Model T Ford owners gather for 'Hillbilly Tour'

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
ELIZABETH DODD ~ Janet Green, of Vicksburg, Mich., gets back to Victorian Inn in Cape Girardeau from a ride in a 1926 Model T owned by her mother, Irene Green, not pictured. The Greens are in Cape Girardeau for the 25th Hillbilly Tour hosted by the Heart of the Ozarks Model T Club of Springfield, Mo. Over 100 cars and 200 people are attending the event. Model T cars will be seen in downtown from 1p.m. to 3:30p.m. today.

Bob Stone's car club isn't one where members stand around shining brass and finding ways to one-up other car owners. The Heart of the Ozarks Model T Ford Club is all about driving.

"One of the nice things is that we don't have competition. It's just real fun," said Stone, who is chairman of the Springfield, Mo., club.

About 200 Model T owners will drive through Cape Girardeau today as part of a "Hillbilly Tour." This year marks the 25th anniversary of the tour, which attracts drivers from chapters across the U.S.

Participants will explore Southeast Missouri at a pace of about 35 miles per hour, using mostly back roads. Today they will visit Old McKendree Chapel and Cape Girardeau's downtown historic district, stopping to do some antique shopping. Thursday the group will visit Whitewater, Zalma, Bloomfield, Delta and Dutchtown, among others. Friday's highlight will be the science museum in Marble Hill and Trail of Tears State Park. The tour will conclude Saturday with stops at Tower Rock Winery in Altenburg, a Catholic shrine in Apple Creek and the court house in Jackson.

"When you see the country through a Model T, you see everything," said Charlotte Corman of Mount Zion, Ill. "This kind of vacation is nice because you get to see the country up close."

The parking lot at the Victorian Inn in Cape Girardeau was packed with about 100 Model T's Tuesday evening. Most people arrived with the car in a trailer because the old vehicles weren't designed for modern highway driving. Each day, tour members will head out in groups of five to 10 to avoid creating a traffic jam.

"Everyone waves and wants to know what year it is," said Anne Alexander of Queen City, Mo. Her husband has owned a 1915 Model T since he was 15 years old.

The oldest Model T on the tour dates back to 1911, while the newest was made in 1927, the year Ford stopped producing the vehicle. While the cars are known for their similarity in characteristics, they do vary slightly, Stone said, in areas such as the radiator and headlights.

Members share expertise and parts, said Katherine Easley, of Franklin, N.C. This is her first year on the Hillbilly Tour, which she heard about through friends.

Past Hillbilly tours have been held in Eureka Springs, Ark., Broken Arrow, Okla., and Excelsior Springs, Mo. This is the first year the tour has come to Cape Girardeau.

"If any of the husbands want company, all they have to do is open the hood and 15 people descend. It's a close-knit group," Easley said.

335-6611, extension 123

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