100 Years of Ford, Old Fords come home to roost
Friday, June 13, 2003
Model Ts, Edsels show up for party
By Ed Garsten and Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News
Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News
DEARBORN -- With raindrops ricocheting off the massive white tents and the wind whipping across the sprawling fields surrounding its world headquarters, Ford Motor Co.'s 100th birthday party kicked off Thursday.
The crowds were smaller than a sunny day would have attracted. But hearty auto enthusiasts, Ford fans and employees timed the occasional pauses in the rain to move from tent to tent at exhibit sites.
As the event began, several dozen people gathered around Blll Ford as he started out on what Ford officials billed as a victory lap around the grounds. The rain had just stopped moments earlier.
"At least it's not raining, now," Ford said, with a smile and a shrug, through the open window of an F-150 truck.
Despite the inclement weather, a caravan of 43 Model T's successfully completed a 3,000-mile journey from California, triumphantly parading up Oakwood Boulevard and into the Ford complex.
More than 100,000 people from 18 nations, including Chile, Indonesia and New Zealand, are expected to attend the four-day event that mixes history, Model T rides, marketing pitches, live fireworks, classic cars and concerts.
At the very moment that dozens of people watched Ford kick off the centennial at the Ford 100 Gateway, two lines, each of more than 100 people, had formed outside a big tent a half-mile across the grounds.
The big attraction? NASCAR drivers.
"We're waiting for Dale Jarrett," said Dustin McLaughlin of Orlando, Fla., who said he had planned the trip to Dearborn for about two months.
Mustangs were everywhere. And there were even a few glorious old Edsels, too, with their long, unusual bodies, huge chrome enveloped headlamps, and looks that many car buyers 40 years ago thought only a mother -- or maybe a member of the Ford family, itself -- could love.
The huge chrome bumpers on the Edsels shined like mirrors, even in the rain.
"Ugly as sin!" chuckled Art Vetrano of Shelby Township. "That's why I love 'em. Most Edsel folks will tell you how pretty they are. I love them because they are homely and because they don't look like anything else that anyone else ever had the guts to build."
Diogenes Feitosa may not have come the farthest to attend Ford's centennial, but his pilgrimage may certainly have been the most novel -- and harrowing.
Back on April 9, Feitosa hopped in his 1952 Ford Custom at his home in Ribeirao Preto in southern Brazil, said goodbye to his wife and hit the road on a 12,000-mile journey to Dearborn.
"The family said Go, go, that's your dream,'" said Feitosa, wearing a black leather jacket and a T-shirt emblazoned with his route, his white hair pulled back in a pony tail.
Feitosa, 58, has had what he calls a "soft spot" for Ford vehicles since he was a boy. His father worked for the Pirelli Tire and Rubber Co., which used Ford cars as company vehicles.
When he was 35, the ex-mayor of Ribeirao Preto gave Feitosa the 1952 Ford Custom with two caveats: Every month, Feitosa must donate a food basket to the poor and if he cannot take care of the car any longer, he must donate it to the local museum.
Feitosa said he has never missed a monthly donation and only guesses why the politician entrusted him with the car.
"He may have thought because our family was involved in the auto business, the car would be cared for properly," said Feitosa in Portuguese, interpreted by Antero Afonso, a Ford Motor Co. engineer from Livonia that he met in Arizona years ago.
Now the owner of a rubber parts fabricating business, Feitosa has taken exceptional care of the vehicle.
Before setting out on his pilgrimage to the Ford centennial, Feitosa installed power brakes. Otherwise, the so-called flathead V-8, 110 horsepower engine, transmission and clutch are all original equipment.
In case of trouble, though, he stuffed the trunk with spare parts, carried four spare tires and two fire extinguishers in a roof rack and transported two transmissions and rear drive on the floor below the front passenger's seat.
Amazingly, the only repairs necessary on the long trek were replacements for the distributor cap, breaker points and one ignition condenser.
None of the 20-year-old bias ply tires sprung a leak. Feitosa smiles as he points out they are made by Firestone.
Along the way, he endured sleeping in trucks amid swarming mosquitoes on a seven-day crossing of the Amazon River aboard a slow ferry.
"The current is very heavy and the boat takes about 36 semi-trucks along with it so it was very heavy and loaded," said Feitosa. "A lot of mosquito bites. It wasn't exactly comfortable."
Driving through parts of Central America he feared for his life in areas he described as "quite dangerous because of poverty levels and political instability."
Friendly truck drivers would position their rigs in front and behind Feitosa as they drove down the highways to protect him, he said.
He is overjoyed to have made the trip successfully and is looking forward to displaying his car as part of the Ford celebration.
Feitosa will not duplicate his two-month journey for the return trip.
Instead, when Ford's birthday party ends Sunday, he will aim his classic Ford east to New Jersey, place the car on a freight ship and then fly home to wait for it.
(Photo)Ted and Sally Van Beek of Clatskanie, Ore., head for Ford world headquarters in their 1909 Ford Cross County Racer. A caravan of 43 Model Ts completed a 3,000-mile journey from California to Dearborn for the party.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....