55° F Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jack Craig’s love of classic cars extends back to the Henry Ford era.

“I bought a 1924 Model T in 1946,” said Craig, who hails from New Ulm. “They had a top speed of 35 mph and overheated a lot. I bought my Model T right after World War II. I sold a balloon-tire bike for $30 and bought my Model T off a junkyard for $25. I guarantee that by the time I got it running, I had spent more than $25.”

Craig was seated next to his splendid 1956 Chevy pickup last Saturday during the Bastrop Area Cruisers car show at Riverbend Park. He talked about the excitement people have for vintage autos and trucks.

“The original Model T was advanced when it came out in 1909, but Henry Ford didn’t change them until 1928, when he came up with the Model A,” Craig said. He added the lack of engineering updates to the latter-year Model T’s would likely not occur in today’s competitive manufacturing environment. Nevertheless, he said he agreed it was impressive that Ford built about 15 million Model T’s, and made them affordable for the working American family.

Speaking about his own ’56 pickup, Craig said, “These trucks did good out in the pasture, but on the highway they were rough to drive. They had old leaf-spring (shock absorbers) and no power steering. These trucks were for bumping stuff – like cows.”

Tommy Pearson, from Smithville, termed the older cars “just more fun.”

“They just look good,” Pearson said. “And they drive so much different than today’s cars. You feel the road more with older cars. OK, maybe some of the newer exotic cars have the same feel for the road.”

Pearson watched as people walked by several rows of vintage cars and trucks surrounding the picnic table he was seated at, shaded by one of the many giant live oaks in Riverbend Park.

“For us old folks, these cars bring back memories of yesterday,” Pearson said. “You were driving real steel – all metal – and not some car with plastic and aluminum. And you could get out and tinker with them without needing a computer for (diagnosing) repairs. You could tune it by ear, which you can’t do with these newer cars. They all sound the same.”

But he pointed out that modern-era vehicles, though often lighter than the all-metal vehicles, have their advantages.

“These newer cars are much safer,” Pearson said. “In wrecks, they have crush zones and panels that collapse all around passengers and absorb the shock. In older cars, the shock of (a collision) went all the way through the car and passengers.”

Elgin resident Robert Mauck was drawing plenty of admirers to his 1973 Plymouth, the same type of car he drove when he served for 26 years as a patrolman – and later as senior patrolman – with the Austin Police Department. He also served on the Elgin ISD school board.

“You didn’t get any gas mileage worth a darn with these cars,” Mauck said. “Sometimes on an eight-hour shift you couldn’t get through the whole shift without having to refuel. But they were all metal – no plastic in these cars.”

Handling prisoners presented more of a challenge than in today’s better-outfitted police cruisers, he said.

“We didn’t have backseat cages, so the prisoners were handcuffed and put in the front seat,” Mauck said. “We put on their seatbelts, too, but they would kick out your front window and spit on you.”

Mauck lifted the hood of the police cruiser as several people moved in closer for a look.

“These cruisers had a 440-cubic inch engine – they could really go,” he said.

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