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Quintessential classic car care

George Cummings with his 1920 Ford Model T touring car. - Margo Horner/The Mirror
George Cummings with his 1920 Ford Model T touring car.
— image credit: Margo Horner/The Mirror

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

George Cummings and his friend, Don Schreckengost, have grown accustomed to people staring at them when they drive down the road.

That’s what happens when you drive a car that was built in the 1920s.

Cummings, 77, drives a 1920 Ford Model T touring car around town in Federal Way. Schreckengost, 75, drives a 1926 Ford Model T runabout.

The pair can often be found in the afternoons at the Starbucks on Dash Point Road enjoying a cup of coffee and an outing in their vintage cars. They drive their cars nearly every day that it doesn’t rain.

Cummings said he doesn’t understand how people can own beautifully restored cars that they keep locked in the garage and never drive.

“We drive them every day that we can,” he said.

The pair doesn’t bring their Model Ts to car shows, but they once brought them to a retirement home.

“We took it up there and put it on display for the old people and it was a ball,” Cummings said.

The Ford Model T was one of the first cars to be made using an assembly line. The ease and speed of assembly line construction reduced prices so that, for the first time, the automobile became affordable for the masses. A 1920s model would have sold for less than $300 brand new.

Cummings and Schreckengost entertain anyone who is curious with facts and oddities about their vehicles.

Schreckengost points to the cowbells, for example.

Back in the 1920s, they were required in many states to warn cattle when driving down the road, he said. And the wheels on the cars used to be made of wood, which often attracted termites, he added.

Cummings points out the oil lamps on his car and notes that it runs on 20 horsepower.

“Down there about what your lawnmower is,” he said.

Driving the Model T requires a bit more finesse than driving a modern car. They won’t move any faster than 35 or 40 mph, and for that reason, the cars can’t be taken on the highway.

The windshield wipers are manual. The gas is a handle located on the steering column and there are three pedals on the floor — the brakes, reverse and clutch. There are no speedometers or gas gauges.

Sometimes, the Model Ts must be started with a crank.

And maintaining a vintage car will test a driver’s mechanical skills. Both Cummings and Schreckengost spend many hours in their garages making their automobiles run smoothly. Cummings even has a coffee pot in his garage.

“My wife said if we were to preserve a good marriage, I was to live in the garage,” he said.

The informal Ford Model T club is growing. Cummings and Schreckengost attracted the attention of 72-year-old Bob Winter, who is working on restoring his own vintage car.

The men are an encyclopedia of knowledge, Winter said.

“They just never seem to get tired of helping me out,” he said.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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