I was a teenager on a budget so we had a
tent loaded on the running board for camping until we got to
Dearborn where we stayed in a motel. We also took a cook stove
which I borrowed from our neighbors, the Keisters, as I thought
it would be easy to cook breakfast each morning.
Because I was going with knowledgable Model
T enthusiasts I think my parents felt somewhat comfortable with
my trip. I personally was never worried that we wouldn't get
to Dearborn since I had bought my Model T from fellow traveler
Tom Lutzi who had restored the car and who I was sure could
keep it running no matter what. So in my mind there wasn't much
of a 'bust' potential.
Additionally, since Tom's parents were also
making the trip, I think my parents felt that I'd ultimately
be 'watched over' by responsible adults. Part of their decision
was also based on the understanding that I would call home each
day to let them know how things were going. I did call the first
night. And I did call when we got to Dearborn. But that was
it and the next time I talked to them was when I drove into
our driveway at the conclusion of the trip. It was something
my mother would remind me about for many years.
Details of the Trip -
July 12, 1967
We all met at the Gateway Mall parking lot
at 5:00 AM on July 12 with my dad as our official "Sending
Away Committee." He had made a banner for the back of my
car which said "Nebraskaland Model 'T' Chapter "Destination
Dearborn" 1917 Ford."
The original plan had been that the California
Model T group was going to pick us up in Lincoln on their way
east. But on Tuesday, July 11 we found out that one of the western
groups had gone through Kansas and wasn't coming to Lincoln.
And the other California group had gone through Nebraska the
previous day but did not come through Lincoln and also forgot
to contact us. So there would be no large caravan. And it also
meant we were leaving a day later than planned and needed to
leave very early the next day if we were to get to Dearborn
for the start of the convention, i.e., we'd need three long
days to get there on time.
So there we were on that next day at 5:20
AM on July 12, 1967, leaving the Mall's parking lot. Since it
was still dark our kerosene tail lights and side cowl lamps
had been lit. My car had electric headlights but Tom's 1913
Model T had carbide headlights so he had also lit those with
We all waved goodbye to Dad and off we went
- Destination Dearborn.
We headed out, as planned, on Highway 6
but 16 miles from Lincoln we hit our first detour of the trip.
It took us over to I-80 East and we were making pretty good
time, probably close to 40 miles per hour as it's pretty flat
in Nebraska....perhaps even a little over 40 going down hills
(although no speedometers on any of our cars to exactly know
Going Too Slow
The interstate made such a pleasant ride
that I guess we decided we would stay on it a little longer
than the detour required (though the elders of the group later
confessed that they knew better). We passed through Omaha and
stopped for breakfast in Council Bluffs, Iowa. We continued
on I-80 and had seen at least three highway patrol cars since
we started from Lincoln and no issues, and even a few waves
and smiles. The fourth one, however, flashed on his lights,
pulled us over. He told us we were illegally going too slow
on the interstate and to follow him into town as we needed to
appear before the Justice of the Peace. That seemed pretty serious
to me that we immediately had to go to court. It was my first
traffic violation, I was on a budget and I had no idea what
was going to happen next. My consolation was that I was with
my older Model T friends whom I was counting on to provide guidance
for the next steps.
We pulled into Anita, Iowa and went directly
to the Justice of the Peace's office. The JP was also the editor
of their weekly newspaper (he would later take pictures of us
with our cars). We went into his office. He listened to the
officer's explanation of what had happened and then told the
trooper that he could return to his duties and he would complete
the process. Much to my relief the JP decided to let us go with
a warning and instructions to stay off the interstate.
It was now after 1:00 PM so we decided to
have lunch before leaving town. But after lunch when we came
out of the cafe the patrolman and the Justice of the Peace had
apparently had more discussion, with the patrolman insisting
that we should be fined. The JP explained the situation and
said that he had to at least collect court costs, which meant
we each owed $5.00. I think he was a bit embarrassed and made
a comment about the patrolman to the effect that he wasn't sure
why "Joe" (not his real name) had to haul you in here
this morning. "He must have gotten up on the wrong side
of the bed, or maybe his wife burnt his toast."
We each paid $5.00, got in our cars and
headed north to Highway 6, a little poorer and wiser.
Iowa has more hills than one might think
and that also had an impact on our timetable. On one particularly
steep hill I was the only one who zipped up the hill in high
gear. As Mrs. Lutzi later wrote "Doug slapped his white
cap on his knee and said "What a car!" Tom made it
up by going in low, but Jim couldn't get up the hill and finally
backed his car up the hill since his low gear couldn't make
After a long day we finally stopped where
Stan and I tried out our tent camping. It worked out well there
and subsequently with most of the other motels where everyone
else was staying with that first motel even providing extra
towels for our shower in the morning.
