When Wayne and Marilyn Thomas purchased an unrestored 1913 Model T Ford, Touring Model in 1980, little did they know they’d someday drive it throughout Europe. But the retired Windsor Square couple—she a teacher, he the owner of a package design business—did just that after joining the Model T Ford Club of Southern California.
Restoration of the car was complete in 2003, and the following year they joined several other Model T owners who shipped their cars to Europe for a four-week tour throughout Portugal and Spain.
Travelling in groups of about 20 cars, a back-up “trouble truck” carries parts and tires. Because the cars only have 20 horsepower, “we avoided main roads and freeways and instead took side roads, mountain roads and cut through little towns,” said Wayne. “We quickly learned that the driver had better well equip himself with sufficient tools and spare parts in order to stay on the road,” he added.
But if you ask Marilyn, breaking down can lead to fun. “In Pisa, our radiator boiled over, and we had to stop right in front of the tower. The cops were telling us we had to move, but people were so excited they were coming out of restaurants to give us water and take pictures.” Another time they stopped in front of what they thought was a café for a cup of coffee, only to learn it was part of the biggest ham packing plant in Spain. “They took us for a tour of the plant, and we took them for a ride in the car,” remembers Marilyn.
The couple was hooked, and signed up for a month-long tour of Northern Italy in 2006. A third trip, in 2008, included the Netherlands, Belgium Luxembourg, France and Germany.
“We picked up people for rides, got invited to castles. That’s the kind of stuff that happens, and it’s really exciting,” said Marilyn.
The Thomases also have a 1931 Ford Deluxe Roadster convertible, complete with
a rumble seat, which they shipped to New Zealand in 2009. There, they joined a touring club for an excursion of the north and south islands in 2009.
“We arrived shortly after their devastating earthquake,” said Wayne. However, their trip was not deterred. “The weather was outstanding as were the sights, food and people,” he recalls.
And, don’t forget the cops, interjects Marilyn, who gleefully recounts an incident there. “We’re zooming along and I’m looking at signs that have a circle with a slash through it that says ‘60’ when a cop pulls up behind us. He says to Wayne, ‘do you know you’re going over 60?’ and Wayne smiles and says ‘Oh, I didn’t know this car could go so fast.’”
After making sure Wayne understood that the 60 was in kilometers, and that he was way over the speed limit, “they had a nice visit about the cars touring New Zealand,” said Marilyn.
Through touring clubs, “we have met some really fun, low-key, adventurous people,” said Marilyn. “It’s very casual… it’s not ‘car-showing’ spiffed up automobiles. They’re travel cars and they’re really beautiful.”
So beautiful, in fact, that the Thomases—who have five children and eight grandchildren—used the cars for their daughters’ weddings.
Upcoming adventures are closer to home and include Yellowstone Park and Mt. Rushmore in September and a host of shorter-three-to-four day trips, said Wayne.
“We’re getting old, so we haven’t been to Europe lately,” adds Marilyn, who like her husband, is in her early 70s. But not too old, apparently, to discuss resurrecting a postponed tour of Russia.
“We’ll see,” said Marilyn.