by Scott Gramlich
It's amazing how things stick with you over the years and how affected we are by early childhood experiences. My childhood was steeped in all things old. I learned a deep appreciation for history and was exposed to everything antique. So many of my early memories are of car shows and flea markets. And not just the visual memories, but the smells and the sounds too. One of my favorite sounds is that of an old engine. Be it a hit and miss, an old biplane, or my 1925 Model T, the sound of an old engine can fill my soul and bring a tear of joy to my eyes. This story is about that Model T and how enjoying antique cars has come full circle in our family.
Somewhere around 1970, my father and grandfather decided to go in together on a 1925 Model T Fordor Sedan. They bought it from Ed Puccio of South Ozone Park for $1000 sans tires. That’s right, they drove it home, put it up on blocks, took off the tires and gave them back to Ed. This was followed by a trip to the Sears Roebuck catalog store and an order was placed for 4 Montgomery Ward tires, flaps and tubes. Ed said he purchased the car from the son of the original owner and mentioned it was used in one or two movies. The engine is from a '26, but the original was saved and came with the car. My dad and grandfather rented a local garage, and "Little Lady", as my dad affectionately calls her, had a new home. The car sat for awhile until about 13 years ago when it was time to get it running again. A friend in the Horseless Carriage Club helped to give it a mechanical overhaul. Safety glass and splash cups were added. Bushings, kingpins, wheel bearings, a new muffler, some wiring and a new reverse drum were all part of the work done. Little Lady was once again in perfect running condition. And then, due to busy lives, spent the last 12 years back in the garage.
On October 3, 2007, my 100 year old grandfather, Walter Gramlich, passed away. And while I did not grow up dreaming about Model T's, (my love always antique airplanes), there was something special about this car and it's connection to my family. I asked and my dad said he and granddaddy would be real happy to know I was enjoying it and so, 2 years ago, I cleaned out my garage and brought Little Lady home.
It took a little time, but soon the itch needed scratching and I got started on the car. All I really had to do was get the carburetor rebuilt due to old gas gum up. I bought a new battery and one Monday morning (after watching a video on how to drive a T!), I turned the key, pressed my heel on the starter switch, and after a few cranks...Holy Cow! There she goes! It actually started! I will never as long as I live forget how I felt at that moment. Waves of happy childhood and memories of my grandfather washed over me. O.K., now it’s running, now drive it!
I watched this video, thanks to the Model T Ford Club of America, about 15 times. The studying paid off. Emergency brake off, left foot holding the left pedal, pressing the left pedal to first gear, give it some gas, and out of the garage we go. I spent the morning driving and getting used to the whole experience. I called my brother Keith right away and he came right over to get in on the fun. A couple of weeks later I decided to surprise my dad and drove it over to a family gathering. He was so happy to see it up and running. It had been so long for him, that I had to re teach him how to drive it.
After a few weekends of fun, I started to have some engine trouble. I have to say I am really happy that happened! It put me in a position to dig into the books and get my hands dirty and really start learning about what makes this car tick. I have learned so much and have even rebuilt my own coils. I still haven’t gotten the engine running as well as it did...yet. Seems the coil box maybe a little out of whack and the coils intermittently break contact here and there. We also had an issue with the thrust bearing, necessitating the re-building of the rear end. With a little more tinkering, Little Lady will be perfect on the road again. I think it’s all part of the fun of owning an antique car.