While there are more cars in the Model T Ford Club of America Museum in Richmond, Ind., than anything else, a collector will find a tractor and truck or two to touch on the agricultural aspect of this cool stopover set in the eastern edge of Indiana.
Jay Klehfoth, CEO of the club and editor of the Vintage Ford magazine, offered a tour and first pointed out a Pietenpol Sky Scout from Cherry Grove, Minn., hanging from the ceiling. Jay explained the plane was built in 1931 and it was outfitted with a 1909 Model T engine. Designer Bernard Pietenpol learned to fly in the 1920s, and constructed his first homebuilt airplane in 1923 with a Ford Model T engine.
In April 1930 he used two Ford Model A engines in his Pietenpol Air Camper plane. With the Depression, the Model A motor was too expensive, so he produced a plane powered by the cheaper Model T motor, called the Sky Scout.
Jay then pointed out the only non-Model T in the museum: “This 1906 Ford Model N came before the Model T. First there was the Model A, then B, C, D, F, K, N, R, then the S, then the T.” On the wall there is a picture of Clara Ford driving a Model N, and he said they don’t know for sure, but they wondered if their Model N could be the same vehicle.
A fun Model T on display with fishing paraphernalia is a vehicle on loan, which two collectors made. “Two guys from northern Indiana bought a pile of parts and just put this together. They are fishing buddies,” Jay explained.
Down the line was a reproduction of what he said was the most important Ford ever built: “The 1909 Model T racecar was in the Transcontinental Endurance Race from New York to Seattle. Everyone said that it was too fragile, but it won. This was a big deal when it won; Ford was just another manufacturer, but this put him on the map.”
Along with the 1909 racer, there is a 1926 Dirt Track Model T racecar Jay said “has been clocked at 125 miles per hour!”
In 1909 the only color you could get a Model T in was red, and then in 1914 the color was black. More colors became available in 1926 and 1927. A 1927 Model T Ford Coupe serial number 14680991, built Jan. 24, 1927, was green with black fenders.
A 1922 Model T touring car is also on display. Jay said this car has quite a story: “A gentleman who was 94 brought this in. He bought it in 1948 and he was looking for work. He (and a friend) drove to California, then back.” Along with the car, the gentleman kept a diary of expenses and place stickers of where they traveled.
The museum has a 1923 Model T Centerdoor. “This was built in England and was the most expensive car they ever built,” Jay said.
Trucks are represented as well in the museum. “This 1917 Ford Dumpster truck has solid rubber tires, and is the roughest ride I’ve ever had in my life,” Jay pointed out.
There is also a 1925 Ford TT fire truck with a special story. “We got lucky with this. I got a call. A guy said he was looking for a fire truck that came out of Annandale, New Jersey. I thought, oh no, it is a stolen truck,” Jay joked. He had been the fire chief for Annandale. When visiting, he provided the museum with copies of some original records.
The museum also sports a World War I Ford ambulance built on a 1924 chassis. “The military used this style into the 1930s. We built this from blueprints,” he said, adding that both Ernest Hemmingway and Walt Disney had been ambulance drivers.
The Ford Snow Mobile is eye-catching. It converts to a snow mobile with ski-like fixtures attached at the bottom. “This was designed for mail carriers in New England,” Jay said. “You can convert it to run on the street. It works so well that businesspeople and doctors bought these.
“We are an International organization, and one specialty is the Snow Mobile club. They have over 100 vintage vehicles. They get together for a week and run the Snow Mobiles.”
Tractor collectors will want to know the museum does sport a 1923 Fordson. “I thought we needed a Fordson tractor,” Jay said, “so we put out our wish and received a phone call from a gentleman in New Mexico. ‘I have one,’ he said. ‘I started to restore it, but you can have it.’”
A friend of Jay’s in New Mexico took a look at the tractor. It was rusty and had a frozen engine, but the local Tin Lizard group decided to restore it for the museum. “The gentleman that donated the tractor had a stroke and couldn’t finish it,” Jay explained. “They got it done and he was able to drive it around the field.”
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.