University of Nebraska-Lincoln / Archives and Special Collections
With no original drawings available, David O'Neal had to do countless hours of research to accurately recreate an M1917 World War I military ambulance. `I wanted it to be as accurate as possible,' he says.
Three full-length stretchers could accommodate wounded soldiers in the ambulance's rear compartment, or with the stretchers collapsed and stored, a pair of benches could be folded down to accommodate four less seriously wounded men.
The transmission control pedals remain the same as on a standard Model T, except for the extended reverse pedal. It was created to prevent ambulance drivers' muddy combat boots from getting stuck between the other pedals.
Canvas was extensively used on the ambulances, allowing the rear windows to be rolled up for loading patients. The canvas pouches on the drop-down tailgate are used to cover the handles of the stretchers.
O'Neal fabricated the water tank on the driver's side of the ambulance. By pouring through hundreds of pages of old war records, he discovered the tank dispensed water through a brass spigot mounted in the storage box below it.
Relying on his extensive photographic research, O'Neal has added authentic details to the ambulance such as the entrenching tool, canteen, side-mounted spare tire and a latched box to hold the driver's records.
This was how the project began, with a Model T touring car chassis found in an old car salvage yard near Iola. The M1917 ambulances built by Ford actually were constructed on car chassis, as the Model TT truck had not yet been introduced.
O'Neal built his vintage ambulance to replicate an actual vehicle used to support U.S. Marines who fought in the 1918 battle of Belleau Wood near the Marne River in France. All of the markings are authentic to that ambulance unit.