T Thoughts – Robert Clarke

My Introduction to the world of the Model T

The Ford Model T has taken its place in history like no other car we know, there are many reasons why the Model T is a special car and of course we all know why.

My first experience of the Model T was back in 1988 when I was first appointed a Ford Dealer in West Cork. A friend of mine kindly offered to place his Model T in our new ford showroom for display purposes.

I was only delighted to take up the opportunity as I knew this would create a lot of interest with vintage car lovers out there like myself. I knew very little about the Model T at the time. I only knew that the car was black in colour and had white tyres. It was known back then as the coupe or the Doctors carriage. The Model T stayed with us for short period of time, but it had a lasting impression on us all.

I always had an interest in vintage cars, my first car being a Model Y that I owned for around 3yrs, having sold that car I was on the lookout for something else in the Ford range. My neighbour Finbarr Galvin, the local Renault Dealer had a collection of classic and vintage cars. He contacted me, offering me a Model T that he was trading in against one of his cars and asked would I have an interest in it before he put it up for sale. I was very interested as the community in Ballinascarthy which is a ten minute drive from my home had erected a replica of a Model T in honour of Henry Ford.

The Ford family emigrated from Ballinascarthy to the States in 1847. When the car arrived, it was the same car we had in the showroom 15 years previous, neither Finbarr nor myself had any idea how to drive or start the car. It was pushed into a corner of the showrooms and left there until one day two gentlemen came inquiring about the T. They introduced themselves as Matt Byrne and Tim Keane and they were members of the Irish Model T Club.

I was unaware of the Club’s existence at the time. They kindly offered to get the T going and give me a few lessons on how to drive it. This was arranged for the following week and I joined the Club. Being busy building and running a business I did not have a hobby at this time, it turned out to be one of the best decisions in my life. We have made lifelong friends, Catherine, I, and the family have enjoyed hosting and taking part in many Model T outings and intent doing so for many years to come.

My first outing in the Model T was in 2005 when Cork, the home of Ford was celebrating the City of Culture. The Irish Model T club was also hosting the International Model T Event that year. My son Sean who was the only one brave enough to travel with me, decided we would join the run in Rosscarbery and onto Kenmare which is over 60 miles. This was a tricky run for a novice at the wheel of a T traveling through Skibbereen, Ballydehob, Bantry, Glengarriffe and over the mountain to Kenmare.

I was nervous, I could drive but in an emergency God only knows what would have happened as we all know the stopping power is not one of the Ts strong points Sean tells me all went reasonably well except as we were one of the last cars into Bantry, there was only one tight parking place available, he is still wondering how we managed to stay out of the bay! That was the end of our first Model T adventure and the following morning on our way to Seem the head gasket blew! Possibly my driving, who knows.

Overall, we really had a great time and enjoyed our experience and we look forward to many more adventures in our Model T.

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