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Model T snow day

  • Published Friday, March 8, 2013, at 6:53 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 9, 2013, at 6:35 a.m.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going … in a Model T Ford. At least that was the case with Dave Marshall when winter finally got its act together and dumped 14 inches of snow on Wichita recently.

Nothing was moving on the snow-packed streets when Marshall and his daughter, Katelyn, decided to see how their totally stock 1916 Model T touring car would handle the challenge.

"We drove around the neighborhoods — the snow was deeper and unplowed — for an hour or so. We could have used some more ballast in the back seat," said Dave, who handled the driving duties while Katelyn documented their adventure with a camera.

Dave said old-timers had told him you could wind rope through the spoked wheels of a Model T to get the effect of snow chains, but that wasn’t necessary.

"It pulled through where our modern cars got stuck, like at the snow plow ridges at corners," he said. "We did get a little snow-covered with the top down and the spokes throwing snow out like sawdust as we plowed through."

It sounds like a great way to get through a snow day. Our thanks to Katelyn for providing the photographic proof of the T’s winter prowess. She also shot video of the outing, which is a hoot to watch. You can see it on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/video/ embed?video_ id=10151483830461203

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I wasn’t surprised to hear that Model Ts made great foul-weather cars. Our old town doctor had a very nice Model A Ford coupe that he used to make house calls (doctors actually used to do that) when the roads were bad.

Doc McLain told us that nothing went through those muddy ruts like a Model A. And when it wasn’t being used for that, he cleaned it up and used it for a parade car. All of this was going on back in the early 1960s in and around Ransom.

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On the subject of automotive-related fun on winter roads, my brother, Stan, and I used to drag each other around the farm yard on a scoop shovel tied to the rear bumper of my trusty ’50 Ford. When that wasn’t exciting enough, we decided to build our own heavy duty sled.

We broke up an old cattle feed bunk and nailed the thick, heavy wood together in the form of a crude sled, complete with a big old loop at the nose, made by driving a huge nail into the wood and then bending it over.

Following a good blizzard, we would tie the rope to the rear end of my Ford and run it through the loop. One of us would sit on the sled and hang onto the rope while the other one pulled us around the farm yard. Since there was no traffic on the road past our farm, we naturally ended up out there, getting up to some downright insane speeds.

The rope served as our shut-off safety. All you had to do was let go of it and you eventually slid to a halt — unless you swerved off into the ditch and crashed first. Stan used to wear a WWII Army surplus gas mask to keep from getting his face snow-plowed shut.

Needless to say, don’t try any of this stuff at home, kids. We are lucky we survived to adulthood — or at least what passes for adulthood in our cases.

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It is hard to believe that Heartland Park Topeka is celebrating its 25th season of NHRA racing this year. I vividly remember sitting in the bleachers on a cool, misty day in 1989, watching Gary Ormsby pilot a fuel dragster down the new quarter-mile strip at a mind-numbing 4.88 seconds.

I turned to my father-in-law and said, "You just saw the quickest run in history." He lived only a couple of miles from Heartland Park, but it was the only time I convinced him to go to the races with me. The noise was too much for his hearing aids.

Shortly after that, I began helping sports writer Duane Frazier cover the NHRA races at the track. I got to meet many of the legends of the sport and loved every minute of it.

Congratulations, Heartland Park Topeka, on a quarter century of great memories.

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Finally, if you want to see some really nice cars and contribute to a good cause at the same time, mark April 11 on your calendar. That’s the date for the Classic Cars for Kids Gala to Benefit Wichita Children’s Home. It will be held at Century II Exhibition Hall from 6-9 p.m., including live and silent auctions, and organizers are expecting 60-80 cars. Tickets are $100. For more information, go to www.wch.org.

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