Model A club's motto: 'See the world at 35 miles an hour'

Model A club's motto: 'See the world at 35 miles an hour'

URBANA — You can still buy a 1928 Ford, or start with parts and build your own Model A.

Prairie A's Antique Ford Club does just that, helping each other maintain and sometimes reconstruct cars that are nearly 90 years old but run great.

That's if you have some time to work on them, or get help from other club members, who spend four hours every Saturday replacing parts or even putting cars together from sets of parts.

These cars were built for speed — when speed was a little more leisurely than today.

"See the world at 35 miles an hour," said Jim Sisco, who lives south of Seymour and drives to Wisconsin on a country road (around here, known as the Ivesdale-Seymour Slab) that runs past his house (with a couple of forays onto Illinois 47 for bridges).

The club, celebrating its 25th anniversary, is off to Sharon, Wis., at the end of the month.

Denny Scheu of Savoy has a 1928 Model A Ford Roadster pickup that's "fun to work on," as well as a 1929 two-door sedan.

"You can get almost any part now, except gas tanks," he said.

"I probably have enough leftover parts to build two more," Sisco said.

The club has about 50 members, ages 15 to 92, and loves road trips. Though Model As are in its name, they also have some more primitive Model Ts.

John Garner of Urbana notes that Ford made 5 million Model As in four years, 1927 to 1931.

The first Fords were priced so Henry Ford's factory workers could afford a Model T.

"Ford was first to pay $5 a day, when a dollar a day was normal pay. Ford sold half of all the cars made in the country at the time," Garner said.

He has a black coupe with green wheels.

The first owner "asked the dealer to paint the wheels green, not the factory," Garner said.

The Model A was versatile: with very high torque and low RPMs, it was easy to convert into a tractor, Sisco said.

Doodlebugs were homemade farm equipment made during World War II, when new tractors were in short supply — even Sears sold Model T or A conversion kits.

And the Model A is plain old fun.

The Prairie A's Antique Ford Club is a manly group, but they also stop at quilting and antique shops to keep their wives from going crazy. (Pam Sisco loves to drive.)

They often stay with the old-time manners.

"My wife likes to dress up," Sisco said. "Once in a while, you'll see me in knickers."

Sisco had a dream.

"Owning a Model A was something I thought about since high school," Sisco said.

"And my wife didn't say no. Two years before I retired, I had an opportunity to buy one and got it restored with some help. The club is a great bunch of guys."

His wife drives the 1929 sedan. "I get to drive the pickup," he said.

Mike Riney of Urbana has a family tradition: "My dad loved them, and he got me hooked."

On this day, he had a 1930 Model A Roadster in the driveway.

"It normally runs about 40 miles per hour, but then I always drive the backroads, so that's never a problem," Riney said.

Riney also has a 1929 Model A and a 1931 Model A coupe.

"I've been collecting for 30 years. I'm one of the original members of the club," he said.

Sisco is a novice, with only 17 years in. "I'm glad I did join, because if I didn't, I'd still be putting one together."

Dick Colbert of Champaign has the most serendipitous story of finding true love.

"I got the roadster when a bunch of us went to Bloomington to check out the girls at Illinois State University."The car broke down, and in the back of the shop we went to was the car," he said. "The guy's son didn't want it anymore, so I bought it for $125."

That was in 1954; he acquired a truck in the 1980s.

"I piddle around with them here and there," Colbert said.

MAFCA, the national organization, bills itself as "the largest car club in the world dedicated to one type of automobile."

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