Remodeling Ford Model As and bringing them back on the road reminds Al Lugo of a family connection.
Lugo, 63, is membership director at the River Cities Model A Ford Club.
He started his collection of Ford Model As with his father’s car, Julito (little July), in 1986, when he was in a pediatrics dental residency program at The University of Texas-San Antonio.
“It has brought me closer to him,” said Lugo, whose father was in Puerto Rico at the time.
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Julito is one of the four Model As that Lugo owns. He names the others Willie — his father-in-law’s nickname — Milly and Woody. Lugo said it is a common practice to name Model A vehicles and sometimes cars come with names.
Lugo said that he thinks his love for old cars as a child influenced his father’s decision in purchasing them.
“We call it a fever,” he said. “I think I gave him the fever and I expanded it with him owning a Model A.”
Julito costs $5,000 when his father struck the deal in 1979. Lugo estimates that the car is now worth $12,000. The current market price for Milly, which Lugo won in a raffle, is approximately $26,000.
On a crisp October morning, Lugo welcomed nine senior club members to their biannual workshop at his garage. They gathered around a table full of Ford car starters, picking up hammers and wrenches to fix the problems, cracking jokes from time to time.
The club was founded in November 2000. James Timbes, an honorary member, placed an advertisement in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer about the first group meeting. Eleven people showed up.
The club has around 40 people.
“The car is what keeps us united, but the people is what makes it fun,” Lugo said.
The group started by doing tours in their vintage cars. However, Lugo and some members felt that they needed more hands-on experience, so they started doing workshops twice a year in his garage six years ago.
In 2013, Bobby Penny, another founding member, added monthly meetings called Model A Tinker Time Shop, and about 15 people regularly attend.
Unlike Al Lugo, Penny started his interest in Model A cars later in his life because his son drove Ramblin’ Wreck, a 1930 Model A that Georgia Institute of Technology uses as its mascot. When Penny retired, he purchased his first Model A in 1992. He is now an owner of six Ford Model A cars.
The club started to grow and it focuses on two missions: One is to restore Model As and keep them running on the road. The other one is to raise awareness about the cars among younger generations by going to car shows, parades and charity events.
Despite the lack of radio, heater and power breaks, Penny said he enjoys driving Model As.
“It is just fun, and you are not driving 90 miles per hour, so you can even read people’s mailboxes when you go by,” he said. “I don’t think I can go home today without at least 10 people blowing their horns, waving at me, or taking pictures of the car with their iPhone. It really puts a big smile on my face more than anything else.
“What I like even more is when I blow the Ahgoga horn and look at the smiles on their face,” he added.
Lugo echoes the sentiments. He said Ford Model As take up half of his vintage car collection because of the connection with his dad, the simplicity of the vehicle and the low maintenance the car needs.
Though the club has 40 members, Lugo worries their hobby would disappear with the older generations since he thinks 45 mph, the speed of Model As, could not satisfy younger people.
Jason Conry, who joined the Model A club two months ago, raised hope for older members like Lugo. Conry, a contractor in his 30s, aspires to pass on the knowledge about Ford Model A.
“It’s part of our history,” he said. “If I didn’t join, older generation would die off, the vehicles would be obsolete.”