The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

July 14, 2014

Old, but not out

Restored Model T complete road trip

Imagine 10 people packed into six Model T’s traveling 1,793 miles from Williamsport, Ind., to the upper peninsula of Michigan.

That is what Brian and Norma Andrews of Rossville accomplished — along with eight other Model T enthusiasts from Indiana.

Ten people, 50 to 80 years old, participated in the tour. The oldest participant, Howard McAnulty, was 80 years old and drove by himself.

“They were just a good bunch of people with lots of different backgrounds,” Andrews said.

Nick and Thelma Ellingwood of Wallace, Ind., drove the most historic model — a 1915 Model T. The Andrews family drove a newer 1927 variety.

Two of the Model T’s, including Brian and Norma Andrews’, were “roadster” style, which is comprised of an enclosed roof and windows. The rest of the participants drove a roadster pickup, which is a convertible variety Model T.

Andrews and his friends are members of the West Central Indiana Model T’ers and the Illiana Antique Auto Club. Normally, members of these automobile clubs take one short driving tour a month – but this journey was different.

“This trip was how far can you drive a Model T. Nobody had ever traveled where we went,” Andrews said. They did not set a particular destination, but they made sure to pack plenty of extra car parts, gas, maps and a GPS device.

Watch Andrews test drive a Model T

After meeting at 9 a.m. June 8 in Williamsport, the group made its way along the east side of Lake Michigan to Ludington, Mich.

In Ludington, the crew stopped at a local diner called The House of Flavors.

“Whenever we would stop at a restaurant, it would fill up. People would stop and eat with us. The same thing with hotels,” Norma Andrews said.

They also visited the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Mich. The museum is one of the state’s largest collections of classic and vintage automobiles. The group was allowed to park their six Model T’s in the grass along the outside of the museum.

Brian and Norma Andrews said they were treated like VIPs wherever they went.

“Everybody just smiles. They wave and we wave back,” Norma said.

The Model T’s 35 mph travel average limited the crew to state and country roads.

“By accident, we got on the interstate for two or three miles. We stayed together and hoped we wouldn’t get run over,” Brian said.

The group took a ride on the SS Badger Ferry — the only steam-powered, coal-fired ferry in the U.S. — across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wis. The ferry ride lasted about four and a half hours.

“We drove the cars on and off even though it wasn’t technically allowed because nobody else knew how to drive a Model T,” Brian said.

In Manitowoc, they met another Model T driver named Dan who led them up through Door County into the upper peninsula of Wisconsin.

“There’s a huge expanse of lake and woods up there. It’s just a huge area,” Brian said.

During the trip, the group dealt with two electrical problems, one dead battery, two drive-train vibrations, one broken starter and a gas shortage.

“No major problems. We fixed them as we went,” Brian said.

On the way home, the group of Model T’s crossed the 5-mile Mackinac Bridge from the upper peninsula of Michigan to the lower peninsula.

“Mackinac Island is pretty impressive,” Andrews said.

The group returned to Indiana at 6 p.m. June 20.

The trip lasted a total of 13 days, with five days of rain and temperatures in the 60s. Brian and Norma Andrews averaged 138 miles a day. Their shortest day was 60 miles, and their longest was 175 miles.

Todd Johnson updated the team’s driving progress each night on the West Central Indiana Model T’ers website forum.

Brian Jordan of Williamsport organized the entire expedition. He took a similar trip years ago, which sparked Brian Andrews’ interest.

Brian Andrews became interested in driving, collecting and rebuilding Model T’s as a pastime.

“I was needing a hobby. I was getting close to retirement. I had built a street rod before that. I thought Model T’s would be better.”

Andrews learned his Model T driving skills at Michigan’s Henry Ford Museum, where he took a ride with a tour guide. Andrews’ fellow Model T aficionado Russ Potter also helped him with the learning process.

Andrews owns a total of four Model T vehicles. He refurbished all four of the cars in his garage from spare parts he collected from rummage sales. He is selling his third car and is in the process of building a 1929 Model T.

Andrews quickly began to meet people who shared his interest after he built his first car. He met one of his fellow voyagers at the Model T Garage in Wallace, Ind.

“People were just so friendly,” he said.

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