Spend enough time shuffling through buff books or clicking around enthusiast blogs and you'll eventually come up against the term "appliance" used with a derogatory bent. For fans of the automobile, few things are more terrifying than the degradation of the car's reputation. Whereas vehicles once required their operators to possess intimate knowledge of an encyclopedia's worth of quirks to get them to function properly, they've now slipped into the same realm of soulless servile technology occupied by washing machines, refrigerators and the Shake Weight.
But there are still a few relics of this long-forgotten Age of Involvement bumping around. Just ask Jonathan Klinger. The guy has taken on a brave quest to pilot a 1930 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan as his daily transportation for a full year. Through snow, wind, rain and heat, Klinger will turn no wheel other than the wire-spoke rollers of his A.
Continue reading 365 Days of A: One man's quest to drive a Ford Model A for entire year...
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
Despite the apparent insanity of relying on an 81-year-old contraption to ferry him over hill and dale, Klinger seems to be a fairly well-adjusted member of society. He spends his days working for the guys who know classic car insurance like few do – Hagerty – and has a stable of similarly vintage cars and trucks in the garage at home in Traverse City, Michigan. We caught up with him toward the tail end of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show in January.
Klinger found the Model A tucked among the harried Cavaliers, Camrys and Caravans of Craigslist. Owned by an elderly couple, the car had received a few updates over the years, but never a full frame-off restoration. The 40-horsepower four-cylinder had seen a few rebuilds in its day, but like the brakes, transmission and rear differential, it remains as stock as the second it rolled off the line in the Motor City.
"We obviously didn't want a perfect, freshly restored car," Klinger said over the whine of the gearbox, "But we didn't want an all-original survivor, either."
We rattled down Detroit's famous Woodward Avenue as the first flakes of what would prove to be an impressive winter system began to drift down before meeting their end on the vertical windshield of the A. The road seemed to be one-part slush from a previous snow, three parts pothole and four parts salt. From our vantage point in the passenger seat, we could already begin to see telltale signs of rust taking hold on the twin-hinged hood. We asked if Klinger or Hagerty had heard any gripes from the collector community about putting an antique A through the worst that driving in a Michigan winter has to offer.
"I anticipated some negative backlash, and I haven't," Klinger said. "It's been overwhelming comments like 'It's great to see that thing out in the snow' and 'Those cars were meant to be driven.'"
And drive Klinger has. At this point, he's over a third of the way through his full year behind the tiller of the Ford, and in that time, he's made multiple trips from Traverse City, Michigan to visit family way down in Illinois. All told, that particular trek is a hair over 400 miles – one way. The first crack at making the drive took him two days just out of sheer caution, but he's now whittled the time down to a more manageable 12 hours.
"When they were new, they were advertised to achieve 65 mph," he said as traffic bolted past us from a light, "and I've yet to prove that."
Needless to say, he keeps the A at a more comfortable speed and off of the interstates. While the Model A will hit 60 or 62 mph depending on various factors like wind speed and the steepness of the road grade, the Tudor is happier to motor along at around 50 mph. That means plenty of time on the state's meandering two-lane highways and county roads.
"In a modern car on the interstate, every city and every exit looks the same," Klinger said. "When you're out on the secondary state highways, you come up on nice small towns and nice houses. If I were going 50 mph on the interstate, I'd just be hating it."
As we rode back toward Cobo Hall, it became clear how much smaller the world seems from behind the windshield of the Model A. Klinger's machine turns the kind of trip that wouldn't cause us to bat an eye today into an undertaking of mythic proportions and forces a level of attentiveness that's all but exempt from modern driving. In this car, you pay attention to the road surface, weather and the drivers around you, or you end up on the side of the road – or worse.
Klinger still has the majority of the year ahead of him, and you can follow his exploits on his website. We'll be keeping an eye on both his and the car's day-to-day triumphs, and we fully expect you to give a wave if you happen to see a dark blue Tudor Sedan whisking along Michigan's northern countryside.
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL