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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Piece of Americana’: Inland Empire Model T Ford Club hosts national tour

UPDATED: Wed., July 14, 2021

As line of Ford Model Ts stopped to turn onto Northwest Boulevard Monday morning, customers at the Little Garden Cafe waved and took photos.

Decked out in 1920s attire, Karen and Ed Archer were particularly photogenic seated in their yellow 1915 Ford Model T Race Car. Karen wore a pink and white ensemble with a matching hat, while Ed wore a blue and tan outfit compete with suspenders, a tie, hat and driving goggles.

“They’re a piece of Americana,” Ed said of Model Ts. “Everyone owned one in the old days so if you really want to kind of recreate, go step back in time, get a Model T.”

The couple drove the car all the way from their home outside of San Francisco in Hayward, CA to Spokane in just over two days. Friends, who trailered their Model T, brought their luggage while the couple in their 80s enjoyed the scenic drive.

Ed started collecting antique clothes in high school and vintage cars followed not long after.

“I always felt like if you’re going to drive an antique car, you need to look the part,” he said.

When he married Karen, Ed sold all his cars to “settle down” but that didn’t last long. The couple decided to have someone else do the work on their cars to keep Karen from being a “garage widow” and use the hobby as a chance to spend time together.

In 2008, for the centennial of the Model T, which was first introduced in 1908, the couple made a transcontinental trip. They put their tires in the Pacific Ocean before driving to Richmond, Indiana for the celebration and then on to Atlantic City where they put their front wheels in the ocean.

The best part of the hobby, Ed said is “you see everybody’s good side.”

That was definitely true Monday with bystanders waving, smiling and snapping photos of the dozens Model Ts as they made their way from Northern Quest Casino to Green Bluff.

The Inland Empire Model T Club is hosting the 2021 Model T Ford Club of America national tour from July 9-14. Each day the approximately 140 Model Ts on this year’s tour take day trips throughout the region.

The tour was a long time coming for Inland Empire Model T Club Tour Chairman, Matt Hanson, 57, who planned the tour nearly two years ago but the event was postponed due to COVID-19.

The tour seems to have been worth the wait though, Hanson said.

“Everybody is loving the experience,” he said.

In the five years, Hanson has been a part of the local Model T club, he said he has learned that “keeping people busy and enjoying the ride,” is what makes a good tour.

The group went up Indian Trail Road and stayed on it until it turned into Rutter Parkway. The line of Model Ts zigged and zagged with the curvy road, surrounded on both sides by trees.

The crew pulled into Pine River Park for coffee and doughnuts mid-morning, although once they’d grabbed their treats, most people headed back to the parking lot to chat over a hundred year old engine.

The types and conditions of Model Ts on the tour vary. From 1908 to 1927, 15 million Model Ts were made. Some of the cars remain traditional while others, Like Mike Harris’ “Rusty” a 1924 TT have some new additions. The back of Harris’ truck is now a BBQ.

While the BBQ might be a conversation starter, it can be hard to drive on the open road so Harris drove his 1924 Model T Touring on Monday. He was just ahead of what he likes to call the “vulture” truck- a modern pickup that drive behind the group in case someone breaks down and the problem can’t be quickly fixed.

If a car gets loaded up it isn’t for lack of trying for a quick fix though, Harris said. “Everybody helps everybody,” he said.

Model T parts are largely interchangeable, a novelty when they were first produced.

As the group wound their way from the park up to Mead, then past wheat fields to Green Bluff, other drivers waved and smiled from their vehicles made a century after the first mass produced car.

The wheels on many of the cars are made of wood, more similar to a wagon than a modern car. In fact, when the Archers first began driving Model Ts the group they joined was called the Horseless Carriage Club. The national group is still around today and focuses on cars built before 1916, which includes the Archers’ Model T.

When the group saw the sign signalling they had entered the Green Bluff farming community, the pace slowed a bit and riders took their time looking at the scenery.

They line of vintage cars slipped through the main intersection in Green Bluff and over to Siemers’ Farm where they were ushered between the gargoyles on either side of the gate.

The drivers lined their cars up on the farm’s front laws and opened their doors to the smell of kettle corn. Of the approximately 140 Model Ts on the tour, only three were driven by women.

A few years ago, a friend of Renea and John Aldridge said they had an antique car they should go see. Despite being a bit skeptical, Renea said, she went.

When she saw the 1923 Roadster she couldn’t help but tell her husband ‘Isn’t that cute?’ Renea recalled. The couple were quickly convinced to buy the Model T, which promptly broke down on their first drive and had to be trailered home. After some elbow grease, the car was up and running, ready for adventures.

John drove the car for about a year before he taught Renea.

“After I learned how to drive it, I said ‘You need to get your own car,’” Renea said, with a laugh.

“Lizze” fondly named both after a vehicle with the same make and model in the animated movie “Cars” and in line with what the car was colloquially called in the late 1920s, has been Renea’s ever since.

The car has three pedals, right is the brake, middle to reverse and left is similar to a clutch, Renea explained. Without power steering, the car can be tough to drive, but it fills Renea, who her husband says is a bit free-spirited, with joy.

“It’s something very different for me to be doing,” Renea said. “I’m not the typical making packages every morning, person. I’m a little bit of a rebel.”

On this tour, Renea’s “accomplice” is Sharlee Colby, a long time friend, who rides shotgun and give Renea directions.

Their husbands, John Aldridge and Randy Colby are driving John’s 1915 Model T Pickup Truck called “Road Runner.” John built the truck about 10 years ago after Renea took over driving “Lizzie.”

“I just acquired three piles of parts from various points in the state of Washington and I built the truck,” John said, with a chuckle. “Henry Ford made 15 million of these things, there are parts everywhere.”

The couples, who live near Mt. Rainier, said they love coming over to Spokane for tours. They especially enjoyed driving through the Palouse on Sunday.

“The tour is going great. The routes were obviously well thought out and the scenery is ‘amber waves of grain’,” John said, referencing the song America, the Beautiful.

The couples all agree though that the best part of the tours is the people, who are always willing to lend a helping hand and gab about their historic vehicles.

“You need a tire? I’ll go find you one.” Renea said. “Everyone that I have met through Model Ts, it’s a great group.”

On Wednesday the group will spend the morning in Riverfront Park on the hill underneath the clock tower. The tour plans to arrive at about 9 a.m. and spend a few hours downtown, the public is welcome to stop by and see the cars and their owners, said organizer, Hanson.

No matter what the occasion, driving with a group of Model Ts is an adventure, John said.

“Every drive is a parade, every stop is a car show,” John said.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the left pedal on Renea Aldridge’s Model T is similar to a modern day clutch.

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