The vehicle featured in this article is a unique one. Here is a 1924 Ford Model T Depot Hack that is powered by hydrogen and natural gas, either separately or in combination. As explained below, this vehicle is also capable of burning several other fuels.
Model T Depot Hacks
The Ford Model T of course was an automobile icon which was in production for almost twenty years. During this time about 15 million were produced. The Depot Hack’s were designed to transport people between train stations or between train stations and hotels and resorts. As the railroads expanded across the country it became the primary mode of transportation for people who had to travel any measurable distance. The original depot hacks were horse-drawn wagons with seating to carry the passengers and some room for baggage. Many referred to the motorized versions as “auto buggies”.
The vehicle here was not entirely built by Henry Ford but was converted to these fuels by a man named Ben Jordan. The engine itself is a Ford engine. The only changes to it are the necessary conversions to burn the aforementioned fuel. A turbo-charger was added to provide added power at altitude. Ben Jordan converted the engine in Denver, Colorado which is roughly 5,000 feet above sea level. Automobiles at that altitude are known to lose about one-third of their power.
Ben Jordan, in addition to being a pilot during World War Two and then spending 42 years in the U.S. Air Force, set seven land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Jordan built his first hydrogen engine in 1932 at sixteen years of age. He spent much of his time converting engines to hydrogen power and did testing at Bonneville. Speed records were attained with Jordan's "Bockscar" at Bonneville powered by hydrogen. The 1924 Ford Model T Depot Hack shown here was dedicated to the San Diego Automobile Museum in 1995.
Gone Racin’...Automobile Dictionary with Lagniappe
Ben Jordan authored a book titled, Gone Racin’...Automobile Dictionary with Lagniappe. The complete name of the book is Ben Jordan’s Automotive Jargon for the Car Owner; from the Shade Tree Mechanic’s Automobile Dictionary with Lagniappe.The book is soft cover 8 ½ by 11 inches with 416 pages. The publisher is Windmill Jouster Books in Denver, Colorado and was printed by Clements Printing, copyrighted in 1995.
Jordan's book covers everything from automobile history to where the industry is headed to the engineering of highways. Lots of editorializing. The book is an automobile dictionary with quite a bit of humorous car jargon. One story in Jordan's book declares that Otto Benz is not the inventor of the internal combustion engine and the father of the automobile in 1885. Jordan says that honor goes to a Swiss engineer, Isaac de Rivaz, whose patent in 1805 is duly recorded.
1924 Model T Depot Hack Specifications
The specifications for this converted Ford engine are impressive. The four cylinder 176 cubic inch power plant delivered 11 horsepower with hydrogen and 14 using natural gas.
In addition to the natural gas and hydrogen fuels, Ben Jordan's converted Ford engine could also burn corn cobs, cow chips, wood, ethanol and methanol. Needless to say, Ben Jordan has never been an advocate of fossil fuels. He felt that all fossil fuels are wasteful and inefficient. He shows how much of the gasoline that we use is not burned in the engine but lost through the exhaust back into the atmosphere as pollution.
As of this writing, there has been many advances regarding alternative energy to power motor vehicles. Tesla and others are producing electric cars and hybrids have been around now for several years. The situation with gasoline is complicated. Gas has been the fuel of choice for motor cars for well over a century. The infrastructure is here and to make changes away from gasoline usage will take time.
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As far as gasoline prices are concerned, which has in the past been an issue, gasoline at this writing is far too cheap to cause a widespread cultural driving change. Investment in alternative fuels are alive and well and will continue but it may take a $7 / gal. gas price for private industry to expand the use of fuels such as natural gas, hydrogen and electricity.
As mentioned above, the featured 1924 Ford Depot Hack is unmodified except for the engine modifications regarding the different fuels used.
(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)