DEARBORN — The evening air was filling with unhealthy-but-exhilarating exhaust from inefficient engines under the hoods of cars built before the mid-1930s. Running up and down the streets of Greenfield Village, they were thrilling visitors with their ooga horns, their open windows and occupants in period dress.
It was the 2015 Old Car Festival’s traditional gaslight tour for vehicles that had ignored the rain earlier in the day on Sept. 12 and were shunning the overnight covers protecting cars whose owners had already retired.
Gary Hussar of Canton, Ohio was delighted to offer rides in the 1904 St. Louis he was representing at the annual show. In the St. Louis there was room for the driver and a passenger mid-carriage. A compartment in front of them opened into a seat for two, for a front-seat back-seat driver who might also serve as a bug screen.
The ’04 St. Louis is the property of The Timken Company of Canton and represents the first automotive application of Timken bearings. The St. Louis Motor Carriage Company, St. Louis, Mo., was the first automaker to use Timken tapered roller bearings.
“We re-built this car for the 1999 centennial of Timken,” Hussar said. The single-cylinder, 9-horsepower, chain-driven car was reconstructed using an original body from the St. Louis company, which was out of business by 1907.
A 1924 Ford Model T, featuring hand-crafted green-and-pink wicker armor, a flip-up “fat man’s” steering wheel, a single entry-exit door and a distinguished history, has been in the family of current owner Jacob Kluch of Morris, Ill. since 1934.
Kluch’s friend Russ Coon joined the owner at the Old Car Festival this year. His assignment, in addition to telling visitors the car’s interesting story, was to respond to Kluch’s frequent “here, hold this” requests.
Coon explained this 1924 Model T is the only one to sport the unusual wicker exterior from the Lloyd Manufacturing Co. in Menominee, Mich. – a business that continues to thrive, producing what it describes as fine, woven heirloom furniture.
The wicker was re-painted over 20 years ago, he said. As for the wicker itself, “We don’t know why it was done.” But it earned Kluch an invitation to represent 1924 when the Ford Motor Company celebrated its diamond anniversary – a singular honor, he said.
In period dress and looking very much the proud owner of a luxury car, Larry Florke of Defiance, Ohio was preparing to take a few turns around the Village in his 1929 Cadillac Town Sedan. Priced at $5,800 new, the V-8-powered, 6,000-pound car with rear-hinged rear doors and Fisher body sported a beautiful interior that included embroidered-ribbon trim.
Florke said he has owned the car for only two years and has other classics in his collection.
In contrast, a 1912 Cadillac Phaeton exhibited by Michael Clewley of Howell, Mich. has been in Clewley’s family since his grandfather bought it in 1961 for $500.
“The 1912 Cadillac featured an electric starter – a first in a regular production car – electric lights (another first) and a 40-horsepower four-cylinder engine,” Clewley said.
The Clewley car was built on Clark Street in Detroit, one of some 14,000 Cadillacs sold in 1912. It’s original price tag: $1,800.