PENDLETON — More than two dozen Ford Model Ts powered into Pendleton on Tuesday as part of a transcontinental tour. The teams and drivers are commemorating the 1909 Ocean to Ocean Automobile Endurance Contest that began June 1 in New York City and ended June 23 in Seattle.
Henry Ford entered two Model Ts in the race against four other competitors. Ford No. 1 did not finish. Ford No. 2 won, although race organizers later disqualified the team because it replaced its engine during the race. But that didn’t come out until months later and the race hoopla was done.
Kim Kramer of Richmond, Indiana, said it has been a blast cruising the nation in the replica of that 1909 No. 2 car, and that’s a bit surprising.
The replica, like the original, is a sport version, weighing about 950 pounds. The car lacks a top, lacks a windshield, has no fenders. You look down, you see the road, she said, but she has never been scared while in the car.
Her husband, Jerry Kramer, is one of the three men driving the No. 2. He has been having a good time as well.
“It has been an absolute hoot,” he said. “People go by and their eyes bug out.”
The owner of the car lives in Florida, they said, and drove the replica to Olathe, Kansas, where they and fellow Indiana teammates Jamie Maxwell and Benny Young took over. They are part of 28 cars making the trip, plus a few more now on trailers because they broke down. Several drivers also spoke in reverence of the 1909 teams. Those fellas did not have the advantage of the interstate system nor plenty of fuel stations, and traversed tough terrain in a mere two weeks.
The Model T Ford Club of America organized the anniversary adventure, thus all the cars are Model Ts. They span years of that production line, from early models to the final version in 1927, and most teams and cars are from the East Coast and Midwest.
Ryan Hauge, of Louisiana, brought his wife and their two young children on the trip. He said they love the 1926 Model T, and the design makes it plenty comfortable to drive, even for hundreds of miles a day at a mere 38 mph.
His brother and his uncle also are part of this tour, he said, but the Model T is a part of his family.
“My grandparents dated in the one they have had since 1921,” he said. “I learned to drive in that car. My brother learned to drive in that car.”
Likewise, John Huitt said Ford cars have been a staple of his family since he was a boy. He and his wife, Thelma Huitt, came to the tour from their home in Victoria, Australia, and they may have the only Model T on the tour with an Oregon license plate. They own three of the cars back home, he said, but bought the 1927 Model T from a family in Eugene. They said they plan to visit them after the tour.
Kim Kramer said she and Jerry got into Model Ts after a convention of the cars came through their neck of Indiana in 2008.
“They had a 1,000 Model Ts at that event,” she recalled.
They caught “the bug,” she said, and had to have one. She said it was not surprising the rest of the drivers felt the same way.
The group departs Wednesday morning for Yakima, and from there makes the final push. Hauge said while coming up to the end is exciting, he’s also feeling a tinge of sadness.
You can follow the Ocean to Ocean Tour on the Facebook page for the Model T Ford Club of America.