For many members of the 65-year-old nonprofit group the Northern Ohio Model A Club, it’s all about finding and restoring the cars, especially Henry Ford’s Model A — one of America’s early cruisers manufactured by the Ford Motor Co. from 1928 to 1931.
Why the Model A? Well, part of the allure is the iconic (and funny) horn. You know. The one that makes the Ahh-Ooh-Gah! sound heard in black-and-white Hollywood gangster movies.
On July 13, members of the Northern Ohio Model A Club drove 16 restored Model As — and a 1922 Model T, on a 42-mile cruise as part of their annual riding event and picnic that ended at club member Bob Deeks’ home in Avon Lake.
Deeks, 65, who is semi-retired from his commercial lawn and fertilizing business in Avon Lake, owns three Model As — a 1928 and '29 pickup and a 1930 convertible with a rumble seat.
"It's for the preservation of the history of the car and for the sport of cruising," Deeks said of the club. "The group consists of a bunch of good guys who share a love for the cars and have shown a lot of dedication in restoring them to what they look like now."
The historic procession amid a lot of pops, squeaks and bangs from the nearly century-old vehicles, passed through Avon Lake, Westlake, Rocky River and the Rocky River Reservation with a stop at the North Olmsted Historical Society's Frostville Museum during the Pioneer Days festival. During the sun-filled day, the cars’ owners proudly drove the Model As with the windows down, with a warm breeze the only air-conditioning. Windshields slightly open at an angle and open-air cowl vents allowed the wind to blow in.
The grinding of gears from a floor shift harmonized with the chugging sound of the motor as the cars sped up and slightly slowed down as the tour wound its way around Cleveland’s western suburbs.
Onlookers along the route stopped to smile and give a thumbs up with an approving nod. Even some of the dogs being walked stopped and sat down to admire the passing cars.
When the cars returned to Deeks’ home on Lake Road, his front yard resembled a classic car show of America's early cruisers in showroom condition.
Looking out at the cars lined up in his front yard, Deeks said, "Believe me, some of these cars didn't look like this when people bought them."
Jerry Siracki of Middlefield in Geauga County knows that all too well.
A retired metal fabricator, Siracki found his 1931 Model A pickup in what was left of a barn near Hiram four years ago. The truck actually had been on the third floor of the barn, but it crashed through the deteriorated floorboards and into the lower level. Later the barn caved in and crashed on top of the truck. The truck's frame had rusted away. Siracki purchased it and two cars from that era in similar condition to the truck for $250.
Siracki started restoring the car from the frame up, "chasing parts" all over the country. He said he stopped figuring his out-of-pocket restoration costs for his Model A when they reached $15,000.
"And here we are four years later," Siracki, 72, said, pointing to the restored classic painted a bird's egg blue. My wife thought I was crazy when I bought it. When I drove it to church the first time, she didn't think I was crazy anymore."
"It was a retirement project," Siracki added. "I joined the club to learn more about Model As. They're so simple to work on. They're different."
Club president Bill Mann of Amherst Township purchased his 1930 Model A pickup in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Now painted a rock moss green, the truck is a far cry from its days on a farm.
Ford manufactured the Model As when only 19,000 miles of America's roads were paved, mostly in New York and Detroit. Ford had a manufacturing plant at East 116th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland from 1927-31 and manufactured Model As there. The cars had four-cylinder engines with a near 40 horsepower — about 100 hp less than what the average car is today. Many of the car's early accessories were components to help it go faster.
Overall, the Northern Ohio Model A Club has about 50 members, ranging in age from their late 30s to their 90s, said member Ken Kovach of Cleveland, who owns a gray 1931 Model A Deluxe Coupe and serves as the group's "technical guy." Kovach, who has read the book “Henry Ford: The Man and the Machine,” helps other club members work on their cars when they can't figure something out.
The club does about four tours a year and is planning a large one for its annual trip to the National Model A Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in September to celebrate National Model A Day.
Kovach said that when he bought his car from someone in Detroit who had it in a garage, he was guarded by two Detroit police officers toting machine guns. Gunshots were heard in the surrounding neighborhood as Kovach loaded the car onto a trailer.
"It took me about two weeks to get it running," said Kovach, who believes there is a resurgence in the Model A being a desirable classic. ‘I can get mine up to about 60-70 miles per hour. That’s when the wind gets under the front fenders and they start shaking — like the wings of a big bird getting ready to take off. It’s almost comical.”
Similar to Kovach, Deeks said he read a book about Henry Ford, who thrived on innovation and the adage “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Ford's quote in the book that Deeks said stuck out for him was, "I made a fortune failing."
But for club members, their restoration projects were clearly a success.
Jamie and Tiffany Holzheimer of Middlefield, who purchased a brown 1930 Sport Coupe with a rumble seat and orange wheels last fall, were attending the club's picnic for the first time. However, they weren't able to bring their car yet, as they next need to buy a trailer to haul it to faraway places.
Jamie Holzheimer is the club's vice president and his interest in having the car was inspired by his fascination with Henry Ford. The couple travels to the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, about twice a year.
"When Jamie purchased the car, I had no choice in the matter," Tiffany Holzheimer jokingly said. He found one that was local, in good condition at a reasonable cost. We look forward to bringing it next year."
Anyone interested in the Northern Ohio Model A Club can get more information at northernohiomodela.com.
Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-871-5797.