The Historic Vehicle Association is celebrating a century of American road trips by recreating a cross-country tour in a restored 1915 Model T Ford. The crew made an unscheduled stop in Great Bend on Friday to change a carburetor.
HVA President Mark Gessler said the tour is based on a trip made by Edsel Ford and six of his boyhood friends in the summer of 1915. They drove from Detroit to the world’s fair exposition in San Francisco in a similar car.
That year, early cross-country road systems like the Lincoln Highway and the National Old Trails Highway were becoming drivable, Gessler said. There were many well-publicized trips such as Emily Post’s New York to San Francisco trip for Collier’s Weekly, and Packard Motor Company President Henry Joy’s trip from Detroit to San Francisco to promote the new Lincoln Highway.
Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford, was 21 years old and the trip was taken purely for pleasure. However, it is special because it was highly documented. A souvenir photo book that chronicled the occasion shows that Edsel Ford spent a night at the Harvey House in Dodge City. Since the National Road followed the Santa Fe Trail, Ford may even have driven through Great Bend and past the site of the future Ford dealership, Gessler said.
A stop in Great Bend was not on the itinerary on Friday.
The crew had just spent a “rest and repair” day in McPherson, visiting the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program. HVA Historian Casey Maxon, the main driver of the Model T, is a graduate of that program. They had planned to drive from McPherson to Dodge City on Friday, traveling at a top speed of 35 mph.
When they decided to make some adjustments, the Great Bend Ford dealership welcomed the crew. Desa Marmie Behr and Marmie employees were eager to see the car.
“We’re just excited that they dwecided to stop by Marmie Ford,” she said. “It was a fun surprise.”
Edsel Ford and crew had some backup vehicles with them on their journey, and the HVA crew is no different. The road trip features two Ford support vehicles – a 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible and an EcoBoost powered F-150 pickup truck to pull the HVA’s enclosed trailer.
Gessler said the HVA (www.historicvehicle.org) and groups like it are dedicated to preserving, interpreting and promoting the automotive heritage of the United States. “It’s not just a hobby, it’s a big part of our heritage,” he said. “The automobile helped shape America."