More Calgary Hot Rod History

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Further to the post about Calgary’s early hot rod scene, with thanks to Dave Meyer for that history, a few more details have emerged.

Ian Morrison of Vancouver had some information to share about the late 1950s and a certain Calgary car club called Road Knights Kustoms.

Beginning in 1957, a group of high school and working friends got together to form Road Knights Kustoms. According to Morrison, the club flourished thanks to eager participation from several members — and the focus was on hot rods and custom cars. But the club also promoted charity events, blood donor clinics, social events including dances and parties, road runs, touch football matches and car shows.

The Road Knights club was one of the first to host a car show in Calgary. They used a livestock pavilion at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede grounds, and were able to attract custom cars from Alberta and the United States. Morrison said seed funds (to facilitate the rental of the pavilion and to pay for advertising) was raised by hosting dance nights at a city community hall at Fifth Avenue and Eleventh Street. The band was Keith Hitchner and the Be-Bops, featuring Glenn Grice on drums.

All photos here are courtesy of Ian Morrison.

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Typical with most car clubs of the era, the Road Knights Kustoms were eager to lend a hand whenever needed, and help dispel the myth that car customizers were hooligans!

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This 1933 Chevrolet was Ian Morrison’s first car, which he purchased for $17.

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Morrison’s second car was this 1952 Chevrolet 210. “The first thing any of us ever did when we got a new car was install lowering blocks in the rear,” he recalled. He lowered the Chevy, and also added twin carburetors to the inline-six cylinder engine.

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Eventually, the Chevy was further modified with different taillights, and painted a light purple. A favourite spot to shoot Road Knight club cars was the parking lot at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, or more simply back then, Tech. The original SAIT building can be seen in the background, it’s now hidden by much more modern buildings and is called ‘Heritage Hall’.

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Photo below marked ‘Glen Smith’s car — Calgary’. This was a 1932 Ford roadster, and the image was taken at one of Calgary’s earliest hot rod shows, hosted by the Road Knights. There will be a news clipping about this a little later. The show preceded the World of Wheels.

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Simply marked ‘Lethbridge car’.

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… and again, simply marked ‘Glenn Richardson — Lethbridge’. This is a full custom 1951 Chevy coupe.

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… ‘Edmonton T’.

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…’Clark Lamont’s Custom Ford’.

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… the promised clipping from an undated Calgary Herald.

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…’Al’s 1941 Chevy’. This was Road Knight’s member Albert Van Wyk’s customzied Chevrolet coupe. Love the Continental kit and the fender skirts.

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…’Barry Kyle’s 55 Chevy, Yogi Bear.” Morrison remembers this car as being the fastest ‘stock’ car on the strip.

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…’Norm’s Merc’. This was Road Knight’s member Norm Gossett’s four-door Mercury custom.

ROAD_KNIGHTS_CAR2_0001…the following photos are all marked ‘Saskatoon’, where the Road Knights visited a car show and Morrison snapped these images.

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… the car above is a late 1950s MGA. It was won new in a raffle, and the winner went ahead and hot rodded it with a V-8 engine and custom paint job. The photo below is the last in the ‘Saskatoon’ series.

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…below, another car shot in front of the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. It’s marked ‘Phil Post Model A/Chev, Calgary 1970.’

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…and finally, the Road Knights Car Club official crest, as it would have been sewn to the back of club jackets.

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Calgary hot rod history

A little bit of Calgary, Alberta hot rod history to share. One of the greatest names in drag racing came from a humble north hill neighbourhood — and Dale Armstrong went on to build and tune some fast engines. Read my column at driving.ca.

In researching the story, I met with Dave Meyer. He shared some of his memorabilia from the era of go-fast cars in Calgary circa 1958 to 1963. Enjoy.

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Cards from the various car clubs and specialists that populated Calgary.  More to follow.

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DAVE_MEYER_RODS_5aNo comment necessary here. Good looking car …

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…and finally, a scene from a Calgary back alley. Does anybody recognize these rebels? Dave Meyer would like to know who they are.

