Old Car Festival is like a huge family union

DEARBORN, Mich. — The Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village/The Henry Ford is like a huge family reunion.

As early car makers combined forces over the years, there were multiple marriages with offspring; there were both expected and untimely deaths. There were well-kept family members with gleaming brass, award ribbons and good posture, and there were those relatives well-worn by rust and mildew and neglect.

Many of them, representing vehicles from the earliest years to the mid-1930s, were here Sept. 7-8 to be enjoyed by their owners as well as the thousands of visitors who poured into the charming history-rich village following a Friday night of rain.

Some owners might be chagrinned to show an aging, unrestored car like a 1930 Ford Model A at a gathering of any kind, let alone the often-glittering Old Car Festival to which one must be invited.

The owner of one such rust-coated Model A, Keith Allen of Macomb, Mich., left his to the care of his friend and spokesman Wes Pease of Roseville on Saturday evening while he went on an errand. Pease said the car, with a largely stripped interior and black-and-white cotton blanket covering the original velvet upholstery, is in running condition.

“It had been in a barn for 40 years,” Pease said. “The tires were totally rotted out. Keith worked to get it going once again.”

An announcer for the weekend pass-in-review commented at least once on come-as-you-are cars, saying from the grandstand, “We love to see unrestored cars.”

Wayne Coffman of Tiffin, Ohio was parked near the official parade area. Coffman chose the Old Car Festival to show his 1912 Abbott for the first time. Coffman has owned the car for 34 years and said it is the only Abbott Speedster he knows of. It is powered, he said, by a Continental 350-inch four.

Coffman fabricated missing parts for the car including the running boards and fenders, often using available rather than authentic materials. He bought the car – chassis and pieces – in Hershey, Pa. Its beautiful wooden spoke wheels are original, he said.

Abbott-Detroit built cars in the motor city between 1909 and 1916. The company continued 1917-1918 in Cleveland before entering bankruptcy.

Most of the cars and trucks parked throughout Greenfield Village were in good to excellent condition. Larry Gardon of Quincy, Mich. said he has owned his award-winning Detroit News Joyrides award at an Orphan Show in Ypsilanti 1931 Studebaker President for 18 years. Never restored but obviously well cared for, the luxurious sedan with its silk window shades and interior flower vases was re-painted 10 years ago, Gardon said.

The car’s first owner was in Cleveland, he said. Gardon bought it from a seller in the Boston, Mass. area.

The Studebaker President has a radio, beautiful ashtrays of wood lined with metal and its original headliner. The Limousine Blue sedan is powered by a 122-horsepower straight eight.

Dave Masek of North Royalton, Ohio was doing a final polishing of his 1918 Reo T in preparation for judging at the Old Car Festival. Masek said he made many parts for the Reo in his machine shop. the re-upholstery, done elsewhere, took two years to complete, Masek said.

Reo built their own engines, he said. His T model would likely have been mid-range in price.

Sitting behind his 1926 Wills Sainte Claire, Terry Ernest of Port Huron, Mich. said Wills Sainte Claire built its cars in nearby Marysville (Mich.) between 1921 and 1926. The company’s engines included an overhead-cam V-8 and a six including the one in his 1926. The cars were expensive, he said. The company did contract with body makers. Ernest’s roadster with rumble seat features a Gotfredson body.

Wills Sainte Claires can still be seen at a museum by the same name in Marysville, Mich.