Taking the backroad: Model T enthusiasts will wait until next year

Taking the backroad: Model T enthusiasts will wait until next year
Teri Stein

Patti and Tom Strickling of New Philadelphia enjoy attending Model T conventions and riding around the area in this 1918 Model T Touring Car.


Area residents will have to wait another year to see large groups of Model T vehicles driving around the countryside. The week-long Model T Ford Club International Convention scheduled for this summer in New Philadelphia has been postponed until July 18-23, 2021, according to organizers Tom and Patti Strickling of New Philadelphia.

More than 15 million of the popular vehicles were sold when they were produced between 1908-27. The Model T was the first car designed to be affordable for the average person. The original price was $850.

The convention is something to look forward to with its first event, a car show in downtown New Philadelphia, something the public can attend.

The Stricklings put much work into organizing the event. They scouted backroad travel routes around the area that are without steep hills as the cars only have a two-speed transmission, which makes it hard to navigate hills when traveling in groups.

That is not the only reason to avoid hills though.

“They don’t have a fuel pump,” Tom Strickling said of the Model T vehicles. “It’s just gravity getting the gasoline from the tank to the carburetor. When you are going up a steep hill, the gas goes to the back of the tank instead of going to the carburetor. Even if you have 2 or 3 gallons of gas, you can run out of gas going up a steep hill.”

Drivers have had to turn their car around and go backward up the hill so the carburetor can get gas. “I always thought that was a story, but then it happened to me more than once,” Strickling said.

Stopping is another issue for the vehicles. “The brakes on a Model T don’t necessarily affect the wheels,” Strickling said. “They affect the drum and the transmission. They stop the communication between the engine and the rear axle. It’s interrupted when you hit the brakes, so that slows it down and stops it. Unless you stall out, then you don’t have brakes because the brakes rely on the engine being there.”

Accessory parts were available “back in the day” to address some of the issues drivers had with the cars. There were accessories for the brakes, and you could even add another transmission and turn it into a four speed. There were even accessories to use the vehicle as a snowmobile or tractor.

“They are very versatile vehicles, and there is nowhere that they can’t go, but not fast,” Strickling said, adding they once drove their Model T to the top of Pike’s Peak.

Most of the vehicles have 10-gallon gas tanks, use unleaded gasoline and can get from 15-25 miles per gallon, depending on one’s driving skills.

“If you give it too much gas, it’s burning gas it doesn’t use,” Strickling said.

The vehicles only have 20-22 horsepower, and they take the use of both hands and both feet to drive.

Maintenance of the vehicles is ongoing. “There are a lot of points to oil and grease that you should check prior to driving season and several times during,” Strickling said. “They don’t have an oil filter, so the oil gets dirty pretty quickly. Some people change it frequently all summer long, and some just change it before and after.”

The Stricklings enjoy drives in their Model T vehicles. “Everybody smiles when they see you coming,” Strickling said. “But the ones that don’t smile are the ones driving behind you because you are so slow.”

Most vehicles travel about 30-45 mph, but some can go faster if they are fine tuned.

According to Strickling, a tour is the best place to break down. “You’ve got all kinds of experts there. I’ve seen some pretty serious maintenance go on in parking lots. I think that there are probably enough parts under people’s back seats to make a whole car. No matter what you need, they have it,” he said.

Strickling purchased his first Model T in 2003; it was something he had dreamed of doing for a long time. “I used to buy Old Car Trader, and I’d lay on the floor and look at it like it was a Christmas catalog,” he said.

The Stricklings now own three Model T vehicles: a 1911 Torpedo Runabout, a 1921 TT (Ton Truck) Huckster and a 1918 Model T Touring Car.

In 2005 the couple went on their first tour to Harrisburg, Virginia. They made many good memories on the trip. They found the stone foundation of what was once the home of Patti Strickling’s great-grandmother, visited ancestors’ graves and took photos for her mother.

“We get to see backroads, and we get to see out-of-the-way things you don’t get to see if you’re taking the main highways,” Patti Strickling said.

Her job on tours is being the navigator. Each tour has a notebook that includes a list of all events and turn-by-turn directions for each day of the tour; she will sometimes check off the turns as they drive along.

Another year they enjoyed a tour in Kentucky where there were two creek crossings every day. “That was fun. There is a lot of people who wouldn’t do that, but I’m OK with it,” Tom Strickling said.

The couple and a niece and nephew who went along traversed the creeks multiple times to get photos of the adventure.

The trips afford the couple many opportunities they would otherwise not have. On a trip to Iowa, attendees could sign up to have dinner at area residents’ homes. The Strickling’s host owned a restaurant, and they thoroughly enjoyed the company and the meal.

On one trip the participants had a huge parade for nursing-home residents. “That was one of the happiest times of my life,” Tom Strickling said.

Model T enthusiasts are a fun group. “We try to stay on the backroads with a stop for coffee and doughnuts in the morning and an afternoon stop for ice cream,” Tom Strickling said.

Volunteers will be needed to help with the tour, whether it’s driving the trouble trailer, helping with parking or assisting at tour stops. Anyone interesting in volunteering during the event may email the Stricklings at ttour2020@yahoo.com.

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