By STEVEN JUPITER
BRANDON/PITTSFORD/PROCTOR—If you squint a bit as they roll down the street, you can almost imagine what our towns looked like back in the early years of the 20th century, when the Ford Model T ruled the road. A caravan of these classic cars made the rounds of local museums last Saturday, starting at the Brandon Museum, heading down to the Maple Museum in Pittsford, and wrapping up at the Marble Museum in Proctor.
The Green Mountain Model T Club is a chapter of the Model T Club of America. It began in June of 2022 and has grown to include 36 members from all over Vermont.
Pittsford resident and founding member Dick Shortsleeves has 4 of the classics: a 1919, a 1924, and two different versions from 1926. The cars were manufactured from 1908 to 1927. Shortsleeves and his brother Steve (also a member) recall playing on their grandfather’s neglected 1920 model in the barn when they were kids. That 1920 car is now a gleamingly restored beauty with a working wooden dump-bed, which Steve demonstrated in the parking lot behind the Brandon Museum, where the whole gang gathered for their first stop of the day.
“We’re insane,” said Ernie Clerihew of Pittsford, proud owner of a 1914 model. Clerihew drive his out to Detroit, which he said was fine. “Had some trouble coming back though!” he laughed.
Jamie Longtin of Benson concurred: “It’s a disease. I have 4.” The one he chose to drive on Saturday was a deep-red 1927 model, at the latter end of the Model T’s run, just before it was supplanted by the Model A, which has a transmission more akin to what modern drivers of stickshifts might be used to. The transmission of a Model T requires some getting used to, they said, as do the brakes, which slow down the car by throttling the transmission rather than by putting pressure on the wheels.
Ginny and Paul Curtis, who live outside Bristol, were there with their 1917 Model TT truck, which they once brought to Ford’s headquarters for the centennial celebration of the Model T.
“Its first show was in front of 250,000 people,” Ginny laughed.
Ralph Shepard of Ferrisburgh, president of the club, said “It’s collective insanity. When I bought a Model T, I wanted to know if there were any other crazies in Vermont.”
Though the cars use regular gasoline, the engines require special care. Fortunately for the Green Mountain Club, there’s a specialist in Fort Edward, New York.
“There are 3 Model T owners in Pittsford alone,” said Dick Shortsleeves: himself, his brother, and Bob Giddings. “They were made for the masses. A farmer could buy one.”
They may be beautiful to look at, but they’re not exactly hot rods: the top speed is about 30 to 35 miles per hour.
“I wave to people when I’m driving, except if I’m holding up traffic. Then I don’t wave,” joked Dick.
But if you see them driving around, please feel free to wave. And if you have a Model T and are looking for fellow enthusiasts, please seek them out.