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Some of Its Parts: 1920

Some of Its Parts: 1920

Washington, D.C. August 1920. "Steuart's Garage, stockroom, 12th Street N.E." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Gearing up

The gears look like the ring and bevel gears of a differential (rear-end) gearbox.

The Model T had a novel clutchless planetary gear transmission that used epicyclic gears; these gears were flatter than what is shown here and the design was considered archaic by competitors that used sliding gear transmissions and a clutch.

Ironically, Ford had the last laugh, because the planetary clutchless design was later used as the basis for virtually all automatic transmissions from WWII up through today.


Bakelite was invented by 1909, mostly used in early automotive engineering for ignition parts that needed to be well insulated. Bakelite distributor caps or rotors should be in this store somewhere.

In 1920 Ford used straw mixed with sulfur and a rubber base to make "Fordite" steering wheels. Most unmolested ones have survived, so it wasn't a bad beginning of composite materials.

Another automotive plastic back then would have been celluloid for side curtains.

Steel, bronze, brass, gunmetal, iron......

Not one piece of plastic to be seen.

Ford Parts

Most of the parts visible in the photo are for the Ford Model T. No wonder, since by 1920 Fords were the most popular cars in the world.

Steuart Bros.

The Steuart Brothers (Guy T. and Lawrence Leonard P.) started there business in 1904. At first they sold ice and coal from a hand-built cart pulled by a rented mule. Eventually, adapting to the times, they opened a garage/warehouse at 141 12th st NE. At their peak the brothers had many businesses (car agencies, motor repair, parts, insurance, truck fleets, tug boats, and fuel storage) employing 690 people.

The warehouse still exists, being transformed into condos in the 1970s and renamed Steuart Square.

My clutches

I had a clutch on a 1996 Nissan 240SX SE that lasted 126,000 miles.


It appears they were already beginning to stock up for my Ford Pinto.

Object Lesson in Advanced Materials

It's generally understood in engineering circles that advanced materials are fundamental to all technological progress. Case in point: In those days, they were regularly replacing universal joints and several kinds of gears. Today, those things are rare in inventory since they tend to last the life of the vehicle without attention.

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