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Pre-War Cars Still In Service

Model T

What’s the point of owning an old car if you’re never going to use it? Sure classics aren’t always as convenient or dependable as modern cars, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be used and enjoyed. Steven P and his wife spotted several Pre-War cars still on the road while on a trip to Monhegan Island, Maine. As it turns out, both are used and enjoyed regularly. It goes to show you that with a little work and the right know how, just about any barn find can be driven and enjoyed. Read the rest of Steven’s story in his own words after the break.

Model T Rear

We took the boat from Port Clyde to Monhegan Island on a day trip. As we were parking our car, a brass radiator Model T Ford drove by and parked nearby. I remarked to the fellow in charge of parking cars that one did not see a nearly 100 year old car being driven and he replied “That’s so and so’s. He’s always driving that thing around”. I took three photos of the T and noticed the key was left in the ignition. I realized the owner was probably the only person around who knew how to drive a Model T.

Model A sighting

When we returned from the island this Model A Ford was parked on the dock. I couldn’t find the owner but managed to get these photos. The car had a current Maine license plate and a 1954 inspection sticker that I was unable to photograph.

Model A MotoMeter

Notice the attempt to touch up the paint on the rear, the close up of the patina, the tar on the headlamp, the interior (is that a towel on the seat?), the roof, the excellent repair on the running board, the tilted MotoMeter, and the hood hinge. Talk about rough. It did have new tires and “wet” looking grease fittings and, yes, the key was left in this one too.

Model A Interior

We love to see old Pre-War cars still on the road, but we are curious as to why the owner’s would leave the keys in their cars. Are they that difficult to drive that they don’t have to worry about anyone trying to steal them? Or perhaps their current condition is a built-in theft deterrent. Would you be courageous enough to drive one of these on a regular basis?


  1. Rustowner

    Nice story and shots. However, the 2nd car doesn’t appear to be a model A, but a “late” model T (I’d guess a ’26). Good to see the oldies putting around! I take my unrestored ’31 A out as often as I can. I always gets smiles and waves. I never seem to get out of the gas station in under an hour due to the interest and questions!

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  2. Joey K.

    There are a fair number of unrestored original cars rolling around Maine roads. The problem is finding one if you don’t already have one. The salt / snow / ice we have up here on the roads creates a nightmare for anyone who is trying to operate a vehicle and usually rusts out what might other wise be a nice classic. The salt (particularly the new stuff) seems to eat everything metallic it touches. I know of several people who run their Model Ts around in the summer – and I’d like to join them! For some reason there is a part of me that really wants a nice 1926 T – and I do know how to operate one!

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    • Brian

      Check and see if you have a local Model T club chapter. If you bought one, I am sure one of the members would be glad to give you some lessons.

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    • Duffy Bell

      I do know someone who drives his 1926 Model T regularly. He lives near me in northern NJ and drives it to Long Island quite regularly in the summer.

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  3. MDchanic

    Here in Maine, especially on the Islands, it is not uncommon to leave the keys in the car – Where would someone go, anyway?

    And, yes, as Rustowner pointed out, both cars pictured are Model Ts.

    We’ve got a guy in my town who has a T as well – he drives it around in the summer, stores it in the winter.

    It can be surprising how many “survivor” cas there are here in Maine, but there have been a lot of people over the years who just came up in the summers, and kept a car in the garage at their summer place – when those cars are finally sold, they are low-mileage, always-garaged, never-driven-in-snow cars that are likely to be kept locally and driven the same way as they had been before.

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  4. Tim H

    As a teen a friend of mine and I fired up the Model A that his parents took an their honeymoon. We drove it in their field til we broke something in the front end. My friend and his dad restored it and they drove it to their 50 wedding anniversary party. Two years ago they drove it to their 75 wedding anniversary party. My friend’s mom and dad still live on and run the same farm. For years they have given rides to the grand kids and friends on sunny days.

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  5. Jim-Bob

    I think the thing about the theft is that it is not exactly a car anyone would want to steal. If you had to run from the cops, a 4 cylinder Ford from the 1920’s isn’t exactly a good car to get away in-unless the cops only use Segways. Plus, this is a small island community where all the locals know the car and owner and it is only accessible by ferry. There really isn’t anywhere to hide and a ferry boat operator is going to remember the car and who was driving it. Plus, a model T is NOT an easy car to drive if you have never driven one before. People who have are usually in the hobby and have enough spare cash to have toys and would therefore have no incentive to steal one.

