Model Ts expected to roll into town Sunday
by Sherrie Norris
The slow-moving, history-making autos will not only be wheeling into local hotels and campgrounds this coming weekend, but throughout the week they will also be seen along the Blue Ridge Parkway and at Grandfather Mountain.
They will also visit Mast General Store, local eateries, Fort Defiance in Lenoir, Linville Caverns, Linville Falls, the Blowing Rock attraction and Mystery Hill.
The group will also enjoy a relaxing drive along Railroad Grade Road and shopping and dining in West Jefferson and Wilkesboro and more.
It's all part of the 2014 annual Tour of the Model T Ford Club International, during which 553 vintage auto enthusiasts are planning to enjoy the High Country and surrounding areas July 13-18.
The club will kick off a fun-filled week in the mountains with a car show from noon until 3 p.m. on Sunday, on King Street in downtown Boone; a 1 p.m. fashion show at the Jones House will feature 20-plus club members dressed in period attire.
King Street, between Appalachian and Depot streets in Boone, will be closed to through traffic for those three hours, during which the public is invited to stroll through and enjoy the festivities.
Throughout the week, the car club members will enjoy planned activities as a group, as well as time on their own, said Steve Bumgarner of Hudson, the MTFCI's club's executive and tour chairman.
An official welcoming event will jump-start the week at the Holiday Inn Express in Boone on Sunday evening, with an awards banquet on the campus of Appalachian State University wrapping things up on the following Friday evening.
This year's club tour, its 58th annual, has been about 18 months in the making, said Bumgarner, who began visiting the High Country and meeting with tourism officials in the winter of 2013 to plan the trip.
"Everyone has really been good to work with," he said. "It's unbelievable what it takes to make it happen, not only with local and state restrictions, but with federal, too, for us to travel on the parkway."
It's his hope, that everyone will have patience with the cars and their drivers, he said.
"We don't go very fast. The speedometer shows about 75, but most of us don't go over 45," he said.
Owner of six Model Ts, Bumgarner said his entourage is "really looking forward to coming to the mountains."
He called the event "a once-in-a lifetime thing" for the local communities involved.
Bumgarner has been coordinating the tours since 2008 and estimates his club's visit will have at least a $1 million economic impact to the area.
"We've got 239 cars registered for the tour -- all originals -- coming in from all over the United States, as well as England and Sweden," Bumgarner said. "They range from 1909 to 1927 models. Most of them will be hauled in, but quite a few will be driven in."
He estimates that the autos will cover about 110 miles a day, on average, while in the mountain region.
The High Country area joins a long list of tour destinations for the club, which includes Utah, Vermont, Minnesota, the Grand Canyon and many other locations.
"We've been all over the country," Bumgarner said, "but we, my wife, Dianne, and I, decided to keep it a little closer to home for us, this time around."
The club's 2015 tour is slated for Branson, Mo., with the Glacier National Park on the horizon.
"We're like a big family," Bumgarner said. "We enjoy getting together and making these trips, year after year."
Bumgarner added, "The cars are different and just a lot of fun. They're easy to work on, too."
His fascination with the "T" began with the purchase of his first one in 1980. "It was a 1915 touring car and it took me a year to restore it," he said. "I showed it three times and won the Henry Ford Award in 1998. It's a nice show car."
Commonly referred to as the "Tin Lizzie" and the T‑Model Ford, the Model T was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from 1908 to 1927.
It became known as the first affordable automobile that provided middle-class America with a dependable means of transportation. It was named the world's most influential car of the 20th century in an international poll.