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Breakdowns no big deal at The Henry Ford’s Old Car Festival with the Antique Vehicle Garage

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Image courtesy The Henry Ford.

Not as though anybody looks forward to a breakdown, but anybody whose car quits on them during The Henry Ford’s Old Car Festival this weekend will get to see something most of the general public won’t: The same restorers who work on the museum’s cars getting the waylaid car back on the road.

At most car shows, the unlucky sufferers of a breakdown might get treated to a hard-luck award and will definitely get treated to countless opinions on what went wrong from fellow show-goers. The Old Car Festival, however, differs in that it takes place on the grounds of a museum that operates a fleet of Model Ts and Model As for most of the year and thus staffs a garage dedicated to maintaining and restoring that fleet.

“These cars get very harsh use,” said Ken Kennedy, team leader for the T Shed, which is not normally open to the public. “What the public does to these cars would make any hobbyist pull their hair out.”

Each of the museum’s 14 Model Ts puts on about 10,000 miles per year giving tours around the museum while the three Model As put on a few thousand miles per year. That sort of mileage requires routine maintenance during the season and more extensive overhauls in the off season, done in the 3,600-square-foot shed by a team of both paid staff and volunteers.

For the Old Car Festival, the team then turns its attention to rescuing participants reduced to pushing their old cars.

“We start out Old Car Festival on-call for anybody who has problems with their antique vehicles — breakdowns, out of gas — and then we go assist them with our Model T or TT tow truck,” said Gordon Michael, a member of the T Shed team.

This year’s Old Car Festival will celebrate the centennial of Lincoln Motor Company and include the traditional Gaslight Parade of Cars along with Model T assembly demonstrations, a running of the 1901 Ford Sweepstakes racer, and talks on a number of topics, including the Gypsy Coeds and early painting techniques at Ford factories.

The Old Car Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit TheHenryFord.org.