I am wondering if anyone on this forum knows of a living person who actually owned a Model T when it was brand-new. These folks would be few and far-between, but it is possible. I can imagine perhaps a lucky young lady with doting parents that gave her one of those cute coupes for a birthday present in the spring of '27. She will be 97 this year. Or perhaps an exceptionally hard-working young man who saved up $360 to buy that last runabout on the dealers lot in the fall of '27. He, too, would likely be at least 96 or 97 now.
Wouldn't it be great to get their stories assembled before they are gone? How about having them as honored guests at the 2008 Centennial Party? (Provided, of course, they are still able to travel). Rick A.
Darn good idea!
I had suggested something similar on another thread - we need to get these folks oral histories saved while we still can. Making them honored quests at the Centennial is a fabulous idea, then get their stories on tape (...I mean iPod).
My Dad's 86 and remembers his first "car" was a Model T chassis and running gear with a cobbled together body he drove to his work as a soda jerk during the depression in Kansas. I can remember my Grandfather talking about the T's he owned in upstate Penn., but he's long gone.
I may have a candidate for you. I went to a birthday party a few months ago for a neighbor's father Robert Pickle who was celebrating his 102nd birthday. He is very alert and his memory is good albeit somewhat "repeating" ha ha. He had pictures from his youth including one of his shiney new 1926 T Roadster. I am fairly certain he said he bought it new or at least fairly new.
I just loved sitting and talking to him. I was mad at myself that I had not realized he was in the neighborhood and so I promised him a Model T ride on the first warm day of spring. I sure hope he is still around then so I can keep my promise. He seems to be in excellent health and frankly he could pass for a man in his 70's without a problem.
The father of a very close, long-time friend was 103 as of December 31st. Hap is very sharp. In fact, to me he hasn't changed in the fifty or so years I have known him. My favorite story of his is when he was 17 in 1921, he drove a new Ford coupe to California from Indiana to work in the Napa Valley. It was in the winter just short of his 17th birthday when he struck out for California, crossing the Wabash River on a ferry at Vincennes, IN. It was a very showy day, and the ferryman didn't want him to cross beause of difficulty getting up the opposite bank; there was the possibility of sliding into the river. But Hap persisted and was allowed to cross. You know, he has never told us why he had to leave Indiana in the dead of winter in such a hurry, but we have our suspicions. The whole story is facinating. This thread has made me realize that I need to record his story before it's to late.
Recently, I drove in a 1926 T roadster with another friend out to see Hap at the family farm. He came out to the car and explained all the differences between his 21 coupe and this roadster. He was still farming somewhat up until when he reached 100 in 2004.
John & Mike - If either of you get the privilege of interviewing these outstanding men, I would like to suggest a few questions to ask them.
Some say that a new T's ran very smooth and the transmissions were very quiet and smoothly operating. It would be great to know their opinions on this.
Our T engines are very old and often have been rebuilt many times. New pistons, rods and camshafts, etc. are used and yet our engines may not run as smooth as we would like. Many times our rebuilt transmissions are very noisy no matter how hard we try to make them operate quietly. Men like Fred Houston, Bill Stipe, the Tulsa Chapter and others have gone to great lengths to balance engine and transmission assemblies, manufacture precision camshafts and develop the right counterweights to attain a smooth running and long lasting engine rebuild. It sure would be nice to know how a new T ran and drove when new. Another question would be how long or how many miles did the engine go before it needed major repairs?
What other questions might the rest of you have for these guys?
Fordially, Keith Gumbinger
My father had a few T's, but he bought a new sedan with starter and a new roadster without both on the same day.
The roadster was used for work and the sedan for....well he was single then.
I knew an old lady in Berekeley who talked about her new fordor sedan (maroon) that she called a '25 that she bought new in Oaklahoma (I suppose fall of '25-a '26 model), but I heard about 4 years ago she had alzheimers.
I missed a good opertunity to ask about engine paint too about 5 yearsago.
An old guy used to tell me about detailing them and driving them to the docks for shipping to other countries. I think he said it was in New Jersey, but I don't see him anymore.
I interviewed a local gentleman here for our chapter newsletter. He sold Model A's for a living when they were brand new. That was last year, he's still alive (and driving too I think) at over 100.
