In the summer of 1915, 21-year-old Edsel Ford and six boyhood friends were among the thousands of Americans that took to the road to visit the west and the world’s fair exposition in San Francisco. As war was raging in Europe, Americans looked west for travel. Early cross-country road systems like the Lincoln Highway and the National Old Trails Highway were becoming drivable and the U.S. Department of Interior was promoting travel to “See America First.” The year 1915 was the dawn of American road trip century.
There were many well-publicized trips such as Emily Post’s New York to San Francisco trip for Collier’s Weekly, and Packard Motor Company President Henry Joy’s trip from Detroit to San Francisco to promote the new Lincoln Highway. The Edsel Ford trip is special because it is one of the best-documented road trips that was taken purely for pleasure and provides a rare glimpse into the true conditions endured on early road trips.
Edsel Ford and his friends kept a detailed log of their trip and took hundreds of photographs. After the trip Edsel Ford created a “souvenir” photo book to commemorate the journey for each of the participants. The HVA has worked together with the Antique Automobile Club of America Library (Hershey, Pa.) to share this unique story with America based on one of the original Edsel Ford souvenir books that was donated to the library collection.
The 1915 Ford Model T Touring driven by Edsel Ford is unfortunately not known to exist. The HVA staff will drive a similar 1915 Ford Model T Touring that was recently acquired from the Leon Brown family estate (Bethesda, Md.). D.L. George Historic Motor Cars (Cochranville, Pa.) donated their time and expertise to prepare the car for the 3,500-mile trip. With a top speed of 35 miles an hour, the HVA hopes to cover 150 to 250 miles per day much like Edsel Ford did 100 years ago.
Departure will begin at the Henry Ford Estate at Fair Lane and the annual Ford Product Development Truck and Car Show (Dearborn, Mich.). In 1915 the Henry Ford Estate at Fair Lane was under construction when Henry and Clara Ford waved goodbye as their young son and his friends departed the farm to travel to California. “Today’s event is a unique opportunity to celebrate the preservation efforts underway at the historic Fair Lane property and the impact of the Ford Model T on American culture,” said Mark Heppner, Vice President, Historic Resources at the Henry Ford Estates.
The HVA departure is also an official event of the MotorCities National Heritage Area an affiliate of the National Park Service dedicated to preserving, interpreting and promoting the automotive heritage of the State of Michigan.
The HVA will travel in the Model T to many more historic sites including the ACD Museum and National Automotive and Truck Museum (Auburn, Ind.), Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, the St. Louis Arch, the Muehlbach Hotel (Kansas City), the El Vaquero Harvey House (Dodge City, Kan.), the Summit House at Pikes Peak, the Petrified Forest National Park and the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon National Park. The HVA road trip has scheduled rest and repair stops at the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program (McPherson, Kan.), in Albuquerque with the Tin Lizzies (Model T Club), and in Los Angeles. The HVA hopes to arrive in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. on August 11th for the annual Concours-on-the-Avenue car show that is free to the public and is the start of the famous Monterey Car Week. “Shell Oil Products U.S. and Quaker State are proud to support HVA’s Road Trip Century Celebration as they stop at these historic locations,” said Don Moser, Marketing Operations Team Lead.
Edsel Ford took the southern route known as the National Old Trails Highway. This coast-to-coast road was first organized in 1912 and pieced together mainly by the old National Road beginning in Baltimore and Santa Fe Trail ending in Los Angeles. By 1926 the portion between Las Vegas, N.M. and Los Angeles became certified as U.S. Highway 66, better known as U.S. Route 66 that was later realigned in the 1930s.
The HVA road trip will end in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts originally built for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). Back in 1915, the Ford Motor Company had one of the most popular exhibits at the fair – a working Model T assembly line that produced about 18 cars each afternoon. Over 4,000 1915 Ford Model Ts were produced at the exhibition but none are known to exist.
“The Historic Vehicle Association is an official partner of the Centennial of San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE100) that commemorates the PPIE’s historical significance and to reflect on its legacy, then, now and in the future,” said Adam Hirschfelder, Director, Strategic Initiatives for California Historical Society.
When Edsel Ford reached the exhibition in San Francisco in 1915 he returned to Detroit by train. The HVA road trip team plans to fly home.
The HVA road trip will also feature two Ford support vehicles – a 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible and an EcoBoost powered F-150 pickup truck to pull the HVA’s enclosed trailer. HVA Historian Casey Maxon will be the main driver of the Model T. The road trip team includes Mark Gessler, President; John Paul, Media Coordinator; HVA Advisor Paul Ianuario; Chris Paulsen, Assistant Professor, McPherson College, historic car transport expert Jim Gallagher and Kurt Gessler, Media Intern.
About the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA)
The HVA is dedicated to preserving and sharing America’s automotive heritage. In 2014 the HVA established the National Historic Vehicle Register program working with the U.S. Dept. of the Interior and Library of Congress to document historically significant automobiles in America’s past. The HVA supported by nearly 400,000 individual historic vehicle owners and corporations such as Shell Oil Products U.S., Quaker State, Hagerty, Ford Motor Company as well as individual benefactors.
