News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 9, 2009

THE OFF SEASON: Taking the ‘Tin Lizzy’ for a spin

MECCA — I can laugh about it now, but I actually saw newspaper headlines flashing before my eyes for a few seconds last week: “Writer dies in Model T test drive crash.”

Let me explain…

We own a 1926 Ford Model T coupe, and it’s not because I fanatically believe in keeping our cars until they wear out, either. The old Ford hasn’t been with us very long at all; it never belonged to a dear grandfather or uncle, wasn’t bequeathed to us in a will. My wife simply wanted her dad — a man who dearly loved running his ’27 Oldsmobile in the Newport Hill Climb every year — to have another car to tinker with as he struggled with failing health. So, despite the fact that my father-in-law just wanted to see the T as it was auctioned off two Septembers ago, Joanie bought it instead and watched him drive away from the Parke County Fairgrounds as happy as a man could be.

I think the price was worth that one moment to her; his very first car, also a ’20s-something Model T, had burned in a garage fire years before, and he always wanted another.

Gib never got to drive the car again; his bad heart soon took precedence over his hobby, and despite the fact that he spent a few hours with the hood folded up and his tools on the running boards, he died without ever getting it out on the road.

This spring, my wife and son (he put a little of his own money into the Model T kitty, too) and I decided to clean and sell the car. It had been parked in an ancient dusty garage — once a schoolhouse, my son recalled his grandpa telling him — for months, dry but dirty.

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    March 12, 2010