Every year on the Fourth of July, John Barr’s father would get out his old 1910 Ford Model T.
“He never restored it or fixed it up — it was old and ratty,” Barr recalled. “He said ‘they’re fun, you should get one.’”
That’s exactly what Barr did. Today he still has that 1910 Touring that’s now been restored and he drives around his restored 1911 Torpedo Roadster.
Driving down Central Avenue in his dark blue 1911 on a recent afternoon, Barr gets a number of smiles and a few waves from pedestrians.
The Ford Model T is generally regarded as the first affordable automobile and was produced by Ford Motor Company from 1908 to 1927.
Model Ts should be filling the streets of town this week as the Rocky Mountain Model T Club hosts the Motoring in Montana international Model T tour in Whitefish. Events begin with a car show downtown Sunday afternoon.
About 200 cars are expected to attend the week-long event, which is a combined annual tour for the Model T Ford Club of America and the Model T Ford Club.
Both groups are the major clubs for Model T owners, Barr notes, and this is the first year the clubs are holding their annual tour as a combined events and it’s also one of the few times a tour has been held in the West.
For years, Barr has been attending Model T tour events and says that members become like family watching each others kids grow up over the years and some of those kids even have their own Model Ts now. He also joined the local club as a way to connect with other owners who could help him fix his own cars.
“It’s exciting to all get back together again,” he said. “The goal is drive Ts all week — no modern cars.”
There are cars expected from all four corners of the U.S. — Florida, Maine, California and Washington. Cars are expected from Australia, England, Brazil and Canada.
Barr describes driving a Model T as “very relaxing.” The cruising speed for most is 35 to 45 mph, although those who race the cars can get them up to 75 mph.
“They’re pretty easy to drive,” Barr said. “That was the idea behind the design. [Henry Ford] wanted to sell more cars.”
On Tuesday, the cars will head to Glacier National Park to travel the Going-to-the-Sun Road from West Glacier to St. Mary and then onto Two Medicine before returning to Whitefish on U.S. Highway 2. Barr said it’s a long day of driving and no problem for the Model Ts to make the trip, but to own a Model T means being a bit of a mechanic.
“You have to watch them and take care of them,” he said. “It’s not like a modern car that can go 10,000 miles before you do anything. After a couple thousand miles you have to oil and adjust things.”
The Model T tour begins in Whitefish on Sunday, July 16 with a car show downtown from 1 to 4 p.m. Cars will be judged including vying for the Stynoski Award or best restoration of a Model T. A period fashion show is at 3 p.m. at the O’Shaughnessy Center.
The cars will travel around the Flathead Valley and the area throughout the week making stops in Kalispell, Eureka, Polson, Creston and Bigfork.