Our Cars: 1919 Model T pick-up

Jonathan Klinger grew up in a Ford family, and the combination of a mechanical mind and an interest in automotive history led him to purchase a 1919 Model T Ford pick-up.

“The best moment was pulling it onto the show field — under its own power— after the crazy four-week restoration project to a round of applause from everyone who knew what it took to get it there.”

Hagerty Employee: Jonathan Klinger is the PR Coordinator for Hagerty. He’s been with the company for 3 years.

Car: 1919 Model T Ford pick-up, owned eight years

About the Model T: “I found out about this “in-progress” Model T pick-up in between my sophomore and junior years at college in central Wisconsin. It was being sold by someone who had purchased it in its present condition from an elderly gentleman with failing health. The elderly gentleman was restoring it with a new wood pick-up body that was similar to the one his father had used on the family lumber yard when he was a kid. The person I purchased it from had cobbled together enough pieces to attempt to drive it, but when he realized he didn’t know how to operate – or even start – a Model T, he quickly lost interest.

“When I brought it home, the woodwork was nearly complete and the mechanicals were marginal but functional. I further assembled it and drove it that first summer “as is,” with rough original body panels attached to the newly constructed wood body. Never mind that it ran poorly, was hard to start and the transmission was weak – I had a blast!

“The next summer I got ambitious and disassembled it with every intention of finishing it by the end of the season. You know how the next part of this story goes: It sat in loosely organized piles in my mother’s barn from the summer of 2003 until early 2007 when I finally decided enough was enough. It was time to finish what I had started.

“Once I committed myself to finishing the project, I made the foolish decision to commit it to my alma mater’s annual car show, run by students in the Automotive Restoration program at McPherson College. That left me only four weeks! Fortunately the mechanicals were in better shape than I originally thought, needing only a major tune-up and a thorough transmission adjustment. That just left the body work. I spent nearly every evening and weekend those next four weeks stripping, repairing, priming, sanding, priming, sanding, painting, sanding, repainting a couple of mistakes, and then finally buffing it out. It rolled out on the lawn the day of the car show with a borrowed set of non-matching wheels, and possibly still uncured paint.

“I can’t take full credit for the restoration. I couldn’t have accomplished the project myself in such a short amount of time without the help of fellow car guys who volunteered their time to help with the sanding (especially the wheels) and a talented young kid who pitched in to help me finish the final wet sanding and buffing. It was a rewarding experience and a fun way for a group of us to work together.”

Why a Model T? “First of all, I was raised in a Ford family. Even though my automotive tastes are non-discriminatory, I am naturally attracted to most anything Ford. Secondly, I have always been mechanically minded, and anyone familiar with a Model T knows that you have to have a mechanically oriented mind to service and operate one. But most importantly, as I continued to study the history of the automobile, my tastes grew earlier and earlier. This project seemed to fit the bill.”

Repairs and Modifications (planned or completed): “No modifications. Full restoration completed by me. I have a spare engine and transmission that I plan to completely rebuild for it in the future, but for now the existing drivetrain has yet to let me down!”

Hobby activities (clubs, events etc.): “I am a member of several national clubs, I work within the hobby and I am fortunate to attend several national events a year. For fun, I simply enjoy driving my old cars and I love attending local cruise-ins.”

Interesting Stories: “The first time I drove my Model T after dark was on a cloudy summer night with a new moon. I had been at a friend’s house and it was pretty late when I decided to leave. Fortunately, it was a short drive in the country. However, this was my first experience having to rely on headlight technology from the teens. I quickly learned that the only meaningful purpose of early headlights was to let someone else know something is on the road. They don’t illuminate the road like modern headlights. In the end it wasn’t a big deal and I just took it slow, but I now appreciate modern headlights a lot more than I used to.”

Favorite Drive: “My favorite drive is along Peninsula Drive on Old Mission Peninsula, just north of Traverse City where I live. It is a winding 35 – 45 MPH road that follows the water. I like it for two reasons: It’s arguably one of the most beautiful drives in northern Michigan and traffic travels at speeds a Model T can handle.”

Best and Worst Moment: “The best moment was pulling it onto the show field — under its own power— after the crazy four-week restoration project to a round of applause from everyone who knew what it took to get it there. The worst moments are probably driving it just after dusk on a warm summer day when the bugs are just coming out – open cab with no windshield … you get the picture!”

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