Touring through central Illinois in a Model A Ford is trip down memory lane

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Steve Holt with his1931 Model A Standard Tudor Sedan.

Alison Marcotte/For — In 2012, Steve Holt looked at a 1931 Model A Standard Tudor Sedan that was for sale in Danville, Ill. He already owned a 1950 Buick, but he wanted to experience an older car. After driving around in it, he bought the Ford Model A with a cashier’s check and drove it home.

“When I first bought it, I realized I owned an 81-year-old car, and I knew I was getting into quite an adventure,” Holt laughed.

Today, Holt drives his 1931 Model A Standard Tudor Sedan along with the other members of the Prairie A’s Antique Ford Club, an east-central Illinois club consisting of about 36 members interested in Ford Model As and Model Ts. Founded in 1994, the club is also a charter member of the Model A Ford Club of America.

The Prairie A’s Antique Ford Club members enjoy driving the cars rather than displaying them at car shows. The club members go on about 15 to 20 tours per year, mostly during the months of April through October.

The tours involve driving Ford Model As at about 35 to 40 mph on back roads in Illinois, “roads that Model As traveled on when they were new,” Holt said. Each tour is led by one of the club members, who maps out a journey beforehand to interesting locations, exhibits and restaurants in the central Illinois area. Each year, they sponsor at least one three-day tour, a Mystery Tour, and a tour to the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-in in Gibson City, Ill.

The tour on Saturday, May 3, included driving to The Brian Museum, a John Deere tractor museum owned by Duane and Lottie Brian located in Tuscola, Ill. After having lunch in Flesor’s Candy Kitchen in Tuscola and visiting local shops, they drove back to the Walmart parking lot in Savoy, Ill., by 4 p.m.

Holt said he enjoys watching people’s reactions when they see his Model A around town. He also enjoys the mechanical challenge of driving an 83-year-old vehicle and learning about its history.

Holt said he wonders how his Model A’s original owner felt when first bringing the car home “and all the neighbors were jealous,” and having to maintain the car’s condition during the Great Depression.

Holt said a lot of members like having Model A or Model Ts because of the memories they bring back.

“A lot of them want to have the car that they wanted to have in high school or they want to recreate a favorite memory they had of their parents … when they were little,” Holt said. “And to have an old car like this brings back a lot of those memories.”

This project is the culmination of University of Illinois students’ work during spring 2014 as part of the multimedia reporting course taught by Professor Charles “Stretch” Ledford. The students were instructed to select a topic of interest and use audio and video to share that story. The resulting multimedia projects give an in-depth look at small segments with the Champaign-Urbana community. 

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