Cross-Canada adventure in a freshly restored 1951 Ford

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Bill Paul’s 1951 Ford at the first border sign, crossing from Alberta into Saskatchewan.

Story first published in the Calgary Herald Driving section. All photos courtesy Bill Paul. I took a particular interest in this story because Paul didn’t build his car to be a show-only specimen; he actually used the car as it was meant to be driven. No trailer queen this one.

Realizing a dream can take time.

Case in point: Calgarian Bill Paul and his 1951 Ford Two Door Custom – it took him more than 20 years to restore the car.

Completing the restoration was just the first part of the dream. In 2012 the semi-retired carpenter and his wife Vivian drove the Ford across Canada to their hometown of Brookfield, Nova Scotia. There, the Ford carried them in a parade that was part of the Coming Home to Brookfield festivities. Check that one off the bucket list.

In 1988 Paul bought the rusted-out car from a farmer near Langdon. At the time, he was renting a house in Calgary and had use of the garage.

“I’d become involved with the Nifty Fifty’s Ford Club in 1986 (that was the year the club got started), and I didn’t have an old Ford,” Paul recounts. “So, I went on the hunt and found this one.”

After taking the car to pieces, he spent a year or two working on various parts until the landlord sold the house. The next place he rented didn’t have a garage, so the project went to a property owned by a Nifty Fifty’s club member, where it was stored for the next few years.

As the couple moved from house to house the Ford sometimes went along, other times staying in storage. In 1993 when the Pauls bought a home in Riverbend and put up a garage the Ford came home for good.

“I began to putter with it a little more than I had before,” he says, and adds, “but it wasn’t until 2006 or 2007 that I really started to put my heart and soul into it.

“The guys in the club kept asking me if I was ever going to get the car together, and I thought, OK, enough fooling around.”

He had the body media blasted, and discovered more rust than expected, especially in the floor. Rusted metal was cut away, and new panels welded in – including floor, quarter and rocker panels.

Paul used a drill-mounted wire brush to clean up frame rails and applied a rust neutralizer before having the chassis painted black.

To lessen the pain on his pocketbook Paul would take two or three items a year, over the years, to be chrome plated.

“I did it piece by piece, a little at a time,” Paul says, “so I didn’t wind up with one big, expensive chrome plating bill.”

New nuts and bolts were used to put the car back together. Also new were many mechanical components, including brake drums, shoes and lines, shocks and front end parts.

Paul restored the car to original specifications with the 6-volt electrical system. He kept drum brakes all around, the three-on-the-tree manual shift transmission and manual steering. He added some custom touches, including the Continental spare tire kit, sunvisor and dual exhaust.

The engine in his car had a hole in the block, something he couldn’t see when he first bought the Ford. So Paul purchased a running 239 c.i. flathead Ford V-8 from a club member, and installed this engine in his finished car.

“It ran, but I thought it sounded noisy,” Paul says. “It had always been my intention to finish the car and drive it back home, and when I learned about the Brookfield homecoming, I bought a freshly rebuilt flathead and put it in the car.”

Ensuring the Ford was topped up with fluids, the Pauls left Calgary at 8 a.m. on July 14, 2012, and headed east on the Trans Canada.

“I probably had about 300 or 400 miles on it by then,” Paul says.

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Crossing from Saskatchewan into Manitoba. The rebuilt flathead was running hot.

And that’s when the adventures began. In Saskatchewan Paul says he noticed the engine was starting to overheat, but it wasn’t until he was just outside Winnipeg that he really got concerned.

They made it to his brother in law’s house, and Paul spent some time locating a new radiator cap, which he replaced. But as they were leaving Winnipeg the driveshaft fell out of the car.

The rear yoke had a hairline fracture, and it had finally given up. At the Winnipeg garage there was nothing the mechanic could do without a replacement, so Paul phoned one of his Nifty Fifty’s friends.

