Back in 1915, Edsel Ford and some of his buddies drove from Michigan to San Francisco to attend the world’s fair, the Panama Pacific International Exposition.
Back in 1915, Edsel Ford and some of his buddies drove from Michigan to San Francisco to attend the world’s fair, the Panama Pacific International Exposition. Ford fretted at one point that he feared the possibility of being robbed in Arizona, which even three years after becoming an official state remained very much a Wild West wilderness.
Ford and his party passed through Arizona unharmed, though awed by the state’s Grand Canyon. However, his fears came true for the Historical Vehicle Association team that retracing Ford’s route 100 years later.
The HVA caravan included a 1915 Ford Model T as well as a new Ford Mustang, also with a four-cylinder engine but a century later enhanced with an EcoBoost turbocharger, as well as a new F-150 pickup, which pulled a trailer with spares that might be needed along the way; it is no longer a simple matter to stop an any American crossroads and find a store that carries parts for a Model T Ford.
The trip went surprisingly well, with the exception of the day in northern Arizona when someone broke into the trailer and stole tools, parts, and everyone’s personal stuff, including computers and even their spare clothes.
“The trip has provided the HVA team with a greater appreciation of the development of our national road system and those early pioneers who experienced cross-country travel by automobile,” Mark Gessler, HVA president, said via a news release after the team successfully reached the Palace of Fine Arts, which was built for the exposition 100 years ago.
With the possible exception of those outlaws in Arizona, “The excitement and enthusiasm of all the people we met as we traveled through small cities and towns was a wonderful experience,” Gessler said. “The smiles, the memories and the Model T stories we heard made this trip very special.”
The HVA trip took 34 days and covered more than 3,500 miles. Stops were scheduled to perform maintenance on the 100-year-old Model T, and several days were spent on the Monterey Peninsula when the group took part in Monterey Classic Car Week activities.
“The purpose of the trip was to elevate national awareness concerning the importance of our nation’s automotive heritage and the role of the Ford Model T in shaping America,” the HVA said in its news release. “The HVA road trip was both a celebration and important heritage fieldwork regarding the birth of a century of American road trips.”
A century ago, it was the World’s Fair in San Francisco that drew a large number of Americans to venture away from home and make their first cross-country road trips, though at the time many “roads” were little more than dirt trials.
Henry Ford’s son was only 21 when he and friends did that drive.
“Edsel Ford’s cross-country journey is symbolic of how the PPIE (Panama Pacific International Exposition) brought out the amazing spirit, enthusiasm and innovation of so many people,” Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department said in the HVA news release. “We are so proud to welcome the HVA to San Francisco as it concludes this epic journey to recreate what was an important milestone with historical significance from 1915.”
Ford’s trip was documented not only in his daily journal but with some 200 photographs that were taken by his party.
“The HVA considers it one of the most well documented early American road trips done purely for pleasure,” the HVA news release reports. “He traveled through developing roads that were deemed ‘drivable’ at the time.”
The HVA caravan followed many of those same roads while stopping along the way to meet with “historians, heritage specialists, preservationists and academic experts to help trace the origins of the American road trip.”
“In 1915, America was at the dawn of a new age of connectivity and the automobile was at the forefront of this shift in society,” said Anthea Hartig, executive director of the California Historical Society.
For the complete diary and photographs of the HVA trip, visit the drivehistory.org website.