Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Road Tested

I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one -- and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces. - Henry Ford

They were born in the USA in 1908 and flourished until 1927. They came equipped with a 20-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine which reached a top speed of about 45 miles per hour while delivering between 13 to 21 miles per gallon of gasoline. They were introduced with a price tag of $850 and 15,000,000 of them were built and sold. The Ford Model T was truly "The Universal Car" -- a low-cost, reliable vehicle that could be easily maintained and successfully travel the poor roads of its era. And 100 years later, thanks to the members of the Portland, Oregon Chapter of the Horseless Carriage Club of America (HCCA), the Model T is still proving it's road-worthy even today.

On a bright but chilly late July morning, about 90 HCCA members and their pre-1915 vehicles assembled for a club tour along the Historic Columbia River Highway and through the Oneonta Tunnel. The highway has special significance to this group as it was built in 1914 to take travelers along the scenic sights of the Columbia River Gorge and many auto enthusiasts believe this road was built specifically for their cars. In 1948, maintenance issues forced the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to close many sections of the highway, but the Oneonta Tunnel section was repaired and re-opened to pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles in 2009. On special occasions, like this one, the tunnel is opened to motorized traffic.

The Horseless Carriage Club of America is a non-profit corporation founded in 1965 by and for automobile antiquarians and is dedicated to the preservation of motor vehicles of ancient age and historic value. The prerequisite to membership in the club is the possession of a 1932 or older vintage car that is restored or in the process of restoration. The Portland Region HCCA group meets regularly and actively tours, hosting an annual multi-day event with members clad in period clothing.

For the enterprising newsphotographer, there were many ways to cover this assignment but I relied on one of my favorite techniques: Juxtaposition. I tried to exploit the irony between the historical vehicles and clothing with the technological advances of today and it was interesting to see club members recording the tour with digital camera and Ipads!

The Ford Model T is often referred to as "the car that changed the world". After all, it's responsible for the beginning of mass production -- in fact, by 1914 one Model T rolled off the assembly line every 93 minutes! But I'm even more amazed to think that after over a century of living, these vehicles are still running! Now that's what I call Road Tested.