The Book - Bart Beck

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About Bart Beck

OUR FIRST CAR

It must have been about the same year that I saw my first airplane that Dad bought our first automobile. Not to infer that there was any connection between the two events. The car was a 1914 Model T Ford Touring Car.

Automobiles, at that time, were used very little in the winter time. There was no such thing as antifreeze, so if it was real cold, and you were able to get the thing started at all, and you were then going to let it set for any length of time, your options were;

  1. start it up once in a while to keep it warm or,
  2. cover the hood and the radiator with blankets or,
  3. drain the radiator and the block.

Method number 3 was the safest, but not always the most expedient thing to do. This method would prevent freeze-ups, but the machine would be apt to get so cold that it would be difficult to start again. Quite often when one was allowed to set and get real cold, you would have to get two or three tea kettles of hot water and pour on the carburetor and the intake manifold to get it warm enough to start up again.

That Model T of Dad's was the first car that I ever drove. As I say, I was only eight or nine years old, but Dad would let me drive it up the lane from the grape vineyard to the packing house, under his supervision, of course. The lane was quite narrow, no more than 15 or 16 feet wide, between the fences, and extended almost the length of the farm.

One time Dad and I were coming up the lane with a load of grapes (in baskets) in the back seat of the car. Dad was driving this time, and at one point he noticed a basket that had started to slip. When he reached around to try to recover it, he turned the steering wheel just enough so that the right front wheel struck a fence post, dead center, broke it off, then climbed up it. There we sat with three wheels on the ground and one suspended on a, very tightly stretched, wire fence.

The fenders on those early Model T's didn't follow the contour of the wheels as the later ones did, they stuck straight out, both in front and in back. That way, when you ran into most things, you didn't bang up the equipment quite so much.

The first car that I owned was a 1917 Model T that I bought from Vance Houghtaling when I was fifteen or sixteen years old. I paid him $15.00 for it.

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