Model T collector savors life in the slow lane
DEARBORN, Mich. – Jay Klehfoth was born into a General Motors family – but you wouldn’t guess it by looking in his garage. Klehfoth is the proud owner of four Ford Model Ts, the first of which he bought when he was only 13 years old.
“When my son was about six or seven, he used to tell people I bought my 1927 Model T Coupe new. He confused the fact that it was the first car I bought, not that I bought it new,” Klehfoth said, with a chuckle. “From the time I was very young, I had an interest in cars. I was attracted to the Model T because to me, it was the epitome of what an old car was like. Even though I was part of a GM family, I still loved the T.”
Klehfoth and his wife Barbara added three more Model Ts to their collection during the years: a 1923 English-built, right-hand drive Town Car, a 1925 Touring and a 1926 dirt track Racer.
The Klehfoths are playing a key role in the Model T Celebration planned for the week of July 20 in Richmond, Ind., which is sponsored by Ford Motor Company and the Ford Motor Company Fund. They also are active members of the Model T Ford Club of America (MTFCA); he is CEO and editor of Vintage Ford magazine, and she is the secretary and business manager; and they founded the Ford Model T Museum in Richmond.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Ford to celebrate this historic Model T milestone,” said Klehfoth. “We have 864 Model Ts registered for the event from 45 states and 8 countries.”
The event will draw up to 1,000 Model Ts, some from as far away as Australia. When these Model Ts line up in parade formation to wind their way through Richmond, Klehfoth expects to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest single-model car line.
The week-long event also will feature a 1930s airplane show, a vintage baseball game, an exhibition race at the 1916 race track nearby and other period-style events that celebrate simpler times, just as the Model T does.
“The world looks a whole lot different at 25 mph in the open air. Driving a Model T is not about the destination but the trip. It’s about stopping and seeing things that you don’t see on the interstate at 70 mph,” Klehfoth said. “You get to truly see Americana, people working in the fields and in small towns. Everyone waves. There’s something about a Model T that makes everyone smile.”
That’s in part why the MTFCA’s mission revolves around driving Model Ts. Klehfoth has given nearly every kid in his neighborhood a ride and takes his Ts to local elementary schools and retirement communities.
He likes to point out that even as a collectable vehicle, the Model T today stays true to Henry Ford’s original vision by remaining simple, durable and affordable.
“Henry Ford would be proud to know that his Model T is an antique vehicle that is still priced so that anyone can own one,” Klehfoth said. “Today, a Model T can be bought for as little as $1,500 and restored to working order with simple hand tools.”
Klehfoth hopes to pass on the hobby to the younger generations in his family. “My grandkids are always excited to visit and see what I am doing with my Model T,” he said. “I have planted the seed in them and hope it germinates when they have finished their education and careers.”
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