THE MODEL T


With Ken Martin


Driving from California to Michigan is a fairly long trip regardless of what kind of automobile you are in. Two intrepid Castro Valleyans (one present and one former) are going to make that trip in a 1922 Model T Ford Touring Car come this May.


Gary Kettwig, a Castro Valley resident, and Tom Correa, who grew up here, are planning a trip from Lancaster, California, to Detroit, Michigan to participate in Ford Motor Company’s Centennial celebration.


They have invested almost all of their spare time for the past several months in preparing the car. Except for a break to drive the car on a test run to Grass Valley a few weeks ago, most of their nights and weekends have been dedicated to the completion of this automobile. What they have done would either make old Henry smile or frown, depending on his view of various upgrades and modifications that have been made.


The body was removed and the engine and chassis were completely disassembled. Each part was restored to its original (or better) condition before being reassembled.


Like all hobbyists, car enthusiasts help each other. “We couldn’t have done all this without a lot of help from the Model T people in Martinez” said Gary.


The engine now has a few things that Henry didn’t furnish. It now sports a dual exhaust system, aluminum pistons, and a counterbalanced crankshaft. In addition, the entire inside of the engine is painted bright red. Why, when no one is going to see it? This paint aids the return of the engine oil to the crankcase..


It was decided to not restore the body because they wanted to retain its “patena”.


Other additions have been made to the car. For safety, rear wheel brakes have been installed to augment the original marginal drive shaft brake. It also has a Ruckstell rear end for better driveability.


This car has been in the family since 1946. It was stored in San Francisco for the better part of 43 years. “It was under a bunch of bass fiddle cases and covered with raccoon tracks” Gary said. “We literally had to dig it out case by case,” added Tom. The year of its liberation was 1998. Amazingly, it started up and was still driveable!


Actually, the car was purchased in 1946 by Philip and Jane Karp, the parents of Gary’s wife, Rachel. Philip was the lead bass player for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (hence all the bass fiddle cases) who enjoyed collecting various things including cars and guns. This Model T had roommates like a Stanley Steamer, a Rolls-Royce, and a Locomobile.


After setting in an empty lot for a few years, Jane briefly resurrected it and drove it for a short time in the early 1950’s. It was then put in a garage where it languished until 1998. Philip, unfortunately, has passed on but Jane still owns the car.


Even with some upgrades, the car is still crude by even minimal modern standards. The original horse hair seat stuffing was removed and replaced with batting for a little more comfort. The windshield wiper is hand operated. There was no speedometer until Gary adapted one from a bicycle. There is no gas gauge. The fuel level in the 9-gallon tank is measured by sticking a specially calibrated ruler in the filler neck. And there is no heater!


To make the trip in the company of 42 other Model T’s, with year-models ranging from 1906 to 1922, Tom and Gary will trailer the car down to a rendezvous point in Lancaster on May 24. The next day they will head east with an expected arrival in Detroit on June 12. After that celebration, they will travel to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, on a tour hosted by the Ford factory. The entire trip will be on back roads.


With only a 9-gallon gas tank and fuel mileage that averages about 20 miles-per-gallon, I was curious about how they were going to get across some of the more isolated stretches of road, such as those in Nevada. “The Governor of Nevada”, explained Gary, “has promised to have fuel trucks stationed half way across these desolate roads”.


How fast will they be travelling? “35 to 40 miles per hour. 38 miles per hour is the preferred speed”, they advised me.


Though it’s doubtful that anyone will get in their way at 38 mph, they are prepared for such a happening. The car is equipped with a cow bell, a trolley bell and an “Oogah” horn. Tom gave me a complete demonstration.


This car is not unknown here in Castro Valley. It has been in several Rodeo Parades. In 2000 it won first place in its category. It will appear again in this year’s parade on May 10. Give them a big wave and a send off when they go by.


More info on the trip can be found on www.modeltford.net.


“CV Side Trips” is always looking for unusual happenings in Castro Valley. Please contact me at (510) 727-9296 or martinken@juno.com.