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.

The first Model Ts sold for $850, but Ford was able to drop the price to $260 after mass production reduced manufacturing costs. Today you can still buy a fixer-upper for around 800 bucks, says Stolinski, although a nicely restored T will fetch between 10 and 15 grand.

Enthusiasts say the relatively low eBay value keeps the Model T a car for the 99 percenters. “I never worry about someone stealing it,” says Steve Francois, who owns a 1924 Model T and, like many owners, still uses the car for routine trips to the grocery. “No one has ever bothered with it.”

Part of that may be due to the fact that not everyone can start a Model T, let alone drive it out of a parking lot. “There’s no gas pedal on it,” Joe Fellin demonstrates, pointing to the three pedals in his 1922 Model T, a rare version where Ford unsuccessfully tried two center doors as a precursor to its four-door incarnation. “There’s a throttle that connects directly to the carburetor. So to get it started, you press the left pedal halfway down, which means the transmission’s in neutral. You hold it to the floor for low gear, and let it out to put it in high gear. There’s no second gear on a stock Model T.”

“If you want to go backwards, you push the left pedal halfway down and push on the center pedal with the other foot,” Stolinski adds. “And the right one’s the brake.”

T owners feel the car’s peculiar operation is part of its charm, not to mention a built-in anti-theft device.

“I was at a Burger King one day, and some guy came in and asked me, ‘Is that your Model T out there?’” recalls Fellin, who, at 6 feet 2 inches and favoring bolo ties and western hats, cuts an imposing figure getting out of the classic car. “He said, ‘You know you left your keys in the ignition.’

“I said, ‘Yeah, but you know what? If you were fortunate enough to get it started, you’d never figure out how to drive it unless you were a Model T fan. And if you were a Model T fan, you wouldn’t be mean-spirited enough to take it for a ride!’”

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