Model T show transports Hiwan Museum back in time

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By Joe Vaccarelli

A visitor to the Hiwan Homestead Museum on Saturday might have sworn he’d been transported back to the early 20th century, as cars, costumes and political agendas harkened back to those earlier days.

The Ford Model T Centennial Festival featured nine Model Ts and one Model A in the museum parking lot, where spectators could inspect each car inside and out, take photos and talk to the owners. One car’s front license plate went so far as to declare, “If this car gets any older, I’ll have to shoot it.”

Outfits from the early 1900s also were modeled by members of the Model T Ford Club of America, the staff of the museum and by several women in the parking lot holding signs in support of women’s suffrage, all part of the “Fit to a ‘T’ ” costume exhibit.

“It was a fun day. There was a pretty steady stream of people coming through; all in all, things went well,” said museum curator Meghan McGinnes, decked out in a Zelda Fitzgerald outfit.

The festival was held in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Ford’s first Model T, which was released in 1908, and those at the museum were revved up to host the event.

“We thought someone ought to commemorate a world-changing event,” said John Steinle, administrator of the museum.

Steinle was referring to the Model T being the first mass-produced car in the U.S. and making driving a possibility for everyday people. Before the T, only the rich could afford cars.

The Mile High Chapter of the Model T Ford Club was responsible for bringing the cars to Evergreen.

“Driving up here is half of the fun,” said Rick Holdaway, the chapter’s tour chairman.

Cars in the festival ranged from a 1914 model to a 1927 model, the last year the car was produced.

One car, a green 1925 Ford Model T with a rear license plate reading “Ol, Lucy” was owned by Evergreen resident Larry Carray.

Carray bought his Model T about three years ago after he joined Model T club and has been driving it around Evergreen about once a week ever since.

“It took me about a year to learn to drive it well,” Carray said.

Carray’s car has three pedals, much like today’s manual-transmission cars, but they don’t serve the same purposes. The left pedal is the gearshift, with a high and low gear; the right pedal is the brake; the middle pedal is the “Ruckstell,” which offers two more gears and is sort of an under-drive.

“It’s a must-have in Evergreen, with all the hills,” Carray said.

The Model T uses regular gasoline, and Carray said it’s not a problem to get parts. Each car normally has a 9-gallon gas tank and gets 18 to 20 miles per gallon with its 22-horsepower engine.

Typical costs for a Model T today can range from $4,500 for a fixer-upper to $15,000 for a restored car — a far cry from the $750 a car cost in 1908 and an even further cry from the $75 Curtis Elder paid for one in 1939.

Elder, now a tour guide at the museum, drove a Model T during his college days and was able to sell the T for $75 upon his graduation and enlistment in the military in 1943.

“It was a fun car, pretty popular on campus,” he said.

The Model T club will be back in Evergreen on Aug. 2 for a progressive dinner.