“I have a bunch of parts stored there, and he got a yoke out and sent it overnight to Winnipeg,” Paul says.

Driveshaft back in the car, and now well into Ontario, the Ford began overheating again. Paul would periodically stop by the side of Lake Superior, fill a jug with lake water, and add it to the radiator.

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From Manitoba into Ontario, driveshaft fixed, cooling problem getting worse.

In Sault St. Marie Paul located a new thermostat at NAPA, had it installed at the Firestone garage, and continued on.

“The car wasn’t boiling the water out, but we were just losing water,” he says. He continued to stop, topping off the radiator, for the rest of the journey.

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Stopped by the marker denoting entry into Quebec.

The Pauls arrived in Nova Scotia on July 20 at 8:45 p.m., the night before the day of the parade, with a car that was overheating. Insult to injury, the generator had also quit.

Paul figured they’d come too far to miss the parade.

He phoned a few of his Nova Scotia car friends that evening, and at 8 a.m. Saturday morning a replacement generator had been found and borrowed. Paul got it in the car and narrowly made the 10:30 parade lineup, with five minutes to spare.

The Ford made it through the parade, and Paul then spent several days pulling off the heads to track down the overheating issue. One head was bowed, and after it was planed Paul noticed it was also cracked.

A replacement head was located in Truro, and it was planed and installed. The generator and starter were rebuilt at Al Roland Auto Electric in Truro, and Barry Weatherby, also of Truro, tuned up the car and gave it a once over. He noticed the front-end alignment was out some 20mm.

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Entering New Brunswick (above) before finally arriving in Nova Scotia (below) at 8:45 in the evening, car overheating and now not generating current.

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“I didn’t think the car had been handling that well, but it had been professionally aligned before we left Calgary,” Paul explains.

They left Nova Scotia on Aug. 14 for the return trip, and made it into northern Ontario when a valve guide clip let go, leaving the valve useless. There was no cell phone service, so Paul decided to nurse the car into Winnipeg.

With the mangled clip removed and replaced with one sourced from a Winnipeg flathead enthusiast, the Pauls were back on their way to Calgary.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, but the car was still overheating after 10,621 kilometres.

Paul has since had replacement heads inspected for cracks and planed flat. With new gaskets, he hopes the overheating issue will be a thing of the past.

Here’s hoping  the completion of his next dream, the restoration of a 1956 Ford convertible, will be finished soon.

 

Daughter searches for dad’s long lost Cobra


The whereabouts of Lloyd Samaha’s 1963 Shelby Cobra remains a mystery.

Calgarian Mary Ann Samaha’s late father sold his Cobra before 1968 when she was born.

While she was growing up, Samaha told Mary Ann stories about his beloved car. He always wondered where the Cobra ended up.

The story goes like this.

On February 2, 1964 a Cobra was shipped from Los Angeles to Pflueger Lincoln-Mercury in Honolulu.

Samaha co-owned a restaurant in Hawaii, and he purchased the Cobra from the dealership. The car cost $5,195, and with its Class “A” accessories that included aluminum rocker covers and different tires the total was $5,475.

Immediately, Samaha began racing.

“My dad ran a high-end steak house, called Canlis,” Mary Ann says. “Racing his Cobra was just fun on the side.”

He’d chosen a car built for competition, as noted American racer Carroll Shelby based the Cobra on a lightweight platform from English automaker AC Cars.

Mark II Cobras, which is what Samaha owned, were equipped with a 289 c.i. (4.7-L) Ford Windsor V-8 and were built between early 1963 and 1965.

According to daughter Mary Ann, he was competitive.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of this stuff,” she says of the numerous trophies the family still has. “As kids, we always had them in our rooms, they were in every room of the house. And, all of the newspaper clippings I’ve just organized into binders.”

According to one of those aging, yellowed papers, Samaha began racing in 1959 when he borrowed a car and drove ‘the old Kahuku’ track. He then bought a beat up Jaguar for $400, and enjoyed the competitive spirit of club racing.

