Cross-Country Model T Trip Is Drive of Lifetime

By Harrop, JoAnne Klimovich | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

Cross-Country Model T Trip Is Drive of Lifetime


Harrop, JoAnne Klimovich, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Ken Hummel is going for a drive.

He will travel 3,961.9 miles. His speed won't exceed 40 miles per hour.

He won't have windshield wipers, air conditioning, or a radio.

He will pass through 12 states over 29 days.

It's a trip that's been in the making for 100 years. And he can't wait to put the pedal to the metal.

Hummel, 53 of Bell Township, Westmoreland County, will be in the driver's seat of one of 55 Model T cars making a trek across the U.S. to commemorate the centennial of the 1909 New York to Seattle Ocean to Ocean Endurance Race.

The drive includes an individual -- and Model T -- representing each the 50 states. Five additional enthusiasts will participate the United Kingdom, Ireland, England, Canada and Sweden. Hummel is Pennsylvania's representative. All participants will pay their own way.

The ride begins Sunday at New York City Hall and ends at Drumheller Fountain in suburban Seattle on July 12.

"I am nervous and excited," says Hummel, who is part of a Model T Ford Club. "There was no question in my mind that I wanted to do this. This is a part of history, especially since it most likely will be the last time anything like this will be done."

The original race was sponsored by millionaire Robert Guggenheim, part of a publicity campaign for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle that year.

Drivers will be behind the wheels of Model T's dating from 1909 to 1927. Every fourth day on the road will be a free day, a day to rest, recover and tinker.

Planning for the event began in 2003.

"I have always liked the Model T because it reminds me of a time when people in this country were self-reliant and self-supporting," says Peter Bernhardt, one of the tour's co-chairmen. He saw a Model T for the first time at the age of 9 and says he "never got over it."

Bernhardt, along with his wife Mary -- both are 62 -- will be making the trek in a 1911 model.

"A lot of Americans learned to drive on the Model T," he says. "This is about tradition. It will also take great patience, but it will well be worth it."

Most of the trip will follow the original route from a century ago. The plan is to avoid highways if possible. The motorcade will have police escorts for part of the journey as a safety precaution. Three days will be spent in Dearborn, Mich., and three days in Seattle.

But this time around, the trip should be easier than it was in 1909, says Bob Casey, curator of transportation at the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich. Roads are nicer, gas stations are available, there is cell-phone technology and GPS systems, and the capability of bringing extra parts in a modern vehicle. And there are plenty of hotels along the way.

Planning the route was probably one of the most difficult parts of this entire voyage, Casey says. Drivers in these relatively slow- moving vehicles have to be careful on roads with lots of traffic or other distractions. The taillights and headlights aren't very bright, so night driving should be avoided.

"Not many people will drive across country in their lifetime in a modern vehicle, let alone a car made in the early 1900s," Casey says. "So this will definitely be a challenge, but an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives."

Despite being a well-made car, the Model T requires a lot of maintenance such as adding oil. It can overheat quickly and can be uncomfortable to ride in because you can't adjust the seats. …

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