What kind of mileage did the Model T get?

I recently heard this factoid: The model T got better mileage than Ford’s most popular selling car today.

To me, we are comparing of apples and oranges - there were less restrictions on emissions and such.

But ignoring that, I am just curious if it is true.


From that link it says 13 to 21 MPG (got the link from wiki), so I say that’s about on par with an SUV.

The figure of 25 mpg for a model T is quoted all over the place. The Wiki article is more conservative:

Hey, it was a flex-fuel vehicle!

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Model_T .

Even if it’s true it’s still missleading.

The power loss is much greater in the Ford T; No?

Well, any 2.9 liter engine in a modern car produces far more than 20 hp. GM has a base truck engine which is a 2.9 liter 4 cylinder, and it produces 185 hp. Most automotive engines of that size will be sixes.

Or, to look at it another way, the 3 cylinder 1.0 L used in a Geo Metro was rated at 55 hp - over 2.5 model Ts.

One advantage the Model T had was the low top speed.
At 45 MPH, you weren’t hitting all that much wind resistance… the wind resistance curve goes up exponentially above that point.
My car, at a steady 55, gets nearly 37 MPG.
At a steady 40 MPH, it is getting in the low to mid 40-MPG range.
This on a car that Ford advertises as getting 20 in the city and 30 on the highway.

I once knew a guy who owned several vintage cars including a nice Model T. He told me that it got around 15mpg.

Of course, his average trip length was reasonably short - he’d drive it on pleasant summer days, rarely more than 10 to 15 miles.

The engine in the T was low compression, and I’d be willing to bet that the original tolerances on the engine were such that we’d consider a modern engine with them to be scrap. They do make a neat burbling sound when they run, however.

This page seems to imply that the diametral clearance between the piston and cylinder was about .001-.002 inch. Unfortunately, I don’t know the equivalent dimensions for a modern engine and I’m too darned lazy to drill through page after page of Chevy rebuilder webpages to find them out.

But I think the primary cause of the T’s inefficiency was, just as you say, the low compression ratio (that is, low thermodynamic efficiency). A big contributor was probably poor design of intake and exhaust passages.

At high speeds, of course, the T has all the aerodynamics of a cubicle wall.