018, 02:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: Headlights & tailights - pre 1915

I believe the NY inspection question is addressed above.

Dodge, I do agree that it is a real treat to see one of these cars all lit up!

Texas doesn't require inspections on cars with antique plates but I will comment on acetylene/kerosene lit Model T's as I drive mine with the original lamps on a routine basis. I have John Browns but they are all essentially the same.

I use the acetylene "B" tank on my '14 Touring with a small regulator as Jack shows above. A "Prest-O-Lite" setup was a definite "upgrade" on a Model T and shipped on some new Model T's from the Ford factory. In fact, "Model T serial number 1" was shipped with a Prest-O-Lite "B" tank.

A lot less mess than a carbide generator and much quicker to light up, or re-light. The three kerosene lamps and acetylene headlights can be lit in less than two minutes. With a good set of mirrors and 3/4 cfh burners properly focused, gas headlights will provide satisfactory lighting. Simple to maintain with an occasional trim on the kerosene wicks.

A full Prest-O-Lite "B" tank can be purchased for about $130. Once you own the tank, the "B" tanks are swapped at the welding supply house for about $25-$27 for another full one. The tank will burn T headlights for 24 hours, and considering today's cost of carbide, at about 1/4th the cost of carbide generator gas.

If you don't have a functioning carbide generator, POL may be the way to go. You need the brackets to mount the tank and I recommend a small regulator to get the consistent low acetylene pressure for headlights. The rest of the headlight system on the Model T is the same whether you use a carbide generator or POL tank.

Simple system and it does work!
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