Classic cars: Model T club shows off collection at auto show

ALPINE LAKE — They called themselves the Four Vagabonds.

No, it wasn’t a 1950s singing group. It wasn’t even the ‘50s. Think 40 years earlier. “Between 1915 and 1924, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs, calling themselves the Four Vagabonds, embarked on a series of summer camping trips.”

That’s according to They drove Ford Model T cars — except for Edison, who chose a Packard. And on its 100th anniversary, the Mason- Dixon T’s, a chapter of the Model T Ford Club International, is retracing one of those journeys.

They began at the Summit Inn in Pennsylvania, staying there last Sunday, exactly 100 years since the Vagabonds did. On Wednesday, they were at Alpine Lake Resort, outside Terra Alta, and brought their distinctive autos to share with residents at a car show.

Other stops include Oakland, Md., Lead Mine, Elkins, Coopers Rock and Bruceton Mills. They will not be continuing on to North Carolina, as Ford and friends did.

The commemorative tour was organized by Bruceton Mills resident Bill Ramsey, more familiar to many as Dr. Ramsey, associate vice president for Coordination and Logistics and chief collaboration officer at WVU Health Sciences.

Ramsey brought his 1925 Touring Ford on the tour. He recalled growing up in Nicholas County hearing stories of his grandfather’s Model T.

“About five years ago I told my wife, ‘I think I should get a Model T,’ and she said all right,” Ramsey said.

The 20 hp car has no water pump, no fuel pump and no oil pump.

“It was the car that the common guy could use. They used them on the farm. They modified them and used them as tractors. It was just an amazing vehicle. It was voted the car of the century,” Ramsey said.

Driving a classic

Just like these enthusiasts, the Four Vagabonds didn’t tour alone. They brought a support staff along for the ride.

“They were outdoors, they were camping. Maybe not to the camping standards of everybody else in that era, but they had fun, and they were outdoors people,” said Wib Caldwell.

Caldwell, of Charleroi, Pa., drove his 1919 Model T Touring Car. “I drove mine all the way from home,” he noted. Top speed is 40-45 mph, he said, and there was no problem with the hills.

He’s had the car — his first Model T — six years, but it wasn’t his first classic car. That was his grandfather’s 1955 Ford. Caldwell was there when his grandfather picked the car up new at the dealership and still has it.

Since his retirement from his job as a steel mill engineer, he and his wife like to take the cars out for drives.

“Now I find myself driving this more than the others,” he said. “They’re fun to drive.”

John Lingle of Salisburg, N.C., brought his 1925 Model T Roadster to the show. His first tour of the year, in March, was in Florida. He has six classic cars now.

They multiply

Twenty-six Model T cars are on the tour. But you can’t have just one Model T, these owners said. “They tend to just multiply,” Ramsey said.

Lingle bought his first car in 1962, when he was in high school. The industrial arts teacher had a 1926 coupe, and Lingle worked on it. By the time he graduated, the teacher had lost interest in the T model and got an early V8.

“He was wanting $225 for this car,” Lingle said. “I didn’t make but $1 an hour, so I offered him $200 for it. He said no, he’d split the difference, so I paid $212.50 for my first.”

The cars usually require some restoration, he said. Now retired from his job as maintenance supervisor at a high-rise state prison, Lingle still works on the cars.

“Just about everybody who’s got one of these things knows how to fix them, because you don’t take them to a garage,” Lingle chuckled.

For Colleen Shaffer and other visitors, the show was a slice of history. Shaffer and her husband, of Pittsburgh, have a cabin at Alpine Lake.

“I just think to take such good care, and they trekked every place they trekked 100 years ago, it’s so impressive,” Shaffer said. “How much care they take of them, and all the brass deco and black, and the interiors are so like luxurious.”