The Pancakes - RIP
The first time we tried to make breakfast
I unfortunately chose to do it in the parking lot of the truck
stop where everyone else in our group had gone inside to eat.
As I was making the pancakes the trucks entering that gravel
and dirt parking lot kicked up enough dust to significantly
impact the quality of those cakes. I think I may have finished
one of those pancakes but after one bite Stan said he had had
enough and went inside to eat breakfast with the rest of our
group. Stan didn't join me for anymore cook stove breakfasts.
At the end of the third full day we made
it to Dearborn and checked into The Dearborn Inn where the convention
was being held which was a nice break from camping.
Besides the Model T meeting and banquet
we participated in a parade and drove up to the Ford assembly
plant and grounds. We toured the Henry Ford Museum and drove
our Model T's through Greenfield Village and the Ackley Covered
Bridge and later across the Ambassador Bridge to Windsor, Ontario.
Visiting Greenfield Village and seeing the
Menlo Park Laboratory were my highlights, but also memorable
were the Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop, the Sarah Jordan Boarding
House, and the numerous early American shops and technologies
displayed in Greenfield Village and the Ford Museum.
On our way back to Lincoln we were much
more leisurely than our trip east. We visited multiple antique
stores and a few roadside stops and I purchased two full-size
sewing machines that we somehow found room for in the back seat.
I guess even then I understood the close relationship between
the phonograph and sewing
machines and thought a few sewing machines should be part
of my collection.
During that trip home the cook stove fell
out of my car (perhaps having been repositioned because of the
sewing machines) and it was quickly runover by a truck. Looking
back it probably would have been better if that had happened
sooner as the dust of those pancakes was still being remembered
by my taste buds. I pulled over to retrieve the poor smashed
Coleman and reportedly said "Ashes to ashes, iron to rust.
Rest in Pieces. You've cooked your last pancakes."
- We saw more country by going slow - and "we saw it
There were a few unexpected events. A few
detours. The illegal "Driving Too Slow." The parking
lot pancakes and the loss of the camp stove. I ran out of gas
three times (there's no gas gauge on a 1917 Model T and I must
not have understood how to correctly read a dipstick). I had
to be pushed on three occasions to jump start my car, plus there
was a minor grader
On the huge plus side we had no accidents
and no flat tires and my grader ditch reverse gear problem was
easily fixed. I saw Edison's Menlo
Park Laboratory, the birthplace of the Phonograph. I thoroughly
enjoyed Greenfield Village. I loved seeing all of the Model
T's at the convention and the Henry Ford Museum was great. We
had many interactions with people in the small towns we passed
through who were interested in our cars and what we were doing.
In short, the trip created many lasting
I can still visualize,
when we finally pulled into my parent's driveway, Stan practically
jumping out of the car before it stopped and saying something
like "Let me out...Let me out of this car!"
I get it.
It was a long trip. As a passenger it was
probably even longer. But as Hazel Lutzi said "we certainly
saw more country by going slow" to which George Lutzi added
and "we saw it longer."
Thank-you Stan for making the journey with
Likewise, I'll always be grateful that my
parents agreed to such a trip.
Doug and Stan
Laboratory, Greenfield Village
Edison's Laboratory, 2nd
floor where his Tin-foil Phonograph was completed on December
Jordan's Boarding House, Greenfield Village - One of the
earliest homes with electric lighting this Menlo Park Boarding
House near Edison's Laboratory was "home" for several
of the unmarried employees working at the Edison complex.
Don't be Alarmed! (Printers'
Pie, 1904) Punch, Bradbury, Agew & Co.,Published by The Sphere,
Grader Ditch Incident:
Hazel Lutzi documented in her story that in Iowa "Doug
was turning around and ran into a grader ditch. Found out he
had no reverse so had to tighten the bands so he could back
A special thanks
to Mrs. Hazel Lutzi who documented day by day details of this
Her final numbers
for the Lutzi family car:" 2200 miles give or take a few.
Used 90 gallons of gas and 2 oil changes. Total car expenses
And a dedication
to Tom Lutzi who introduced me to Model T's and was a good friend
on that trip.
George T. "Tom" Lutzi, August 23, 1945 -
March 17, 2004
George Lutzi, 1910-1990
Hazel Lutzi, 1912-1986