It’s been 89 years since Wayne Chaffey’s 1924 Model T rolled off the assembly line at Ford’s branch plant in southern Ontario. It’s reached an age where you might think it fitting to retire the old car, send it off to a museum somewhere. At least apply a fresh coat of paint (black, of course) and stash it in a heated garage.
But no, that’s not Wayne Chaffey’s style. There’s no room for trailer queens in his life.
So this weekend, instead of a waxing paint or polishing chrome, you’ll likely find Wayne chugging down Route 230 to visit his father in Musgravetown. The round trip from his home in Clarenville is roughly 70 kilometres, just right for a Sunday afternoon.
After all, he didn’t buy this old Model T to pamper it. He bought it to drive.
Even if that means spending a little more time underneath, wrench in hand, than he would on a modern-day Ford.
"The original owner’s manual suggests that you purchase your oil by the barrel," he says, pointing out that all the seals in the original car were made of felt and tend to deteriorate over time.
"The only way to stop a Model T from leaking is to drain all the oil out of the engine."
Not many left
Wayne estimates there are only about a half-dozen Model Ts in Newfoundland and Labrador, but with a total production run of 17 million and seven hundred thousand still registered worldwide, parts are easy to find. That includes new oil seals that don’t leak as bad as the originals.
The controls are a little confusing if you’re not used to driving cars of this vintage.
You sit way up high and the throttle is on the steering wheel. Brakes are just a rumour and you shift the two-speed transmission with your feet. It encourages a driving style that takes you back to another era, when most people lived on farms and few roads were paved.
"Burns a little more gas than you might expect," Wayne says. "I only get 14 or 15 miles per gallon."
And he’s right. By today’s standards, that’s not very fuel efficient for a four-cylinder engine that only makes 20 horsepower and has a top speed of just 65 k/hr.
But watching this old beauty wander down the road, engine sputtering, wooden wheels wobbling, body swaying side to side, you can’t help but think that 65 kilometres is probably fast enough.
And while a brand new Mustang with a big rumbly V8 probably does get better fuel mileage than this ragged old survivor, you could easily buy two choice Model Ts for the price of just one new pony car.
One to keep all shined up in the heated garage. The other to join Wayne Chaffey on Route 230, rambling your way down to Musgravetown and back.