I am so glad someone started this thread. If someone would interview persons who "originally" bought/owned a T would interview them that information would make an excellent book when we grow older.
Our club puts on vintage car shows at a couple of area rest homes. At one of these shows I displayed a couple of my model T's. I met a man who lived there who told me he worked at the Highland Park plant building model T's. He was quite animated as he told me of the different jobs he did there. He started out screwing the left rear axle nut on and worked his way up to more demanding tasks. He spoke of seeing Henry walking around the factory but never met him. This guy knew what he was looking at too. He pointed out things about the car that he knew were accessories or newer than the cars he built. After the show, one of the staff at the home told me he hadn't spoken a word to anyone in months. It felt good to make his day. These kind of folks are a treasure that can't be replaced.
One idea everyone should keep in mind when getting the story from these people,
GET IT ON VIDEO!!!
Slightly off-topic, but here goes. My 1st Model T was purchased new by my great-grandparents in 1923 (Touring). G'pa Asa died in 1955, before I was born, but Grammy lived until 1978 and gave me what was left of their car when I turned a teenager, 13, and was tinkering with all things mechanical; in 1973. He had dismantled the car for some reason and parted with most of it around 1928... It was fascinating listening to the stories she told of what was now my car. I accumulated many books on the matter which I absorbed... One day after reading some original literature from the Ford company, I told Grammy how well the side curtains worked... I got "The look" and she explained in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that both she, and G'pa Asa thought the side curtains had been a complete and total waste of his hard earned money...
You had to have been there, but it's funny now to remember the look she gave me, and she looked at my little brother like I had completely lost all my marbles.
Anyway, my 2cents worth, and I agree; if anyone is still alive... Record it!!!
I remember Monty--Fremont--who was 93 when I met him 22 years ago. A mechanic his entire life, he had worked on Ford's assembly line during the last several years of the T. He had sold his motorcycle in 1933 because he was getting too old to ride it. Monty did the block work for me when I restored my first T, a '27 sedan. He rented garage space and worked almost every day on local guys' cars, as long as the car wasn't newer than 1980. He declared that he had no use for all the "junk" that cars came burdened with after that date. He meant the EPA stuff and electronic gizmos. I brought him the '27's generator which I had burned up.
A few days later I was at work, at the Cadillac dealership, when a co-worker told me that Cold Spring Garage was on fire. A few days after that, I helped Monty go through the ashes to see if anything was recoverable. Only a few odds and ends were picked up, inclujding the remains of my generator. Monty would drag something out of the ashes and inform me that it used to a fixture for turning valves on 1915 Cole engines, or something like that. He had had stacks of repair manuals, all bought new, dating back to CDO days. All gone. That was the end for Monty; with nothing to do, he went downhill fast and passed away. He had met Henry Ford on a number of occasions. I was just a little too much of a kid to appreciate him fully at the time. It would have been good to have taped him--his speech was right out of a Victorian novel.
Here's a 96 year old grandmother somebody did put on film in time - a short conversation on model T driving:
My 100 year old aunt Imogene (we always called her aunt Gene) is an amazing person. She still lives by herself and up until last spring was driving regularly. Having slipped on the ice last spring and breaking a leg slowed her just a bit as driving with a cast proved too difficult (plus the Dr. made her use a walker with her cast). She told me that since her birthday was actually a couple of days before we arrived in July and her license was still good until midnight that day that she took the car for a drive. Her son Mike (a mere 63) went along with her. She drove about 15 miles.
She expressed to me that she realizes her reflexes arenít as fast as somebody my age and that she purposely plans her trips so as not to have to turn left across traffic when exiting driveways whenever she can help it. Mike said that was the last time she would drive (insurance) but commented that she still drives extremely well and moves right along with the flow of traffic.
I asked her how old she was when she learned to drive and she told me she was 17. Her older brother Winfred had a mail route and came down sick with the flu in 1924. Winfredís young wife knew the mail route but didnít know how to drive the car. Aunt Gene said she knew neither the mail route nor how to drive but it was decided by Winfredís wife that she would do the driving. She laughed and told me she killed the engine at every mailbox stop that day. Then proudly stating she only killed it five times the second day. The car was a model T roadster. She also recounted that she never got an official drivers license until 1941. She drove to work at the hospital upon graduation from Nursing School in 1926 everyday with no license for the next 15 years. She said things were different back then. She told me the only reason for getting a license in 1941 was due to rationing.
