They called them the Tin Lizzies. They were the first mass-production automobiles to be manufactured simultaneously around the world.
The Model T was Henry Ford’s personal masterpiece, his contribution to the common man and Friday you’ll see up to 14 of them rolling down the streets of Elizabeth City.
“They are all originals and they are one of the first cars Ford ever built,” says Hertford’s John Long, a Model-T owner and member of the Central Virginia Model-T Ford Club.
Long owns a 1925 version that brand new would have cost $275.
The Model-T first came off the production line in 1908 and the last one to leave that line came off in 1927. Since that time enthusiasts have collected the classic automobile and paraded them around whenever they get the chance.
In this case, the club that Long belongs to enjoys touring at various times of the year. He says he’s excited to get members of the club here from Virginia and around North Carolina.
“We have about four meetings a year,” says Long. “We have a couple of tours. They are located all over. There is a national tour in the summer and then they have a fall tour. They are sponsored by the Model T Club of America.”
The club will stay in Elizabeth City and tour around the region on Friday and Saturday.
They will meet at Mariners’ Wharf Park Friday morning where Pasquotank Extension Agent and amateur actor Tom Campbell will greet in character as Orville Wright — a role he has played for the Elizabeth City Ghost Walk.
The Tin Lizzies will be lined up at the waterfront and Long says they hope folks will stop by, ask questions and learn about one of America’s most famous automobiles.
From there the group will head over to Museum of the Albemarle and later back to Mariners’ Wharf Park.
On Saturday morning the parade of Model Ts will make their way through town and head south to Weeksville where they will tour the region and then make their way to Halls Creek and onto U.S. Hwy. 17.
The long ride will require that the drivers keep tabs on their gas supply. Long says the old Model Ts were designed to carry 10 gallons of fuel and only get 18 miles to the gallon. To check the fuel the driver must stop the vehicle and go to a dipstick in the fuel tank.
Long says there are a number of things people might not know about the old cars. For example, he points out that they incorporated a sort of automatic transmission with foot pedals. They have high and low gears.
“You can leave the keys in the car because most people don’t know how they operate,” says Long.
Long has been a Model T owner for the past 30 years. He and his brother Wilson restored the car over a 10-year period.
They found the car in an old barn. Long says it was rough shape and covered in cornhusks.
He won’t divulge how much he paid for the old car.
“My wife doesn’t even know how much I paid,” he said.
The car itself is worth “whatever someone will pay for it,” declared Long. According to an Internet search, the old car can be worth anywhere from $7,700 to $19,000, depending upon the model.
Long, however, says there are some older models that can sell for $50,000 or more. Those cars, he explains, were built with brass fixtures up until 1916. From a brass radiator to brass headlamps, they are highly valued by collectors.
Long says this weekend he also hopes to use his classic old car as a model. He has old photos from downtown Elizabeth City that features Model Ts. He would like to take photographs of his car parked in the same spots as the original cars in the original photographs.
“I thought it would be neat to park that car down on Main Street and take another photo 100 years later,” said Long.