As the late, great John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
I believe it started when we recently visited the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. We’ve made it our mission to see as much of our new great home state as possible, and the Ford Museum is truly a must-see.
I sat in the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, saw the chair where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, visited Thomas Edison’s workshops and stood in Robert Frost’s house. His actual house. Old Henry didn’t just collect cars; he collected everything.
While there, we got the chance to ride around Greenfield Village in a Ford Model T.
My husband began bringing home Model T books from the library. Soon enough, he was touting the advantages of the Model A — better to drive, more comfortable to ride, easier to find parts, and so on.
As he shared with me his latest findings and observations, I smiled and nodded, believing this to be just a phase, like my raw food diet and recent obsession with the five-string banjo. I arranged for a visit to Model T driving school at the Gilmore Car Museum, hoping that a few hours learning about and driving the beast would get it out of his system.
That all changed abruptly last week when my husband invited me to join him at a vintage car showroom. He ushered me in with the same delight I would have had bringing him into the Post-Impressionist exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. His eyes brightened, his step fairly bounced as he wandered among the Model A’s for sale, and I could see the decades fade away.
Suddenly, there she was. Model A Cabriolet. Butter yellow, brown fenders, red wheels, white sidewalls, perfect leather upholstery, rumble seat, convertible. Even I had to admit, sheer perfection.
Sold from 1927-31, the Model A was the successor to Henry Ford’s smash hit Model T. Available in more colors and body styles, the Model A embraced cosmetic adornments that Henry disdained (thanks to son Edsel at the design helm).
The model A also boasted convenience features that Henry deemed unnecessary, like an electric starter, dash-mounted fuel gauge, safety glass, a vent for heating the cab and an optional rear-view mirror. The car was a wild success with the public and nearly 5 million were sold in three years of production, compared to 15 million Model T’s in 19 years of production.
As I checked the price tag — $29,900 — I clearly saw our next vacation going up in smoke.
My husband sent an email to my brother, Bob, an expert in all things automotive and a vintage car aficionado himself, to wit: “Hey Bob, at the risk of provoking your sister, can you help me find a Model A?”
Mr. Smokin’ Hot and brother Bob are two old Navy guys who became fast friends at their first meeting. I’ve clearly been displaced by their bromance. “Captain, I can hook you right up with a sweet ride. As far as my sister goes, you are on your own,” was my brother’s response.
Never mind that my husband knows little about cars, we have no place at all to park it — and, well, face it, it’s not exactly a practical vehicle. “You don’t get it,” says the husband. “This is a car you drive in parades.”
For the record, I would rather take out my own appendix than drive in a parade.
The fact that we would need to keep it in storage, spend most of our time on upkeep and use it only occasionally makes it roughly equivalent to owning a boat.
As a female, this male obsession with cars escapes me. I appreciate it, I empathize with it, I support it — I just don’t understand it. Besides, he is already married to the rough equivalent of an old car.
At 62, I may not be antique, but certainly qualify as vintage. My maximum speed is slower than the newer models, but I’m reliable (although a bit slow to start in the mornings). Life has left plenty of dents in the exterior, but those only verify my authenticity and add to my charm.
My thermostat has been out of whack since menopause, and the radiator tends to leak a bit when I sneeze. Furthermore, the rear bumper isn’t quite what she used to be. But the seats are soft and comfy, and I’m fairly low maintenance, with a martini additive once a week.
As a bonus, my hair has become thin enough to qualify me as a convertible.
But, as they say — it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. Although 25 years older, the car has me beat hands-down.
There’s no denying it. Mr. Smokin’ Hot wants a Model A. And, if you know me at all, you know my motto is, “If baby wants it, baby gets it.”
Norway can wait. See you in the parade.
— By Shari Savage, Tribune community columnist