Mary Ann says her father never told her why he eventually invested in the bright red Cobra, but the car, and his racing days, were important to him.

“Even when he was teaching us to drive, it was always about that racing mentality and being defensive,” Mary Ann says. “It was part of our lives.”

Samaha moved his young family in 1965 from Honolulu to San Francisco, his home city. He shipped the Cobra there on Pan American airlines. Once settled, he raced the car a few times at Laguna Seca.

“But, he had two young kids, and I was on the way,” Mary Ann explains. “It just wasn’t practical to keep the car anymore, and he sold it for only a few thousand dollars.”

The family moved to B.C., her mother’s home province, in 1981, and Mary Ann to Calgary in 1987.

In late 2000, as the Internet was burgeoning, Samaha asked Mary Ann if they might use the computer to help locate his Cobra.

“All we knew at the time was that it was a red 289 Cobra,” she says, and adds, “We didn’t know the all-important chassis number.”

Mary Ann found Ned Scudder, Shelby American Automobile Club Cobra registrar, and gave him those few details. Without a chassis number, he couldn’t help.

Samaha died in 2007, and Mary Ann then decided somebody somewhere had to know something concerning the whereabouts of her father’s old Cobra. This time she was armed with a list of modifications that had been done to make the car competitive, and she sent them to Scudder.

He responded immediately, and called Mary Ann.

“He said, ‘I found the car, and I have a photo I have to get to you’,” Mary Ann says. “He also said to be prepared when I saw the image.”

Scudder knew of Cobra chassis No. 2238, and knew its history except for its first owner – Samaha. When he read about the racing modifications, he instantly put two and two together.

Cobra 2238, according to Scudder, had been put back on the street. In 1969 it was left at an Albuquerque, NM service station for a water pump repair. When the owner came back to collect the Cobra it had been stolen.

It went unrecovered until 1974. Missing its engine, and shot full of bullet holes, the Cobra was discovered crashed at the base of Mt. Taylor near Grants, NM. But all of the modifications Samaha had made matched those found on the stolen car.

It was the photo of the crashed car Scudder wanted to share with Mary Ann.

“A part of me was really sad when it was found, and I wouldn’t be able to tell my dad about it,” she says. “But, to have shown him that photo would have broken his heart.”

Rescued from the mountain, the Cobra was eventually restored, and sold almost repeatedly until a German buyer purchased it in 1989. Currently, the owner of the car is unknown, but the vehicle is still thought to be in Germany.

“I will continue Googling the car in the hopes that I will one day find it. If I could just sit in the car, and feel what my dad felt when he bought it, that would be enough,” Mary Ann says.

She concludes, “It was gone before I was around, and even though I never saw the car with my own eyes, I just can’t let the mystery go.”

 

Calgary Herald, 100 Years of the Model T, by Greg Williams

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Co.

This story first published in the Calgary Herald Driving section Sept. 26, 2008.

