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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Cars fit to a 'T'

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bruce and Donna Jessup with their 1919 Ford Model T Touring Car, visiting King's Museum as part of an Arkansas Tin Lizzie tour.
(T-G photo by David Melson) [Order this photo]
For bystanders watching a parade of Model T Fords trek through downtown Shelbyville on Friday afternoon, the thought of hitting the road in cars aged 85-95 years old may have seemed "cool."

But for one couple braving chilly winds following the passage of a cold front -- in an open car, no less -- the trip was downright cold.

No problem for Bruce and Donna Jessup of Baton Rouge, La. They've done it before.

This bumper sticker -- actually above the rear window on one Model T -- says it all.
(T-G photo by David Melson)
Warm feelings

"It's cool," Donna said. "We get the clothes on."

Donna was wrapped up in a heavy coat with blankets handy. They're necessities when your 93-year-old car has no side windows, just what little shelter is provided by a canvas top and two-piece windshield.

The tradeoff's worth it for the privilege -- and truly rare honor -- of seeing America from the front seat of a 1919 Model T Touring Car, Bruce and Donna say.

The Jessups were in one of 26 Model Ts visiting as part of the Arkansas Tin Lizzies 2012 Fall Meeting and Tour, centered around Middle Tennessee. They stopped in Shelbyville for a visit at King's Museum on the way to Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg.

Scenic routes

Trips are slow but scenic for Model T owners.

"Normally these cars cruise at about 35 to 40 mph," Bruce said. "We travel back roads -- they're built for back roads. It gets 20 miles per gallon."

Their car, referred to Bruce as a "restored original," has been driven across the eastern United States from Maine to Louisiana, he said.

"I've put about 30,000 miles on this car. It took me 30 years," Bruce said.

A Moto-Meter -- a temperature gauge -- is atop the radiator of this Model T, in the driver's line of sight.
(T-G photo by David Melson)
The car's appearance tells the story. It appears well cared for but is far from a museum-quality show car, with road rash around the fenders, a few chips in the paint here and there -- a car that is driven and enjoyed instead of locked away in a garage, perfect but hidden.

Living with a T

Caring for a Model T is a little different, Bruce explains.

A tank on the driver's side, painted red, white and blue and partitioned into three parts, contains the car's fluids -- gas in the red portion, water in the white area and oil in the blue tank. The temperature gauge, a see-through device known as a Moto-Meter, is perched atop the exposed radiator cap.

But none of the drivers had to deal with one of the issues some think of when picturing a Model T in their minds.

Some of the Model Ts had hand cranks near the front bumper. But all of the cars boasted electric starters, which eliminated the need for the tedious -- and sometimes arm-breaking -- cranking process.

Ts on the web

See http://arkansastinlizzies.com for more about the club and the cars.