Imagine your next car without a gas pedal, fuel gauge or windshield wipers. No, it’s not the latest version of the Google self-driving car nor the newest model Tesla electric car.
It’s technology that was introduced by Henry Ford more than 100 years ago on the Ford Model T.
And old car buffs can learn to drive one at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Mich. located 20 minutes northeast of Kalamazoo. “Think of it as going back to driver’s training—old school that is!” said museum spokesman Jay Follis.
Students are put behind the wheel of an authentic Model T Ford right out of the museum’s collection and drive within the historic campus. The Model T is controlled by three pedals on the floor, a handle beside the seat and two small levers on the steering wheel. The only fuel gauge was a wooden ruler you’d place into the gas tank — most often located under the driver’s seat. A hand-operated windshield wiper wasn’t made standard until 1925. Oh, don’t forget the crank out front for starting the engine!
The Gilmore Car Museum has offered Model T driving courses to the public for nearly a decade and each of the dates typically sell out quickly. In celebration of the Gilmore Car Museum’s 50th anniversary and with the support of AAA, which marks their 100th year in Michigan, several additional classes have been added bringing the total to 20 for the 2016 season.
Henry Ford introduced the Model T as a sturdy, low-priced car for the “everyman” in 1908, and produced it with very few changes until 1927. It became affectionately known as the “Tin Lizzie,” and was soon chugging off the assembly line and into history. More than 15 million were sold, making the Model T the longest production run of any single model automobile, apart from the Volkswagen Beetle.
One of the Model T Ford Driving School instructors at the Gilmore Car Museum demonstrates how to crank start this 1917 Touring car while students look on. While the electric start was first offered by Cadillac in 1912 the Ford Motor Company didn’t offer it until 1919. Photo - Gilmore Car Museum
Participants can sign up online at GilmoreCarMuseum.org or call the museum directly at 269-671-5089 to attend one of the 20 classes offered.
Each session is taught by a handful of long-time Model T owners and enthusiasts and includes practice drives in genuine Model T Fords around the Museum’s three miles of paved roadway. Museum historians provide a bit of history on Henry Ford, the early Ford Motor Co., and up-close inspections of various Model T's during the course’s guided tour.
Visit www.GilmoreCarMuseum.org or call the museum at 269-671-5089 for more information.