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Model T hubcap identification


Jim Skelly
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I have never found a definite answer to that question but an original blueprint for these Ford hubcaps calls it a “Trademark” but I’m not sure what the letters mean because I have collected about 18 caps with different letters or symbols in this area. One person suggested it was used for quality control to track what factory that specific hubcap was produced. 

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The general consensus is that the little letter is a makers mark. Past discussions on the MTFCA forum seemed to support that. However, I have never seen any list of companies and what the marks actually refer to.

 

If the hubcaps are what I think they are, and look to be in the photo, they are fairly rare! But not worth much.

Henry Ford was always looking for ways to cut pennies from the production costs. Those pennies on millions of cars added up to hundreds of thousands of dollars! Hardly a part on the car was left out of those cost cutting endeavors. The stamping processes were improved back in the mid 1910s, and Ford went back and forth between brass and steel hubcaps. Brass was more expensive. However, the softer material was cheaper to stamp and nickel plate than the steel was. Steel was the cheaper material, and tougher. However, the stamping dies wore out faster, and the necessary addition step for nickel plating over steel added costs.

Still looking for money saving ways, Ford decided to try something, and for maybe six months, during the 1925 model year, Ford had hubcaps stamped out of a zinc alloy! The material was cheap. soft enough that the stamping process was fast and the plating was simple. Sounds like money saving? Doesn't it? However, unfortunately, the zinc alloy was too soft. Way too many of the hubcaps were destroyed in local shipping and handling even before they got to the assembly like stations! And when the assembly line workers tried to install the zinc hubcaps on the chassis as they rolled by, the soft caps had a tendency to cross-thread, or split when the worker tightened them. Between the damage and loss of caps, and the wasted time for workers to fiddle with the fragile things, the zinc hubcaps were a dismal failure. Past discussions weren't able to precisely pin down the time at which they were used. However, some records hinted at somewhere around January to May of 1925, and apparently only on some of the cars.

 

I discovered this little bit of history for myself a couple years ago while sorting through my box of hubcaps looking for brass caps to clean up and repair for my 1915 project. I had seen some of these before, but hadn't really noticed them. When I found a fairly nice one needing only some minor repair, I thought it was brass, until I cleaned it up and straightened a small dent. So to the MTFCA forum I went. We had quite a discussion about them for a couple days. A few of the better researchers had found a little information about them.

After I found my decent one, I remembered I had a badly smashed and broken hub cap on a front axle with hubs in my parts pile. Sure enough. The smashed and missing its top cap was one of the zinc hub caps. They are just too soft.

My one is sitting on one of my few display shelves. I consider it to be a historic oddity. They are so soft, I would be afraid to use them. Someone may want to make their 1925 special by rounding up a set and using them. But since only some 1925s had them, personally I would run with nickel plated brass or steel anyway.

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