I must be a confident woman to share this photo, circa 1980. Yikes. But for the sake of a story … I’m in the questionable pink jacket. With my sisters, my mom and the 1931 Model A. (Shh. Don’t tell my sisters I posted this.)
When I was growing up, my dad drove a beautifully restored 1931 Model A Ford. (It was a Deluxe Tudor Sedan, for those who are interested.) The car, which we all affectionately referred to as the “ol’ car,” was a well-known trademark around town. As soon as the snow left the ground, the Model A was my dad’s car of choice until weather forced him to tuck it in for another winter of hibernation in a neighboring snowbird’s garage.
That car took us to special occasions like school dances and events, Sunday mass, and it even got our family’s brides to the church on time. But my dad also drove it daily to and from work, unless the sky threatened rain–although the wipers did work, occasionally. The ol’ car made ordinary trips to the bank and grocery store seem special. Finally, one day, my dad traded it for a camera–a 50th Anniversary 4×5 Linhof Master Technika kit–that he’d been yearning for. And well, that was that. (Hey car folks, don’t faint. He’s a photographer. That camera was the “it” camera for him, it was valued more than the car, and he still has the darn thing. He also still loves old cars, although you could say he’s moved to a much more modern mode of transportation since he now tools around in a 1957 Chevy Bel Air.)
Every time my family heads off to Greenfield Village, I’m treated to a little flashback of fond memories with the sights, sounds and smells of the Model Ts cruising the streets–the predecessor to our Model A.
Still, that very antique 1931, with all of its charm, is considered state-of-the-art compared with some of the treasure of vehicles that will participate in the upcoming Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village the weekend of Sept. 10-11.
In its 61st year, it’s the longest running antique car show in the country and is host to vehicles made through 1932. Actually, the show is billed as cars from as early as the 1890s through 1932. But this year, you can add a hundred and twenty years.
I checked in with Jim Johnson who manages Special Programs at The Henry Ford, and he shared that this year at the show there is going to be a working replica of the very first self-propelled vehicle. The 1770 Cugnot.
At first 1770 did not compute.
I was taking notes as Jim was telling me about it, thinking, say what? Is he 100 years off? Nope. The machine is huge, it runs with a steam engine at a clip of three miles per hour. It’s coming to the show from the Tampa Auto Museum, and the plan is that it’ll run intermittently throughout the weekend with a schedule to be determined. I showed my kids video of it from the museum. It’s pretty wild, and we’re all eager to get a closer look.
You should know that you don’t have to be an antique car buff to get something out of this show. It is for everybody: enthusiasts, novices, the design minded, mechanically inclined, and all those who just want to have fun. With extended hours at the Village on Saturday night, there will be a gas-light parade at 7 p.m., a concert, dancing, and a 9 p.m. fireworks finale.
You can click here to check out the scheduled events, activities for the kids and entertainment. There’s no additional cost for the show, it’s covered with admission to Greenfield Village.
The show—this year themed around the 100-year anniversary of the Indy 500—is unique because it’s not just a static collection of cars on display. The vehicles will be touring the grounds of the Village throughout the day, so in addition to getting an up–close look, visitors will have the opportunity to see the vehicles in action. Because of the Indy 500 theme, there will also be all kinds of racing-related historical items on display, including the original 999 Ford Racer. The 1901 Ford Sweepstakes, considered the car that changed everything, will run a tour of the Village at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Check out this video of Edsel Ford II telling the story of the Sweepstakes. It’s a great story.
Jim said there will be also quite a gathering of Sears Auto Buggies from around the country coming to the show. The Auto Buggy was the quintessential horseless carriage, and buyers could order one right out of the Sears catalog.
One tradition associated with the show that I found especially charming is that a group of about 30 pre-1915 cars arrive mid week and then on Thursday make a surface roads trek from The Henry Ford to Lansing and back again. So, if you see a bunch of really old ol’cars in your daily travels, give ‘em a honk and a cheer to thank the owners for coming out and sharing with others those wonderful pieces of automotive history.