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The ‘T’ Party

Arizona’s Model T clubs are enjoying new respect as key holders to American ingenuity.

Jimmy Magahern | Jan 4, 2012, 12:10 p.m.

Like many T collectors, Linney grew up with antique cars. “My dad had a Model A, and that’s what I learned to drive in.”

Others, like 80-year-old Ed Stolinski, bought their first Model T when they were still in circulation (Ford made 15 million of them between 1908 and 1927, a number not surpassed until the VW Beetle in the ‘60s), and have simply never grown tired of them.

“I always drove Model Ts,” says Stolinski, thumbing through photos in his wallet that include sepia-toned shots of him as a young lad beside a car that looks little changed from the one he drives today. “There’s my 1914, my 1926, my ’39,” he says, fondly. “They’re unique. You can park a Porsche along side of one, and nobody will look at the Porsche.”

“T” partiers also tend to be lifers in their relationships: Ed and Dolores Stolinski just celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary in November, and remain united in their love of the cars (Dolores serves as the club’s historian). While the men trade shop talk on car modifications, the women, many of whom have dressed the part for the parade — ‘20s-style dresses, showy hats — trade Model T stories with one another. “You’ll hear gals in their 90s talk about how they lost their honor in the back of a Model T,” Stolinski says with a laugh. “It’s amazing the things older folks will tell about their experiences in these cars.”

About the only thing that separates a Model T lover from their cars is old age, which often takes its toll on the cars’ owners before the cars themselves. “We lose a few members now and then,” says East Valley Model T Ford Club president Austin Graton, “either because they finally sell their Model T, or they simply get old and pass away.” Adds Charlie Pepe, president of the Tucson Touring T’s: “We’re still an active club, but we have slowed down in the past few years due to age.” Remaining members still get together for meetings, Pepe says, but he feels it may be time to seek new blood. “We will probably change a few people on our board in January,” he says, “and be ready to roll again in February.”

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Joe Fellin, past president of the national Model T Ford Club of America, appreciates the user- friendly simplicity of the automobile.

The Car for the 99 Percent

While some vintage car clubs can become a bit exclusionist and snobby, Model T enthusiasts strive to remain true to Henry Ford’s original vision of the car as the motorcar for the common man. “I will build a car for the great multitude,” Ford recalled proclaiming in his 1922 biography, My Life and Work. “It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one — and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

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