Riding in an antique car or truck is an experience to be had. Not only will you begin to appreciate what went into creating the vehicle in the first place, but you’ll also probably be grateful for what you’re driving these days.
Joe Butler grew up with a grandfather who tended a farm, but who also enjoyed tinkering and creating. Watching his “Gramp” put together homemade tractors and farm equipment from various parts was a natural part of childhood. Joe also grew up appreciating pickup trucks, “…just because of their usefulness.” So when he had a chance to become the owner of a 1929 Ford Model A truck, that needed some work and a lot of love after it was pulled out of a barn in New York, he jumped at it.
After spending about 11 weeks working under the truck fixing it up, consulting Gramp as he did so, and making it safe for the road, what he ended up with was something not only impossible not to stare at, but a vehicle that, according to Joe, “Seems to make a lot of people smile.”
So, when Joe, who now travels around showing his truck at antique car shows, came to town and kindly offered us a ride, and the chance to even drive it ourselves, we accepted his generous offer, and took a short spin around a sleepy country road in Maine.
The Parts of a Ford Model A Truck
With only three gears and minimal gauges on the dashboard, Joe said anyone could drive it, even to those who aren’t used to driving stick. (We knew how to drive stick, but an alternative set of driving gears attached to the steering wheel posed a bit too much of a challenge considering we were driving someone else’s antique.)
The starter was a button on the wooden floor above the brake pedal, the gas was also a button as opposed to a pedal, and what would have seemed somewhat logical for where first gear should go, would actually throw the truck into reverse. The gas gauge appeared with a little floating cork. The spare tire was to be stored on the side of the truck just outside the driver’s door. The front windshield was actually held open, and had a number of different “open” settings to help allow for the heat from the engine to come up through the front cab and dissipate through it. A fantastic old horn (think “Aooo-ga!”) alerts folks to move out of the way. Our kids loved just sitting in it, let alone driving in it (and honking the horn.)
Although Joe says he’s gotten his truck up to about 62 miles per hour, I’m fairly certain that as we drove it, if I’d gotten it past 40 I’d have been terrified of either what I was doing to the truck, or potentially to my passengers. It was a shaky ride—you could feel each and every bump in the road. But even though it was only a short ride, one could easily experience what it was like for those who drove these amazing cars and trucks before us—when cars and trucks were really starting to come into their own.
I asked Joe why he didn’t completely restore it—as in including a fancy paint job like one might see on other vehicles at the shows. He said simply, “I like to be able to use it, let kids into it, make it workable. A lot of the old guys who come up at the shows love seeing it like this because that’s how they remember it.”
The longest trip Joe’s taken is 350 miles in one day, to get to a car show in Searsmont, Maine. The truck has been driven more than 7,000 miles since he bought it, and he anticipates having to do more repairs sooner rather than later. But one of his greatest pleasures, he says, is traveling with it from show to show, letting others experience the same joy he gets when he’s behind the wheel.
Travel on, Joe, in your Ford Model A.