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Over-the-hill Car Ramp

by Gary Gee


The Chevrolet 490 and Model-T Ramp-at-the-Fair story is a peripheral story to research that I have been doing on the Steel-Beam Shovel Plow that Archibald C.Morrison invented (He has two patents, one in 1906 and an improvement in 1925).
https://www.google.com/patents/US814721 and www.google.com/patents/US1548734.

I have restored the plow (photo attached). It is the plow hanging on the wall above a conventional-type, horse-drawn walking plow, for comparison. Archibald’s plow was stronger and lighter, and equipped with a “rudder” to help keep the plow on course. He was a blacksmith, wagon maker, plow maker and inventor. Archibald, apparently, also sold cars for Ford. He is my great-grandfather. I think that his plow has essentially been swallowed up by history. Horse and mule-drawn walking plows quickly were followed by riding plows; and tractors were on the horizon.


Several months ago my Morrison relatives in Memphis and Nashville presented me with what probably is the last of Archibald’s “Wonder Plows,”and his plow maker’s anvil. I also have his unique farrier hammer that my grandmother gave me. And recently I received from my Morrison relatives great family photographs. The Tennessee State Museum has added the plow, anvil, farrier hammer and photographs to its collection. Among the photographs was the picture of the unusual ramp at the Tipton County, Tennessee Fair. I have done a bit of research on the ramp. It may be a teeter-totter ramp used to demonstrate and compare the capability of cars to ascend and then descend hills.

The ramp in the photo is displaying the Chevrolet 490 at its price of $490; and a gentleman under the ramp is looking up toward the 490 and the fulcrum of the ramp. Chevrolet produced the 490 from 1915 to 1922. I can determine that the photo probably was taken at the 1920 Fair. At that time the Model-T Ford and the Chevrolet 490 were in hot competition. The sales price for Model-T was $495.

The Chevrolet 490 (like the Model-T) had a gravity-feed fuel system. But in 1920, innovations to the Chevrolet 490 included “an improved gravity-feed fuelsystem”[That may mean that they just moved the position of the fuel tank]. The teeter-totter ramp could have been a structure for demonstrating that the 490 –on a gas tank with a low amount of fuel – could go up a hill with no problem; as well as for displaying the car at the fair. This probably would date the structure to the 1920 Fair.

The Ford Model-T was having difficulty ascending hills when the gas tank got low on gas. At times drivers had to climb hills in reverse gear. In the photo there is a gentleman underneath the ramp, looking up toward its metal fulcrum and the 490. I think that the ramp at the Fair may have been the first Teeter-Totter Car Ramp to display/showcase cars.

Currently,there are a couple of online articles by folks suggesting that they have come up with a unique idea: “a teeter-totter ramp for displaying (showcasing)automobiles.” They may be over 100 years too late. One of my second cousins,Warren Morrison, a grandson of Archibald says the following:

“Archibald and one other family member, so goes the family lore, had the first Ford dealership in west TN operating out of Covington. Dad said he would ride the train down to Memphis to the Ford plant on Union where the Commercial Appeal is now. You can still see the old train track strip. I never knew if they were manufactured there or a distribution center only. Anyway, Dad would drive the ordered car back to Covington. Why we have this picture of a 490 Chevy is lost to history. Morrison’s being Morrison’s, my guess it had nothing much to do with the car and more to do with documenting what their competitors were up to.”

Great-grandson,Cliff Morrison, added the following:

“If I recall Dad’s story, the demo was to compare a Model T attempting the incline followed by the Chevy.”

Warren remembered another family story:

“’Dad was dating someone, not Mom. The Model T reverse gear was stronger than the forward gear. One time he and his date faced such a hill climb dilemma and he had her get out and walk up the hill in her Sunday best, while he backed up the T in reverse.

He raced by her uphill in reverse spraying dirt and dust all over her as he went by. He ended this one time told story with, ‘That was our last date.’”

The two different deficiencies of the Model T listed in the article below, fit with each of the deficiencies reported by Cliff and Warren https://prezi.com/ofv00xaiqjd5/first-automobile/:

The Model-T’s gasoline was only able to be fed to the engine by gravity. Also, the reverse gear was stronger than the forward gear.”

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