We spent an afternoon looking through old photoís and just visiting. I found her recollection of events and people amazing.
When you think of someone 100 years old we usually envision somebody frail, easily confused and that just isnít as sharp as they used to be. Aunt Gene is still as sharp as a tack and gets around fine. She carries on a conversation and still stays focused (not like me). When we arrived for her birthday party she was talking up a storm, laughing it up, and enjoying a glass of wine with good friends.
We should all live so well!
This is Betty McGurrin Sullivan. In 2005 she was the oldest known living employee of Ford Motor. If she's still around, she'll be 103 on June 15th. She had a new 24 Tudor stolen from her and was apparently a speed demon in the Model A roadster she got afterwards. Mr. Ford commented on her driving skills after she passed his chaffeur to avoid being late for work.
My wife loaned Betty her 24 touring for the day she visited my building.
Great thread, great picture Thomas. No doubt that lady was having a ball!
Did she return your car yet?
She and her nieces gave it back to us after I gave the family a ride. She used it for an hour and returned it in good condition. Fortunately she didn't pull any that "Well someone took mine" business. She did tell me her tudor had a Fox lock and still was stolen. I've yet to find out what a Fox lock was.
She had major deja vu when she came in the building. She rattled off each boss' office as she walked down the aisle. In spite of extensive building remodeling, she still remembered where her desk was. She was the first female employed at the Dearborn Engineering Lab also known as EEE or POEE later in life.
During my journeyman years as a machinist apprentice,my mentor,Bob Dilamater,would often tell stories of the model T's he owned.Of all the stories,I loved the one where he told me in the winter,when he couldn't afford antifreeze,they would just take the rad off the car and drive it to work with the fan spinning in the wind.Whether it was good or bad for the engine,it must have been a funny site seeing an old beat up T coming towards you with no rad on it!He passed away in the mid 1980's,but grew up driving T's when they were new or slightly used.
Mrs McGurrin Sullivan passed on a few weeks ago, according to this obituary:
She worked at Ford from 1924 until she married in 1935.
Thanks for the follow-up Roger. I confess I am a bit wierded out over the selection of the photo in her obituary. I had several photos to pick from yesterday and I happened to pick that one because it was obvious she was having a good time. In reading her letter, she admitted to "fibbing" about her age so she could qualify for the five dollar day. If under 21, she would have only earned $3.50. She said the extra buck and half kept her family alive. In her memory, I offer this other photo taken in the lobby.
Not a model t owner at the time of the story, and probably no longer among us, (would be ~101 now) but still entertaining to watch, and somewhat fitting in this thread:
Hazel Latimer telling the story of a 1920 family trip in a brass T - from Wynyard, SK to Winnipeg MT in three days, a 6 hour trip on today's roads.
May have told this tale before, if I have, bear with me. While not an original T "owner", one of my Aunts, will be 100 30 September if I am right, went from Driftwood, Hays County, Texas, to New Orleans in the waning days of the T, probably '24 or '25, might have been earlier. She and a cousin, deceased, and my Great Uncle Ira took his old T to New Orleans in a trade deal of some kind. That was a very long trip back then, but he was TIGHT ! She says he would only buy gas a few cents or a dollar at a time, they would run out and have to push the car till the next filling station. She said Uncle Ira would stay in the car and steer, and she and Shirley would push. I can barely move my Roadster on a paved surface, hard to imagine two kids doing that. She was still sitting on the floor playing dominos until a few years back, was struck by a neighbor's car and run over while taking her walk, had severe head injuries, but is still about as sharp as she ever was, just physically wore out. That trip was probably her 15 minutes, she still will talk about it if given the time and opportunity. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have lived during and survived the Great Depression seem better able to cope with some of Life's trials and tribulations.
Here is another picture. This is a car my dad bought used for $200 in 1925.
My dad is driving, my mother is in the back seat and I am next to my dad in the front.
My mom is 87. Though she never owned one new, she remembers her "Model T days" quite vividly.
I take her shopping in mine once in a while and it never ceases to amaze her how primitive cars were when she was a child.
She quit driving 3 years ago and we sold her 1990 Mustang, it had less than 20,000 miles on it.