By MARINA WATERS
A parade filled with America’s oldest car, the Model T Ford, rolled through Tennessee’s oldest town on June 22 as part of the fifth annual Poor Boy Tour in honor of the classic automobile.
The group of around 50 Model Ts travelled throughout the Appalachians and made a stop in Jonesborough — but not just for townspeople to take a gander at their vintage cars —the trip also served as a way to sightsee and visit towns the classic car enthusiasts stopped at along the way.
“(Jonesborough) made it a point to make sure we all had a good time,” Tour Chairman Brent Terry said. “And we did. I want to tell everyone that these people from all over got a very good experience coming to town. It shows that the town wants tourism. And that’s kind of a neat thing.”
The tour was comprised of folks from 13 different states in all sorts of Model T Fords. Some had brightly colored flames painted on the sides. Others were more traditional, solid black. Only a few of the different sorts of Model Ts had some difficulties and just one didn’t make it through the tour—which Terry felt was quite a feat for such an old automobile.
“Almost all of them completed the tour. So one wasn’t better than the other one. It’s just one clanked and made noises and smoked a little bit more than the other ones. But they all ended up making it there,” Terry said. “It’s pretty remarkable that you can have a 100-year-old vehicle be able to do that.”
Terry, who also owns and operates B. Terry Vintage Automotive in Elizabethon, said the Poor Boy Tour reflects the history of the Model T — a car that had the longest production of any automobile model in history until the Volkswagen Beetle topped it in 1972.
And those 15 million Model Ts provided an opportunity for the average Joe to buy his or her first car—all thanks to a man named Henry Ford.
“Back in the day, the Ford automobile typically was more for the common man. It was the first affordable car,” Terry explained .”The Model T came out in 1909 so if you look at cars that came out before the teens, typically it was your doctors and your more affluent people that owned automobiles. And so Henry Ford appealed to the working class individual.”
Like the cars that rode through many Appalachian towns, passengers and drivers on the Poor Boy Tour also came from different states, different walks of life and were in cars of different years and styles.
But they all came together to create a trip made up of experiences more so than material items.
“(The tour) allows somebody to attend frugally if they want to. We’ve all been broke college students,” Terry said laughing. “So there’s times you splurged in college and there are times when we did it the poor boy way. That’s kind of the joke behind this thing.
“There’s an education that comes with that too. While at the time it was a bummer we didn’t have the money to go out (in those college days), in retrospect, we made it through it. So we’re okay.”
Above all else, the self-guided tour that operated on nearly nothing but backroads was designed as an easy going trip that’s all about sightseeing and interaction with others.
“I joke about it, but we typically drive for 45 minutes and eat ice cream for 15,” Terry said. “We basically stop every 45 minutes and fellowship either looking at something like a llama farm or to walk the streets of Jonesborough—just enjoying ourselves and enjoy it with other people.”