Having fun with Fords
By HM staff
In the mid-1940’s, when cars were still sharing the road with street cars and an occasional horse, in downtown Chicago, on Lake Street, Bill Stynoski set up a garage where owners of motor vehicles could park their cars and also have them serviced while they went to work at their places of business. Most of the vehicles were Model-T Fords. He later opened a Sinclair gas station and began to collect Model-T’s. As his collection grew, in 1952, he decided to start the Midwest Chapter of the Model-T Ford Club International. His son Wade carries on the family tradition. He owns several Model-T’s and in his father’s honor, every year a Stynoski plaque is given to the “best restored original vehicle”. Also like his Dad, Wade can fix anything on a Model-T. Next year, the club will be 70 years old, and boasts approximately 150 Model-T’s owned by 95 or so families. Chapter President Forrest Green owns 11 himself. The key words with this group from the outset have been “family traditions and having fun”. As Joe Rush, one of the club members points out, “We just don’t just put the cars on display, we regularly drive them in road rallies and take them to events. We like to have fun with them.
Part of the fun is taking care of them and keeping them up so we can drive them.” In fact, on September 26, 2021, members from all over Chicagoland, put their Model-T Fords on the road to join in the festivities at the Oak Brook Polo Club’s last match of 2021. Driving at top speeds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, it took some of the members a little time to get to Oak Brook, and some took some side roads, but it was just great fun on a beautiful day to be driving these classics. Eleven of them were lined up for a few hours before the match. Having 100 year-old cars at the Oak Brook Polo Club’s 99th season was a reminder of how some traditions persist and live on yet today. As music of the 1920’s played in the background, people walked around the cars, sat in them, and learned about Model-T Fords from their proud owners. For example, they heard that Henry Ford visited meat plants where they processed hogs, chicken and turkey to study line production. After many attempts, going from A-to-T in the alphabet, he finally got his automobile assembly lines right and Model T’s started pouring out of his factory in Dearborn Michigan in 1909. From that year until 1927, over 15 million Model-T’s were built. Other fun facts: In the early days, all the spokes for the wheels were made of hickory wood, chosen because it was durable and would not splinter. Henry Ford planted forests of hickory trees near his factory so he could make the wheels as part of Ford Motor Company. He sold the scraps of wood to what became Kingsford Charcoal.
Ford didn’t miss many tricks. When he saw productivity flagging on the assembly lines, which were operating 7 days a week, he decided to give the workers a day of rest, just as it says in the Bible. Sure enough, productivity picked up. Back to the club and its members on September 26. The Model-T Ford rally at the match was hosted by Oak Brook Village Trustee Ed Tiesenga and his wife, Elizabeth. Over 75 people filled the Model-T tent to enjoy food and fellowship and the final tournament Polo match between G-Squared USA and the Jamaican team from the Kingston Polo Club. Ed and family share a typical Model-T story. His father Marv, is 92, and the oldest club member. Marv got involved, he recalls: “When Ed was a 14 year-old teen ager, I wanted to get him a car, but not just another ‘muscle car’ like other Dads. I saw a Model-T on the street in Downers Grove with a ‘for sale’ sign and bought it for $1800 in 1974. It was perfect for Ed, because while he was good at taking things apart, he still had to learn how to put them back together.” Over the years, Ed has had an off-and-on, and off-and-on again relationship with his black 1924 four door Model-T. At one point, when the car was stored in a barn in Harvard, Illinois, mice ate the wires.
In the early 1990’s, he donated it to the Historical Society of Oak Brook. But they gave it back after the Oak Brook Public Works mechanics could not maintain it for the Historical Society. Everyone was too busy to figure out how to keep the car in order, and not until they joined the Midwest Chapter of the Model-T Club in Westmont did Ed and Marv discover all of the experienced and capable other Model-T owners glad to help get the car in order and on the road again for Club tours and events. He said, “In the Club, we have people like me with a limited scope of experience working on these cars, but many more people who know all about them. The Club includes skilled mechanics, electrical and mechanical engineers with careers at Navistar and Electromotive, and some who figured it out as they went, who can take anything apart and get it all back together as they go. After 5 or so years of hanging out with these guys, our old car can make it through 400-mile weekend tours all over the area.” Marv and his wife Ardythe love to attend events centered around the club because it is enjoyable to recall the memories.
Before Marv retired 17 years ago, he practiced general surgery and was a pioneer in performing laparoscopic and bariatric surgery. He recalls his farm childhood in Minnesota and how the introduction of Model-T’s collapsed distances and opened up the world for rural families. On that beautiful Sunday afternoon, before the polo match started, the whole crowd gathered along the edges of the field, and waved and cheered when all of the Model-T’s got started and took a full lap around the entire polo field. It was a sight to behold and hear, as they drove by the stands, honking their horns, with a 1914 Model-T “speedster” leading the way, waving a huge American flag. As current President Forrest Green points out, “Another great thing about these Model-T’s and our club is that you don’t even have to have an antique car or a Model T. All you need is interest in the hobby and a love of history. And owning these cars and keeping them up is not expensive. Instead of spending tens of thousands for a classic Corvette or a Mustang, for about $5,000, you can get a Model-T and completely restore it for about $25,000. To keep them up, there are plenty of spare parts and there are companies that also make parts. We meet monthly in the Westmont Park District meeting room and like nothing better than to welcome new friends to join.
For more information, you can go to midwestchaptermodeltfordclub.org or call Forrest at (847) 334-6070.
*Photos by Judith Coleman