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Ah-OOO-gah!

On the road with Iowa’s Model A Fords

By Mary Gottschalk

The Indianapolis 500 Speedway is not an obvious destination for an 80-year-old Model A Ford’s afternoon drive.

But that’s where Ankeny resident Joe Lamb found himself one sunny afternoon in 2005, along with more than 700 other Model A Restorers Club members from across the nation who’d gathered for the group’s annual homage to “America’s Sweetheart.”

What makes Lamb’s tour of the Indy track all the more remarkable is that he drove his Model A to Indianapolis and back, more than 400 miles each way.

“It’s a comfortable car,” observes Lamb, “and I could average 50 to 55 mph most of the way.”

Lamb’s car is one of the nearly five million Model As produced only between October 1927 and August1931. “They were well-built cars,” notes Lamb, “structurally much more durable than the Model T.”

That durability is part of the reason so many Model As — estimates run as high as several hundred thousand — are still on the road today.

Tom Jamison, a Johnston resident and another Model A enthusiast, notes that most Model A owners are more interested in owning a car that runs well on the road than in a showpiece that has a perfect paint job and has to be hauled around in a trailer.

You need a dependable car to make the 800-mile round-trip Indianapolis drive — and certainly to motor through the state of Iowa for three days in the Great Annual Model A Ride Around Iowa (GAMARAI).

“In 16 years, I don’t think that more than three or four cars had to be brought home from GAMARAI on a trailer,” boasts Lamb of the event that annually draws several dozen other Model A lovers who form an early-20th-century caravan for a multiday tour accentuated by the distinctive “ah-OOO-gah” honk.

Still, Jamison wonders how much longer Model As will be seen on the road. Model A owners have to know how to repair the cranky parts of an antique automobile — the gears, the brakes, the electrical system, and even the engine — because few auto shops work on cars that old.

(Read more Ah-OOO-gah!)

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