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Published: Friday, 7/25/2003

Classic car buffs throw it in gear for Model T tour

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DUNDEE, Mich. - They trickled slowly into town, their motors coughing and chugging after the 40-mile ride.

One by one, the old cars were lined up behind the Historic Old Mill here until a collection of more than 200 Model T Fords were on display.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Ford Motor Co., Model T owners across the country converged on Metro Detroit to take a five-day tour of “Ford territory.” Yesterday, they rumbled into Dundee for the start of a daylong trip in Monroe and Lenawee counties.

Waiting for them were Don and Jackie Pencil, who stood at M-50 and Toledo Street, snapping pictures as each of the classics went by.

“I'm old enough that I remember Model Ts. I rode in them. I went to school in one,” said Mr. Pencil, 72, of Temperance.

“It's great that it's this close,” added Mrs. Pencil. “It gives us a chance to see it without all the traveling. They're coming to us.”

Two-door roadsters came into town, as did four-door sedans. There were doctor's coupes and touring cars and even a delivery wagon. Each was unique, but all shared the Model T's signature arched grill and round headlights.

During its 19-year manufacturing run, the Model T was changed very little in both its design and affordability and really made automobile transportation available to the masses. Without the Model T, enthusiasts said, cars likely would not have caught on as quickly as they did.

In 1909, the year the first Model T touring car came off the assembly line, the car could be bought for $850, or $16,778 in today's dollars. At their cheapest, in 1925, the touring car was sold for $290, or $2,971 today.

Vern Campbell helped organize the trip through Monroe County. A Model T owner since his senior year of high school, the 71-year-old car enthusiast said residents coming out to each of the group's four stops yesterday got to see an unusual gathering of Model Ts.

“You'll see everything from nice ones to those who have just been beat over the road on these tours,” said Mr. Campbell, adding by the end of the day, the drivers will have logged 121 miles in their cars. “You can't get 250 Model Ts and 250 owners and their families together and not have a good time.”

Yesterday's tour continued from Dundee, where welding tips were produced, to Tecumseh in Lenawee County, where Henry Ford processed soy beans. The parade of vehicles then traveled to Boysville of Michigan in Macon, a school for troubled juveniles, and ended in Milan for a pig roast.

It was one of five days the group of car buffs took to visit towns in southeast Michigan. It was a week-long trip that brought Scott and Sheryl Stier and their two cars all the way from Chicago.

“This is my vacation,” Mr. Stier said. “We enjoy it. I'll bend anybody's ear when it comes to Model Ts.”

Throughout the week, the Stiers were joined by Goran Flank, a Model T enthusiast from Stockholm, who bought a ticket to Detroit as soon as he heard of the event. With camcorder in hand, Mr. Flank said most of the cars in yesterday's event can be found in his hometown, but not all.

“Usually you see old ones that someone found, restored, and put back on the roads,” he said. “They're cars that are not that expensive, easy to maintain, fun to ride, and are an interesting conversation piece.”



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