Memories of a Ford Model T

Rex with his topless ’26 T

Near Top Hat Junction in South Seattle, there lived a strange family. The house was small and unpainted, but it was the yard that drew attention. Old pinball machines, televisions, washers and dryers, were piled up all around the place along with garbage of every sort. There was an odor too. There was a four way stop sign by the house and when the weather was warm, no one stopped for long.

One warm day, I pulled up to the stop sign and glanced at the mess. Oh No! There’s a Model T Ford coupe sitting in the driveway with a For Sale sign on it. I had to look at it. I drove into the yard and got out of my car. The fellow that straightened up from working on the T was the dirtiest human I had ever seen. His tee shirt had been white at one time but was caked with dirt; not the stuff from a days dirty work but, the dirt of weeks of wearing without bathing. He seemed to be highly intelligent, was very articulate and made his living repairing appliances and pinball machines, not a job for a dummy. He was a large man, in his 40’s but his wife, who tried to keep out of sight while she rounded up several very dirty kids, looked to be in her early teens.

The car, unlike him, was very clean and he had rebuilt the engine and front end, doing a very professional job of it. The roof was missing but that’s a small project on a T coupe. I took it for a drive and was very impressed. After a few days of thinking about it, I decided to buy it so I had my friend Vic drive me over there. We drove into the yard and walked to the house. It was a warm summer day so the air was thick with flies and the heavy stench of raw garbage, untreated sewage and human excrement. I handed the fellow his $145 and he motioned us both into the house so we could sign the papers. I followed him into the kitchen through a blizzard of flies and instantly began breathing through my mouth the stench was burning my eyes! Vic started into the house and immediately did an about face‚ and bolted for fresh air. As the seller cleared greasy car parts from the table, I noticed the bathtub through the open bathroom door; it had about 3” of poop covering the bottom, a popular place for the flies, which seemed to buzz louder as I waited for him to sign the title. When I burst out of the house with the papers in my hand, it was like coming up for air after a long underwater swim. Vic didn’t look too well as the air in the yard, while not burning your eyes, was hard to breathe. For some reason, I can’t remember events clearly after 50+ years, but we needed to transport this fellow a short distance. Vic made him sit in the back of his new ‘54 Ford pick-up. I’m sure he washed the box out when he got home.

The T was a good one. I drove it for quite awhile, not getting around to installing a roof as I was having too much fun without it. Three of us went to drive-in movies, sitting up on the back edge of the roof with our feet on the front edge. Since the T doesn’t have a floor accelerator, I could drive down the street while perched up there, steering with my feet. The most memorable event was during the Gold Cup hydroplane races in Seattle. The pit area was closed to the public, but we drove the T down a steep trail the night before and parked its front wheels in Lake Washington. When the officials arrived in the morning, they were surprised and then very angry. “Get that pile of junk outta‚ here, now!” Kids piled on, about a dozen, and as they opened the gate, I drove out to the cheers of the race fans, already jammed into the park and into their beer, even though it was early in the day. There were no parking places within miles so we moved some barriers aside and I drove the T into the woods, knocking down small trees until it bogged down. A cop was standing there and shook his head, “It’s your equipment, sonny.”

I can’t remember what happened to this car. I sold it to someone, probably cheap with a knocking engine. I could never drive a T very long before a rod worked loose. Ah, those were the days…