U.S. Ford fans have 100 reasons why they came to celebrate
Centennial events attract car buffs, retirees
By Ronald J. Hansen and David Shepardson / The Detroit News
DEARBORN -- As he flipped through the pages of the "Ford at Fifty" book, Dave Barbier smiled and remembered.
His lifelong love of Ford cars was evident, from the blue oval on his hat to the joy of his life parked in front of him -- a dark blue 1951 Custom Deluxe in original condition.
Like many of the thousands who visited Ford Motor Co.'s world headquarters Saturday to mark the company's centennial celebration, the Spring Lake resident's roots with Ford run deep.
Barbier's great uncle, Detroit coal dealer A.Y. Malcomson, was an original investor in Henry Ford's auto enterprise. Barbier's grandfather spent most of his working life with the company. When Barbier was a boy, the only car dealer in town sold Fords.
About eight years ago, the retired machine operator bought his 1951 model and, with the loving attention doting Ford lovers have for their vehicles, traced its roots. It was made in Los Angeles in March 1951 and was sold to a Montana man who kept it for 30 years, he said. Today, Barbier won't fix a passenger window with a hairline crack because the replacement wouldn't be original.
"You can restore a car 15 times, but it's only original once," he said as his grandchildren sat in the back seat.
Such pride and pleasure was typical as Ford welcomed back retirees and car club members and reaffirmed Metro Detroit's status as the auto capital of the world. The weekend's events offer attention to the company's storied history while tempting future customers with displays of today's offerings.
It has also provided a financial boost to the company, which has struggled in recent years.
Ford has sold more than $7 million in centennial merchandise since it went on sale Oct. 1, said spokeswoman Barbara Teasdale, more than double the company's forecast.
The company also sold 110,000 tickets through Saturday. That figure didn't include children under 12 who were admitted free, spokesman John Nens said.
The Post Office sold out its 2,000 commemorative postcards that featured a special cancellation from the grounds of Ford's headquarters. They hoped to sell more today.
History worth seeing
For this weekend, at least, nearly everyone loves Fords.
Lines to ride in a classic Ford, like a Model T, ran to more than 500 people. More than 3,200 cars were spread out over the 150-acre grounds of Ford headquarters.
Fred Sareini, 33, of Dearborn, who works for Ford's product design center, took his wife, three children and nephew to the event and said he hoped it boosts the company's fortunes for personal reasons.
"I hope people see the new products, the stock price goes up and I become a rich man," he joked.
Alice Budz, an 83-year-old Detroiter, gasped when she saw a 1920 Ford Model T Touring car. "That's my car. That's the year I was born," said Budz, who climbed in to have her picture taken.
Budz went to work for Lincoln Motor Co. during World War II as a quality control technician in Detroit. Then she went to work at Ford's Utica plant in 1961 until retiring in 1991.
"These are my cars. This is my company," said Budz, who proudly showed off a gold bracelet with a diamond chip signifying 30 years of service.
Visitors gushed at Ralph Boyer's 1910 Model T, with its golden trim glistening under the sun. Others were amazed at a full-sized wooden replica of a 1903 Model A.
Sali Smith of Buffalo, N.Y., was taken aback by the regal beauty of the 1939 Lincoln Model K designed specifically for Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during a visit to America that year.
"There's a lot of history here," Smith said as she looked at the mahogany colored limousine. Indeed. Among the memorable cars is the 15 millionth vehicle produced, the car that logged more than 1.6 million miles -- a record -- and a car that once belonged to actress Rita Hayworth.
Bud Louis of Eden Prairie, Minn., looked up at the cloudy sky nervously.
His 1950 Ford Business Coupe Deluxe -- never restored and with just 39,000 miles -- has only been rained on three times since he purchased it from a "little old lady spinster" in 1970.
"I'm pampered and spoiled, but I love to come to shows," said a sign in front of the car. "Thanks for stopping by."
Louis and his wife, Nancy, hauled the Granny Smith apple-green car via trailer with his daughter Cheri Bradshaw's 1999 Ford F-150 truck. The truck is normally used for hauling "show rabbits" and rabbit feed, his daughter's business.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime situation," said Louis, 59. "The next time it will happen, I'll be dust."
He pointed to a dent the previous owner made in the car when she hit a telephone wire and stitching she did on the front seat. Even the original markings from the factory are still visible under the hood.
"It's amazing that the company has lasted 100 years. I mean in the dot-com age, it's pretty rare," said Louis, who worked at Ford for 33 years training service center technicians.
Clean air protesters
The automaker has long served as a lightning rod for protest, and Saturday was no exception.
Outside the Ford grounds, about a dozen protesters hoisted signs and shouted anti-Ford slogans, blaming the company for harming the environment.
"We want Ford to help break our addiction to oil," said Christine Corwin of the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network. "Basically, we want them to make their next 100 years cleaner than their first 100."
The Bluewater Network, also based in San Francisco, said that Ford's broken promise to make sport utility vehicles more fuel efficient will waste another 3 billion barrels of oil.
But most were focused only on Ford's vehicles Saturday.
Plymouth resident Roman Kuzma, 76, said he sees more than the trademark exteriors when looking at classic Fords. The retired mechanical engineer helped design motors for the company during his 43-year career.
"I take a lot of ownership in a lot of them," Kuzma said.
Of course, his favorite is his own 1965 Mustang. Having seen the company take a public relations bruising, Kuzma said the centennial was refreshing.
"These kind of things," he said, "tend to pull the community together."
(Photo)Steve Perez / The Detroit News
A 1940s-era Lincoln passes a sign marking the automaker's 100th anniversary celebration in front of world headquarters in Dearborn. Many at the event spoke of their lifelong love of Ford products, from Model T to Mustang.
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.....