A road trip from Detroit to San Francisco might not seem like a big deal, but what if said trip was made in a car built 100 years ago with top speeds of an average of 40 miles per hour?
That’s what happened when a group from the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) decided to take the 1915 Ford Model T on a trip to recreate the exact route Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s only son, made back in 1915 with a few friends. Their destination was San Francisco where the World’s Fair, specifically the Panama Pacific International Exposition, was taking place.
Once there, Ford Motor Company set up a working Model T assembly line that produced roughly 18 cars every day. By the end of the exhibition, there were more than 4,000 finished Model Ts.
"1915 was a banner year for Ford. [It] had just introduced the assembly line a few years earlier," recounted Casey Maxon, an HVA historian. "For the first time probably ever, an automotive moving assembly line was showcased to the public."
It was a proud moment for San Francisco. City leaders said it still is.
"The Panama Pacific International Exposition put San Francisco back on the map, at least the international map," said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of San Francisco Parks and Recreation. "It was a very important momen for our city. It was a time of great growth and time of amazing innovation. Here we are 100 years later celebrating the same themes."
For others, the celebration transcends U.S. history – it’s family history. Just six weeks ago, Randy Book got a call from the HVA and learned his grandfather, Frank Book, had been one of the friends traveling with Edsel Ford 100 years ago. It gave him the chance to think about his grandfather’s time and step into his shoes a century later.
"What do they take to pack, what are they thinking about? There were no cell phones, how do you get gas, that was all going through my head," said Book.
There would be a bit of misfortune for this modern-day crew. Apparantely, Ford had chronicled his travels in a diary. In it, he mentioned meeting up with many others in Kingman, Arizona to protect them from robbers. Ford’s group made it out untouched.
Not so for the HVA guys. And it happened exactly in the place Ford decided he needed protection.
"They grouped up in Kingman, Arizona to protect themselves from highway men, robbers in the desert. Unfortunately, 100 years later, we got robbed in Kingman, Arizona," said Maxon, who kept a positive take on the trip. "We had a number of things stolen from us but the car made it safely. It didn’t totally spoil the trip!"
The Palace of Fine Arts has opened an Innovation Hangar exhibit that celebrates the 1915 World’s Fair. It is set to run through March 31, 2016.