Source: Sherman Publications

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After 80 years, Model T revisited
Local company produces authentic wood bodies for historic cars

by David Fleet

August 17, 2011

Larry Wallace works on a Model T body in his township garage. Photo by Patrick McAbee.
Atlas Twp.- It's been more than 80 years since the last Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line in Highland Park—where from 1909 to 1927 more than 15 million cars were produced. At least one estimate suggests more than 50,000 running Model Ts—in a variety of conditions, are still scattered across the country.

Area residents Warner Charles Maki, Larry Charles Wallace and Gary Charles Maki formed the "Charles Body Works," to recreate a unique part of Model T history in a local garage.

"Today the chassis to the Model Ts are still out there," said Wallace, a retired GM employee, who worked in paint, body shop, trim, chassis and final production for more than 31 years. "The steel and wooden bodies on the vehicles, however, have long since rusted. Roads were bad back then, that was very rough on cars. Most people did not have a garage; rather, the cars were left outside or in the barn."

Wallace said the Model Ts were soon outdated when the standard shift was produced.

"Then the cars just fell away," he said.

The deterioration of the Model T body left to the elements makes the recreation of the wooden body popular among collectors today, added Wallace.

An avid woodworker, Wallace purchased a set of plans to construct an after-market wood-bodied Model T Delivery Van, Depot Hack, and Huckster. Plans are also available for the Ford Model T C-Cab and Speedster.

"Back in the 1920s Ford would outsource the wooden bodies for his cars," he said. "You could order the body and have it put on a Model T chassis for about $650.

"In April 2009 we began construction on the wooden body," he said. "After the first body we cut production time down to about 250 hours. We spent about 400 hours on the first body, which are produced out of either red oak or ash.There's more ash available right now so thats been the primary material we've used."

Maki, a retired physics instructor from Grand Blanc High School, owned a complete 1924 Model T chassis, while Wallace had to acquire parts from a variety of sources.

Since then the company has completed about five car bodies.

"We adhere really close to the plans laid out by the York Company who created the prints," he said. "We do make some changes to the plans when a material is not available. Some parts have to be fabricated in the metal or a jig has to be produced to complete the plans."

Details: 810-620-5626.