Classic car turns heads
BETHANY — Tom Gregory says his 1929 Ford Model A two-door sedan is fully loaded.
Starting with the roof (the original is replaced with a sheet of corrugated tin), there's an antique wooden cage strapped to it with fore and aft weathered rubber chickens inside, their beaks frozen in perpetual mid-squawk.
The running boards offer makeshift shelf space for a skillet, tin cup and teakettle, along with mole traps and various other animal snares.
"That way you can trap your own food on long trips," explains Gregory, a retired Caterpillar Inc. worker who lives in Bethany. "Like I said, this thing is fully loaded."
Inside, the original seats and interior and anything else not made of rusty metal were devoured by ravenous rats and mice while the vehicle spent 30 years parked in a Missouri corn crib, before Gregory found it a decade ago. The remains of the seats now have chunks of foam strapped to them to restore support along with feed sack-draped backs; the driver's side chair is braced with the addition of a toilet seat. Other creature comforts include a toilet roll on a holder and a hospital bedpan marked "trip extender." Just try asking your 2012 Lincoln dealer for creature comforts like that.
When Gregory pulls out, everybody else pulls over and starts staring. Smiling, he wheezes past at 35 mph — Model A cruising speed — and his arrival and departure is announced by clanging cow bells tied to the front and rear bumpers.
"If he painted it and fixed it up, it would look a lot nicer," said Diane Stovall, a visitor from Decatur watching the passing road show from the Bethany Casey's. Her sister, Lila Stovall, was smitten, however. "Cowbells," she said with a smile. "I heard cowbells; yeah, I like it."
It turns out, Gregory actually does have lots of very nicely painted and restored cars in a 40-strong collection that includes several Model T Fords. But this grungy Model A was put together for a cruise down the funny bone of life, the various accessories added to give it the feel of a hillbilly chariot patched up and accessorized by a rural family whose home and lifestyle would never be featured in Architectural Digest magazine.
"I just enjoy seeing the amazed looks it gets," explains Gregory, 75. "People can't believe something that looks as rough as it does still runs."
The car is a popular guest in parades and events and takes so many humorous twists and turns you need multiple drivebys to catch them all. A few extra highlights: There's a metal tractor seat bolted to the front bumper and marked "mother-in-law seat," and it's perched just below a license plate-sized sign proclaiming "Buy a Ford — Nixon Did!!" for a potent little jest at the Watergate era.
The thin tires on the straw-yellow 21-inch wire wheels are dotted with BandAids that Gregory keeps insisting are just for show and not real puncture repairs. Orange letters on the back of the car proclaim "Caution: Vehicle Quits Often," although Henry Ford would be justifiably proud of that original 1929 engine, which still runs like a raggedy dream under the scarred hood.
The piece de la resistance of hillbilly road warrior savvy is reserved for the field repairs carried out on the engine's electrical system, which brings a whole new meaning to the word "wiring." It turns out the leads connected to the spark plugs are now actual strands of barbed wire wrapped around the terminals.
"You remember those rats and mice that ate up the interior?" asks Gregory.
"Well, they'd eaten the plug wires, too."
- Share Facebook Twitter
Article sent to (required)E-mail
Article sent from (required)E-mail Name
Subject Line (article title)
Message (optional)Success - Article sent Click to close
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.
Contact information ( * required )Name * Company Telephone * E-mail *
Article InformationTitle URL
Message (optional)Success - Reprint request sent Click to close