May 19, 2012

A Great Barn Find...

The 1913 Model T Ford
Every old car nut dreams of finding that unmolested old car that has been stored away from the weather for decades.  For most younger collectors, the dream probably involves a muscle car of the '60s or '70s.  But for people like myself, one of the more desirable cars would be anything from the so-called "Brass Era," before about 1915.  These cars earned that nickname because they have brass radiator shells, lamps and trim, and they look like a million bucks when all that brass is polished!
The Proud Owner!

So I was surprised and amazed a few weeks ago when my friend Deron Shady informed me that he was going to spend part of his weekend moving a barn find that he had acquired several years ago and kept confidential -- a 1913 Model T Ford touring car.  He had not spoken of the car because he was concerned about the word spreading and the possibility that it might result in vandalism or theft.  Parts of these ancient cars are extremely hard to find and have a way of disappearing.  And the story was that this car had just about all of its original components and had been stored by a long-time collector back in the 1950s.

The following week I went out to Deron's shop to see the car.  It is like looking at a time capsule.  It was built two years before electric lights appeared on Fords.  The headlights operate on acetylene gas like old-fashioned miner's headlamps.  There is an acetylene gas generator that is mounted on the driver's running board with rubber hoses that go to each headlamp.  The other lamps are fueled with kerosene.  You look at this vehicle and everywhere you turn you're reminded that it's 99 years old!  Some craftsmen nearly 100 years ago in a noisy Detroit factory put this thing together.  And a few weeks later, some proud family acquired what was likely their first automobile.  What a wonder!

The brass end of the car --
and the simple 4-cylinder engine

Then the inevitable discussion starts among car enthusiasts -- Do you restore a car like this?  Is it better left unrestored to serve as a reference standard for restorers to examine to see how certain elements were originally constructed?  I think Deron has decided to leave the car as-is and to get it operational but leave everything as it was originally constructed.  I spoke with him yesterday and he was attempting to get the engine running with the intent of showing the car in today's Train Depot car show in Huntsville.

I plan to attend that show to see the car moving under its own power.  I was probably 10 or 11 years old the last time it ran.

Update:  On May 26th, Deron notified me that the car was running!  Here's a video of Daniel learning to drive a Model T -- how cool is that?

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