“You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world,” sang the Beatles in their 1968 hit Revolution.
While Henry Ford and the Beatles were decades — and worlds — apart, the Model T Ford did start a revolution, and it did indeed change the world.
The famous Model T Ford, first sold on October 1, 1908, celebrates its 100 th anniversary this year. Coming from humble origins, the Model T Ford broke through socio-economic and class barriers, and is perhaps one of the most influential automobiles of all time. In fact, late in 1999, the Model T was named ‘Car of the Century’ by a panel of 133 automotive journalists who chose the Tin Lizzie from a list of 700 contenders.
“Henry Ford and the Model T revolutionized the auto industry,” says Christine Hollander, communications manager at Ford of Canada. “The Model T changed the world by providing transportation to the masses, and it introduced a new way of (vehicle) manufacturing.
“We still have that same vision at Ford: producing high quality, affordable transportation for the masses.”
While there are many events happening to celebrate the Model T Ford’s anniversary, the largest undertaking by a North American transportation museum is an interactive display at Alberta’s own Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin. The Model T: How Tin Lizzie Changed the World runs until February 28, 2009 (www.machinemuseum.net).
There are 25 Model Ts on display, including ‘adapted’ cars that have been made into a snowmobile, a tractor, a T-bucket hotrod, and a racecar. There’s a Model T engine in an airplane, and an example of a repurposed T engine as an inboard boat motor by a Brantford, Ont. company.
“The Model T Ford had such an impact around the world, and we needed to do a celebration around this particular car — it was so impactful,” says David Dusome, RAM’s director and lead researcher for the project.
The museum didn’t want to present a bunch of technical or mechanical details about the Model T; Dusome says that kind of information is readily available. What RAM wanted to investigate and portray was the social impact of Henry Ford’s car.
“There were two main social impacts,” Dusome says. “First, there was the democratization of ownership, and second, there was the democratization of desire.”
Make no mistake; there were cars prior to Ford’s Model T. There were many automakers producing mechanized forms of transport — but automobiles were solely playthings for the rich. The wealthy were the only ones who could afford the hobby.
But as Dusome says, thanks to mass production of the Model T, the car became affordable.
“At that point, the average person could say, ‘I can own a car’.” And it didn’t matter where you lived — Model Ts were readily available. It could have been a small town such as High River, Alberta. Chances were good there’d be somebody selling Fords.
Now that just about everyone could afford to put a Model T Ford in front of the house, everybody wanted one — leading to what Dusome dubs the democratization of desire.
“Soon, everyone desired an automobile, and today, each of us believes we have a right to own a vehicle,” Dusome says.

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Co.

When the Model T Ford was introduced in 1908 the car cost $825. Thanks to Ford’s manufacturing efficiencies gained through the moving assembly line that price decreased to $260 by 1925.
According to Dusome, there’s a Canadian sub-story to how Ford came to implement the assembly line. Peter E. Martin of Wallaceburg, Ont. was the fifth employee hired to the Ford Motor Co., and was put in charge of Ford’s Piquette Ave. assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan in 1908. The Model T was designed and developed at the Piquette Ave. plant.
Dusome picks up the tale about Martin and the assembly line: “There’s a story of how William C. Klann was at an abattoir at the Chicago stockyards, watching a carcass move from worker to worker as it hung from a chain. The idea was if you could disassemble something as it moved along, could you build something?
“This idea of the moving chain came back to Martin, and he could have easily said ‘That’s a stupid idea’, but he didn’t. They set up a small assembly line, and experimented with speeds. That was piloted at the Piquette Ave. Ford plant, and it was spearheaded by a Canadian — Peter Martin.”
There was mass production prior to the moving assembly line — but that mass production consisted of workers and parts moving from chassis to chassis.
Henry Ford wanted the Model T to be a car for all people, and also wanted it to be durable and reliable, able to tackle the rough dirt roads of the period. The Model T Ford had a 2.9-litre four-cylinder engine mounted in the front. Producing 20.2 horsepower, the engine transferred its power to the rear wheels via a planetary gearbox equipped with two forward speeds, and reverse. Model Ts were good for a top speed of 64-to 72-km/h.
Several body styles such as Roadster, Fordor, Sedan and Runabout (truck) were all mounted on the same Model T chassis, and used the same four-cylinder motor. Ford basically set the stage for modern auto manufacturing where several different cars share the same chassis, but are completely different from each other in regards to body and style.
Model Ts were simple, and the average owner could tackle many of the necessary maintenance and repair chores. Ford of Canada’s Hollander recalls attending a Model T celebration in Richmond, Indiana where a group of four or five individuals took a disassembled T from a pile of parts to a running auto in only a few hours.
“It was a simple technology, and a technology that worked very well,” she says of the Model T.

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Co. Paul Larson from Clear Lake Iowa at the July 21, 2008 Model T Ford celebration in Richmond, Ind.

