High Country Tour - June 1995
How Far Can You Go in a Model A Ford?
Model A Ford owners have long been intrigued by this question and many have set out to find out. On June 15, 1995, eight families from the Lone Star Model A Ford Club of Georgetown, Texas took off on the High Country Tour to Breckenridge, Colorado, more than 1,000 miles and a couple of mountain ranges away. In the procession were two 1931 Fordors, one Coupe, one Roadster, one 1929 Tudor, one 1928 Tudor, one 1930 Fordor, and a 1930 Tudor on a trailer. With spirits soaring, we departed at 11 AM. Everyone felt that he had adequately prepared his car. Within 50 miles from home, we had two cars overheat - they forgot to check the water. We added water and were able to make it to Ballinger, Texas and our first night's stop. We stayed in a quaint little motel there that had individual garages with the rooms. The motel was about as old as the cars.
We took off early the next morning, June 16th, intending to get some miles before eating breakfast. We stopped in a small town to eat and caused quite a sensation. Not just the car, but that many people needing breakfast at one time. It took more time than we expected, but we were soon off again. It was a beautiful day and all the CB radios were humming with jokes, chatter, teasing, and comparison of cars. Now, all Model A Fords are about the same underneath, but each owner thinks his is the best. We were traveling at 45 miles per hour and we made better time than you might think. We lost more time stopping for food and refreshments than we did driving slow.
We completed Day Two in pretty good shape. We had one stuck starter and a few other minor problems. We arrived at our destination, Hereford, Texas, in plenty of time to fix those things. When a starter sticks on a Model A, you just push it to start; the car only weighs 2000 pounds. In Hereford, we were met by a couple from a club out of San Antonio, Texas, who wanted to travel with us. We were pleased to have them.
We left early the next morning, Day Three, June 17th. We made some mileage before breakfast, then took too long eating again. Then it was out across the Texas sands. It was hot, but our spirits were high and we did not notice so much. After all, we were into Day Three and still going strong.
We crossed into New Mexico at Tex Line and everything seemed fine. We began to think that we really could make it. We were now a long way from home and in another state and all cars were running. However, we were confident too soon. During the afternoon, the 1929 Tudor began to make an unmistakable sound. It had thrown a rod or bearing in the engine. This is something that could not be fixed by us and certainly not on the road. After trying to console the owner, we took the 1930 Tudor off the trailer and put the sick car on. We were off again, a little less cocky than before. Moreover, just ahead of us was Raton Pass, our first chance to see if the cars would seriously overheat in the mountains. We soared up the mountain and over the pass with no trouble. Well, "soared" is not the right word; it was more like creeping up the mountain.
In spite of the serious breakdown, we arrived in Walsenburg, Colorado, our planned destination, in plenty of time to service the cars. We stayed at another quaint little motel. The cars looked right as the motel was almost as old as the cars. We removed the engine pan from the sick car and, as we had thought, there was bearing babbit in the pan meaning some of the bearings had failed. Then, sometime during that night, one of our members had a bad asthma attack and had to be taken to the hospital. He was released in time to leave with us the next morning, but he was clearly not well. He insisted on driving his car and we let him do it.
On Day Four, June 18th, we departed early. There was a lot of apprehension as we were heading into the Colorado Mountains with passes up to 15,000 feet. The great little cars proved themselves worthy as they crept and climbed right on up into the mountains. One car overheated because it was pulling a small trailer. It was kept going by adding water. As we were going down the other side of the passes, the 1930 Coupe, began to make that now familiar sound. Yes, another bearing or rod out and thus, another car out of commission. We did not have the means to haul another car so most of the cars continued onto the next town to seek help. They returned with a truck and pulled the sick car to the next town. Then, a miracle - along came a man from Dallas, Texas in a pickup truck pulling a trailer with a Model A Pickup on it. We did not know him, but he was clearly a Model A Man and Texas Friendly and he acted accordingly. He took his Model A Ford off the trailer, put our sick car on, and we all drove the remaining 50 files to Breckenridge. We arrived at mid-afternoon. It felt good in spite of the troubles. We had arrived, more than 1,000 miles from home and seven of the nine cars were still running just fine.
Two of our members had traveled separately. They were hauling their Model A Fords on trailers and did not want to wait for us. When we arrived, we learned that they had encountered ice in one of the mountain passes. One truck had left the road and turned over! They were not hurt. Would you believe that the trailer had stayed upright and the Model A was not hurt? The owner's wife claimed that he went back to see about the Model A before he checked on her condition. (Well, first things first.) A wrecker was called and the truck was righted. The truck was not severely damaged, and they were able to continue to Breckenridge.
The Model A Fords were parked in the motel parking lot, including the two sick ones, along with more than 300 other Model A Fords. There is no other sight quite like that.
We tried to participate in the planned activities, but we knew that we had to do something with the sick cars as we still had the trip back to look forward to. It was learned that a garage in Denver, Colorado had a Model A engine that they could deliver to us. We took one engine out and put the other in right there in the parking lot. It took the better part of two days, but now, one car was driveable again and that was a relief. The other car could not be fixed there. Then we realized that another member had come to Breckenridge in a modern pickup truck. We were able to borrow a tow bar and the pickup owner agreed to pull the sick Model A back to Texas and to travel along with us. Problem solved.
Now, you would think that we could sit back and enjoy the remaining activities, but no, that was not to be. The fellow with the asthma became seriously ill and was taken to the hospital where they learned that he had pneumonia. He was released the next day with a rented breathing machine to be used in the motel room. Now, we faced the problem of whether he would be able to travel or not.
The last activity of the meet was the Awards Banquet and as usual, they presented trophies, including a "Hard Luck Trophy." You can guess who won that. As I listened to a reiteration of all our problems, I thought we must be a bunch of real losers, but somehow we were having fun anyway. We knew that we had all the cars either running, towed, or hauled, so why worry?
When we started back, we had one car with a newly overhauled, not-yet-broken-in, engine; one car being towed; and two cars being hauled on trailers. The two cars being hauled were running cars, so we knew that we had some insurance. We could have two cars break down and still move on. We also had a fellow who was driving while trying to recover from pneumonia.
So we headed out. We made it over the pass in the direction of Denver and the new engine did not overheat, so we gained confidence again. The sick fellow was doing all right and insisted on driving his car. Before we completed Day One, one of the Fordor sedans just refused to run right. In spite of all the expertise and spare parts we had, it simply refused to run right. After wasting a lot of time stopping and working on it, it was finally loaded on a trailer, switching with a 1930 Coupe. We stayed in Walsenburg, Colorado, again but had a lot of trouble finding a motel.
Day Two went just fine and we made it all the way to Lubbock, Texas. We were up real early the next morning, as we could smell home. Everything went just fine on Day Three - not a single bobble - until we were about twenty miles from home and one car had a flat. That was quickly fixed and we continued. The journey was over and those of us who made it with little or no problems were very proud.
Much to my surprise, after about two years passed, most of the participants in that trip suggested that they would like to make another such trip. I think they just forgot the bad stuff.
Our trip to Colorado and back was by no means the farthest anyone had gone in a Model A Ford. Others have traveled from Florida to Tacoma, Washington, and several cars have been driven alone from coast to coast and back again. The Model A Ford is a special car and it requires much respect and attention. The oldest Model A Ford is now 71 years old and thousands of them are running just fine. So, we are off to Kansas City in the year 2000. Hey, there are no mountains or deserts between Georgetown, Texas and Kansas City, Kansas!
Submitted by Rollon Weaver - March 1999