    As to would I drive it every day? On a small island like this with low speed traffic, sure. You could even use a golf cart as your island transportation and get away with it. In the area I live in though, you would be killed inside a week.

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  6. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Cool. Good to see them on the road and not on a trailer.

    As far as leaving the keys in the switch; why not? 95% of people would have no idea how to operate either vehicle, and you are on an island where I would bet the owners are well known to the locals.

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  7. Marc

    Hello, you are on Monhegan Island. If you were to try to steal one, where would you go??? The total land mass is a square mile or so and less than 100 people live there.
    it’s a 12 mile ferry ride to the mainland and I am thinking somebody might notice.

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  8. Rene

    As long a I can make it stop again, I can’t se why not. (drive it that is)

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    • paul.bratley1

      Driving a T is nothing like a modern car you would need to be shown.

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  9. geomechs geomechs Member

    I sure like to drive my vehicles when I can. I find you’ve got to be a little more vigilant about maintenance but they (the ones that run) are quite reliable. Ralph Stein, in his book, Treasury of the Automobile, wrote that any car built after 1914 was about as reliable as anything built after. I tend to agree although the older cars were far more maintenance intensive than they are now. But keep them up and they’ll take you anywhere you want to go and bring you back.

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  10. C Bryant

    God put 4 wheels on them for a reason and made them big enough they don’t fit on a mantle.Drove my 62′ Corvette for many,many years 365.Share

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  11. jim s

    i love cars that are being driven. the fact that they are model T’s makes it just that much better. it has been a long time since i have seen a model T on the road under it’s own power. thanks

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  12. Jim-Bob

    Reading this, I am reminded of one of my “Tales from pizza delivery”. A driver at another store was delivering in a bad neighborhood and left his car running while going to the door. This was not a good idea as this area is full of all sorts of drug addicts, dealers and thieves and the car was a 2 year old Toyota Celica. Naturally, a scumbag tried to drive off with it…only she couldn’t. The car had one of the best anti-theft systems you can get to discourage the casual car thief: A manual transmission. After fighting with the thief a bit, she took off on foot, having not been able to figure out that baffling third pedal. Most modern people can’t drive even a simple, normal manual setup today, so having one makes your car far less likely to be stolen. Add to it the hideous complexity of a model T and you have a car that is virtually theft-proof.

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    • jim s

      reminds me of the the carjacker who tried to steal a truck with a 3 on the tree transmission. very very unhappy thief left on foot.

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  13. Brad

    Fantastic story and pictures, especially for the anecdotes it inspired in the comments. What a fun site – and imagining an island where people drive old cars, take ferry boats, etc. is about as good tourism PR as I can think of. Can’t wait to visit Monhegan Island, Maine!

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  14. Han Kamp

    Fantastic ! I just love to see these veterans on the road. This reminded me of a lovely restored ’26/28 (?) Dodge pick-up I saw in Australia. Followed the car and when it stopped I spoke with the owner and was allowed to sit in it and ride shotgun for a while, WOW.
    The Dodge was used frequently as a promotional vehicle for a motel.

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  15. That Guy

    Wow, the rat rod crowd could use that T sedan as the bible for how to do the “rat look” properly. I hope that car is never restored, just preserved and kludged together for eternity.

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  16. Toby S

    Great Story.

    If you have never been to Port Clyde Maine, Monhegan Island, or near by the Owls Head Transportation Museum it is worth it. I know those cars, and their people, VERY WELL. We leave keys in stuff, and our doors open. Just the way we live, the way it should be.

    Great Story. Thanks for posting.

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  17. Peter Brookes-Tee

    What great stories to go with the photo’s. Our annual vintage club meetings usually incorporate a days run. Whilst visiting a club day in Dumfries (Scotland) in my late split screen moggie, I found myself on the road run following a Stanley Steamer. Boy, could that old car go, no slowing down on the hills, just a water stop at lunchtime!

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  18. Tara P

    Wow its great to see these old ladies are still going strong, its good to know that there are still some oldies being used regularly instead of being up on axle atands and never used.
    I used to own and run a 1936 Hillman Minx, i once took it on the M6 motorway going to a show at Holker Hall, with a maximum speed of 50mph but with 3 forward gears and heavy steering it was a challenge, even stopping with rod control brakes was risky as all four wheels stopped at the same time, if anyone was right behind me they would have crashed into me.

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  19. Dale Watson

    Anyone who has never driven a Model T ford on a quiet country road in Maine has missed out, it is the best car going .
    I have a nice 26 coupe for sale and will teach anyone to drive it.
    Thanks Dale Watson

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