The president of the Foothills Model T Ford Club in Calgary, Glen McDonald, would agree (www.foothillsmodeltfordclub.com). Old cars have fascinated McDonald, 61, since he can remember. At 16 his first car was a 1949 Dodge, but it wasn’t too long before he owned a Model T.
“One day my uncle phoned me up, and said he’d discovered parts and pieces of an old car in an industrial yard they were cleaning up east of the city,” McDonald says. That was in 1976. What he dragged home was a 1926 Model T Sedan, but the body was so far gone McDonald turned the car into a Roadster. It took him a few years of work, but the car is now on the road and McDonald uses it regularly on annual tours.
The Foothills Model T group organizes three or four outings or tours each year, sometimes driving their Ts as far as 160 to 240 kilometres at a stretch.
“We drive the cars, and that’s how people see them – on the road. Show and shines are something we don’t do,” McDonald says.
And he can attest to how well the simple technology of the Model T actually works. He tells a story of being on a tour when the weather turned wet and he needed to get his Roadster up a muddy and damp grassy incline. A modern four-wheel drive truck was stuck a quarter of the way up, but McDonald just drove straight up the hill in his Model T.
“That”s what the Model Ts did, they were designed to go along a muddy, pot holed road. That’s when they’re in their element.”
When the last Model T rolled off the line on May 26, 1927 more than 15 million Model T Fords had been built and sold. That was an automotive feat not bested until the VW Beetle surpassed that sales figure in 1972.
Dusome says that by 1924 50 per cent of the cars in the world were Model T Fords. He adds that a modern-day analogy of that kind of proliferation and market acceptance would be akin to Microsoft computer software.
And that’s another kind of revolution — computer technology has changed the way vehicles are made, and how consumers are using them.
“The Model T and the vision behind it is part of our corporate culture,” concludes Ford’s Hollander. “The Model T is part of our heritage, and today we strive to deliver technologically smart, safe, and sustainable fuel efficient vehicles.”

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Co.

MODEL T TIDBITS
-During his research, RAM’s Dusome came across a survey performed by Robert and Helen Lynd called Middletown, in which the couple took a look at a slice of small-town Americana in Muncie, Indiana.
“They surveyed 26 car owning households,” Dusome says. Most of those automobiles would have been Model Ts. “Of those 26, 21 of (the households) didn’t have indoor plumbing or a bathtub. When asked ‘Why would you have a car and not a bathtub’, one of those being surveyed said ‘Because you can’t ride to town in a bathtub’.”
-By 1930 in Alberta 60 per cent of the cars on the roads were Model T Fords; six out of every 10 people in the province were driving the same make and model car.
-The Model T Ford is a handful to drive, literally. The spark and throttle levers are mounted on the steering column, in front of the steering wheel and are controlled by hand, while three floor-mounted pedals keep the feet busy. The left pedal is low gear when it’s pushed to the floor, neutral when in the middle, and high gear when it’s all the way out. The middle pedal is reverse gear, and the right pedal is the brake. Unlike modern cars where the brakes are at each wheel, the brake in a Model T is actually in the gearbox. “There’s an art form to driving a T, it’s different,” says T owner Glen McDonald.
-Thank the Model T for today’s huge 21-inch wheels and tires and anything that’s added to a vehicle after it rolls off the showroom floor. Over the years, thousands of Model T accessories have been sold, and it’s suggested the T spawned the aftermarket parts industry — today a $38 billion trade.
-No question about it, Model Ts were primarily black — almost 12 million of the 15 million total Model Ts were black. But, in the early and late years of Model T production, the car was produced in many different colours, including blue, red, green and grey.
-In May 2008 Ford challenged six universities worldwide to design a vehicle as revolutionary as the Model T with its attributes: simple, lightweight, practical, compelling; and priced below $7,000. Two scholarships will be awarded to the best designs for the Model T of the 21 st century — winners will be announced on Oct. 1, 2008.