During World War I, the Allies used thousands of Model T cars and trucks because of their low cost and ease of repair. The ambulance version's light weight made it well-suited for use on the muddy and shell-torn roads in forward combat areas. If stuck in a hole, a group of soldiers could lift one without much difficulty. By Nov. 1, 1918, 4,362 Model T ambulances had been shipped overseas.
The light wooden body was mounted on a standard Model T auto chassis. The 4-cylinder engine produced about 20 hp. There was no self-starter; the engine had to be cranked by hand. This vehicle was equipped with an early form of automatic transmission and could carry three litters or four seated patients and two more could sit with the driver. Canvas "pockets" covered the litter handles that stuck out beyond the tailgate. Many American field service and Red Cross volunteer drivers, including writers Ernest Hemingway and Bret Harte and cartoonist Walt Disney drove Model T ambulances.
"Hunka Tin," a poem written as a parody on Rudyard Kipling's "Gunga Din," appeared in the American Field Service Bulletin and was used in Ford dealers' advertising throughout the United States. The final stanza read:
Yes, Tin, Tin, Tin.
You exasperating puzzle, Hunka Tin.
I've abused you and I've flayed you,
But by Henry Ford who made you,
You are better than a Packard, Hunka Tin.
The ambulance on display was acquired from and restored by Vintage Aviation Services Inc., Marion, Texas. This vehicle of mid-1920s vintage has been painted and marked to represent a WWI ambulance.