For Ford Model T enthusiasts, Richmond, Indiana, is known as “T-Town” for a couple of reasons, most notably, the national club is based there, as is the club’s museum. Wheels made the one-hour drive west on Interstate 70 for a visit, and it’s certainly worth the effort.
“We have about 40 cars and trucks on display, more than half of which the museum owns,” explained club and museum executive director Susan Yaeger. “We are also the main office for the Model T Ford Club of America, a national club of over 6,000 members with 130 chapters. We actually have members from every state and 31 foreign countries,” she added.
The club was founded in 1965. The first museum opened in 2007 near Centerville, Indiana, and the current building was opened in 2012 in the historic Depot District in downtown Richmond.
“We have the museum building, and an annex across the street houses another display of multi-use Model T’s, our period correct repair shop and will soon feature an old-style dealership and showroom,” Yaeger said.
There are two docents, both part-time employees, who lead the tours. Justin Mitchell is an 11-year veteran and very close to a walking Model T encyclopedia.
“I just love cars, and I’m constantly learning new things about the Model T, from books, magazines and owners who come here,” he said.
Mitchell also is quick to explain the facts behind ‘Any color you want as long as it’s black’ coming from Henry Ford’s mouth.
“Ford said it alright, but he was referring to the 1914 Model T. From 1908 through 1909, Model T’s were painted red. In 1910, they were green and from 1911 through 1913, they were sold in red, blue, green and gray,” Mitchell said. “From 1914 through 1925, nothing but black and the last two years, ’26 and ’27, they went back to the four colors.”
He also explained that they all used the same chassis, engine and transmission throughout their production, and you could also buy just the chassis and running gear and add your own body.
The car that literally put America on wheels had a total production run of just fewer than 15 million. That production also created the first practical assembly line, and the price of the car dropped as production became more efficient.
The second docent, Noah Bevington, just joined the museum this year, but his background is unique.
“Richmond hosted the T Party in 2008, the centennial of the Model T, and there were more than a thousand cars here. My grandfather had a Model T; he drove it in high school, and when he got drafted, he sold it and never had another one. We went to the T Party together, and we got to ride in a Model T, and he was thrilled,” Bevington explained. “That was a moment I’ll never forget, especially since he passed away shortly thereafter. He also taught me to preserve and appreciate history, so working here fits right in.”
The museum, open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is closed on Mondays and holidays. On display are many different years and models, from cars to a fire truck, a “snowmobile” made to deliver mail in Massachusetts, school bus, food truck, dump truck and one modified to be used as a tractor.
“These were amazing, versatile cars and trucks,” Mitchell said. “Also, you see the drip pans underneath them – they all run, and they all leak a little.”
Yaeger noted that without volunteer help, the museum wouldn’t function.
“We have four very active chapters that are here all the time helping with maintenance, building and operations. The Richmond, Dayton, Indianapolis and west central Indiana chapters are just great,” she said. “Now we’re hoping to get more young people interested.
“We take the cars to schools and give rides and share the history. We have noticed that interest is much greater by youngsters who are hanging around their grandfathers who have Model T’s. Maybe it skipped a generation, or the grandfathers have more time, but we’re working to keep these cars in front of the public.”
To learn more about the museum, go online to http://www.mtfca.com/clubpages/museum.htm.
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