Meadville Tribune

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June 11, 2012

Model T lovers slowly invading the region

VERNON TOWNSHIP — Driving rural back roads is something Ken Hummel and more than two dozen of his friends like to do. But they do it a bit differently than most — they’re not driving modern cars or motorcycles or even ones that are 50 years old.

They’re putting about in Model T Fords that are about 100 years old.

Hummel and like-minded Ford Model T enthusiasts are staying in the Meadville area through Thursday at Days Inn in order to drive their antique autos in the third annual Ocean-to-Ocean Reunion Tour.

Model T enthusiasts from as far away as Canada, Virginia, New York and Arkansas are participating this year with as many as 28 Model Ts to travel around northwestern Pennsylvania. Daily they plan to drive out on a day trip and return to the hotel.

The third reunion brings together Model T enthusiasts who participated in the Centennial Tour of 2009 when 55 Model Ts traveled from New York City to Seattle, according to Hummel of Avonmore, who is the tour coordinator.

The 2009 tour commemorated the running of the 1909 Ocean-to-Ocean Endurance Run won by a Model T Ford. The 1909 contest, sponsored by millionaire Robert Guggenheim, was part of a publicity campaign for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle that year.

The group sticks to back roads since 30 to 35 miles per hour is about as fast as the Model T will get around.

“You see a lot more, hear a lot more and you just see a lot more of the country,” Hummel said of why he likes driving around in his antique car. “You miss out on so much in a modern car.”

Gary Foerster, a retiree who lives outside of New York City in the town of Setauket on Long Island, has had a passion for Model Ts since getting his first one in 1978.

For him, it’s the simplicity of the car combined with the scenery one sees — like three years ago crossing Kansas early one summer morning around dawn.

“You’re driving the back roads. The birds are fluttering by. There’s this big red sun. There’s nothing like it,” he said. “There’s the putt-putt-putt of the engine. I just love it.”

For Foerster’s wife, Valerie, it’s the feel of the open road.

“There’s no car really that can jostle you around like it,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a novelty, but it’s also a bit of history, too.”

Both the Foersters and Hummel said the cars always draw people.

“They’re really a magnet for people,” Hummel said. “People come up and want to take a closer look. A lot of kids and their parents have never seen this stuff.”

“They don’t drive like a modern car,” he continued. “There’s no fuel pump, no oil pump or water pump. Some you have to crank to start.”

The public is welcome to meet, greet and learn at Days Inn each evening through Thursday and also at the planned “coffee stops” the group will have each day.

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