The HVA is grateful to all those that have donated their time and resources to make the 2015 Road Trip Century program possible.
More About Edsel Ford’s 1915 Road Trip and his Companions
Edsel Ford’s 1915 trip included six friends from several prominent Detroit families. Horace J. Caulkins, Jr. and Thomas C. Whitehead accompanied Edsel in his 1915 Ford Model T. Mr. Caulkins’ father owned a dental supply company and also was founder of the famous Pewabic pottery firm. His original annotated Souvenir scrapbook was donated to the AACA Library. Mr. Whitehead was the son of James T. Whitehead the founder and owner of a major steel fabrication firm that employed more than a thousand people.
The two other cars on the 1915 trip were a 1915 Cadillac V8 and 1915 Stutz 6-F Touring. These cars were most likely owned by the Herbert V. Book and Frank P. Book. Herbert Book drove the 1915 Cadillac with Robert T. Gray Jr. and Frank Book and William M. Russel drove in the Stutz that they picked up in Indianapolis. The Book brothers were important real estate developers in Detroit. Frank Books’ grandsons, Randall Book and Frank Book, will be on hand for the departure of the HVA road trip at the Ford Product Development Truck and Car Show on Friday, July 17th.
More about the Ford Model T
The 1915 Ford Model T Touring is an open car with bench front and rear seats. It is powered by a 2.9 liter (177 c.i.d.) in-line four-cylinder engine that produces roughly 20 horsepower. Driving a Model T requires a different technique than other cars. The throttle lever on the steering column controls the speed and three floor pedals operate the transmission for two forward speeds, reverse and brake. The HVA Model T is also equipped with “Rocky Mountain” drum-type brakes to improve stopping with a floor mounted hand lever. The sole windshield wiper is hand operated from the driver seat. Edsel Ford’s Model T started the journey with special wire wheels that within the days were changed to wood wheels for improved durability. The HVA car features new handcrafted wood wheels and correct type Firestone tires provided by Coker Tire Company (Chattanooga, Tenn.).
Between 1908 and 1927 the Ford Motor Company produced 15 million Model Ts. By the end of 1915, Ford had produced its millionth car and Model Ts accounted for more than half of all the cars on the road in America. The Model T was a low cost car built to be attainable by most Americans. Its popularity forced better roads to be built and touched virtually every aspect of American life. Estimates vary but there are only about 50,000 of the original 15 million Model Ts known to still survive.
More About the HVA Road Trip Century Schedule
|Thursday, July 16th
|Dearborn, Mich. (preparation day at the historic departure point) –
Henry Ford Estate at Fair Lane
|Friday, July 17th
|Dearborn, Mich. to Auburn, Ind. (departure) –
The Ford Product Development Truck and Car Show
|Saturday, July 18th
|Auburn, Ind. to Indianapolis
|Sunday, July 19th
|Indianapolis to St. Louis
|Monday, July 20th
|St. Louis to Jefferson City, Mo.
|Tuesday, July 21st
|Jefferson City, Mo. to Kansas City, Mo.
|Wednesday, July 22nd
|Kansas City, Mo. to McPherson, Kan.
|Thursday, July 23rd
|McPherson, Kan. (rest and repair day at McPherson College)
|Friday, July 24th
|McPherson, Kan. to Dodge City, Kan.
|Saturday, July 25th
|Dodge City, Kan. to La Junta, Colo.
|Sunday, July 26th
|La Junta, Colo. to Colorado Springs, Colo.
|Monday, July 27th
|Colorado Springs, Colo. (day trip to Pikes Peak summit)
|Tuesday, July 28th
|Colorado Springs, Colo. to Trinidad, Colo.
|Wednesday, July 29th
|Trinidad, Colo. to Las Vegas, N.M.
|Thursday, July 30th
|Las Vegas, N.M. to Albuquerque, N.M.
|Friday, July 31st
|Albuquerque, N.M. (rest and repair with the Tin Lizzie Club)
|Saturday, August 1st
|Albuquerque, N.M. to Chambers, Ariz.
|Sunday, August 2nd
|Chambers, Ariz. to Flagstaff, Ariz.
|Monday, August 3rd
|Flagstaff, Ariz. to Grand Canyon National Park
|Tuesday, August 4th
|Grand Canyon, Ariz. to Kingman, Ariz.
|Wednesday, Aug 5th
|Kingman, Ariz. to Ludlow, Calif.
|Thursday, August 6th
|Ludlow, Calif. to Los Angeles
|Friday, August 7th
|Los Angeles (rest and repair day)
|Saturday, August 8th
|Los Angeles to Pismo Beach, Calif.
|Sunday, August 9th
|Pismo Beach, Calif. to Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.
|Monday, August 10th
|Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. (rest and repair day)
|Tuesday, August 11th
|Carmel-by-the-Sea welcome event at the Concours-on-Avenue
|Wednesday, August 12th to Sunday, August 16th
|HVA participation in Monterey Car Week
|Monday, August 17th
|Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. to Palo Alto, Calif.
|Tuesday, August 18th
|Palo Alto, Calif. to San Francisco (arrival)
– Centennial of Panama-Pacific International Exposition