By on August 21, 2020

So, it seems the Cannonball Run record was smashed once again this week, with a team from Ohio making the New York-Los Angeles run in XX hours and XX minutes thanks to a specially outfitted German land missile and plenty of electronic help. The actual duration of the feat has no bearing on today’s question, so we’ll leave you to read about it somewhere else.

These Cannonball Run attempts are, frankly, getting annoying. They’re also inherently dangerous. But the news did dredge up an old article about a very different cross-country trip that proved far more interesting to this writer.

A 2013 feature in Autoweek details the crossing of the continental U.S. in a 1930 Ford Model A in 50 hours and 20 minutes, unofficially shattering the record for such a feat in a pre-war car.

Average speed? 58.5 mph. In a 40-horsepower Model A, which topped out at about 65 mph when showroom fresh, that’s quite an achievement. This is the kind of thing your author loves reading about, and it inspired today’s question.

As the internets fill with glamorous social media photo shoots depicting musclebound pony cars, ‘Vettes, and 1970s-90s Euro exotics, the pre-muscle car era classics are being forgotten. Time and lack of attention (brought about by a fiscal inability to do so) is slowly taking a toll as current owners age out of their vehicles. What becomes of the cars? Junior isn’t likely to share the habit, or even possess a garage.

As for the running board era, appeal isn’t nearly as broad as later models. Yet Ford made millions of Model As, and they remain the most achievable of the pre-war set to get into. Parts can be sourced online, and the basic makeup of the vehicle was the picture of durability and simplicity from Day One.

So, B&B, do you anyone who owns — and drives, even if only on special occasions — a pre-war car?

[Image: General Motors]

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28 Comments on “QOTD: Know Anyone With a Pre-War Car?...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    One day…something powered by a Ford Flathead V8 is on my bucket list and i’d love a Model A Business Coupe one day. There are others I’d love too, but I’ll probably never swing a Stutz Bearcat.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I believe your picture shown above is a 1935 Chevy Suburban

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t know of anyone currently who drive a pre WW II car or truck but my father’s first car was a 1933 Rumble Seat Dodge that he paid about $300 for.

  • avatar
    Lynchenstein

    I have a pre Falkland War car – and ’81 mostly blue 2-door Civic hatchback! Lots of Bondo and the seats are a mess, but she runs!

  • avatar
    relton

    Until last year, I had a 37 Terraplane (made by Hudson) that I drove a lot. It was an early muscle car. Terraplanes were very light, lighter than a Ford, but carried the big 112 HP 6 cyl engine from a big Hudson. The car felt a lot like an MGB, light and quick and stiff riding.

    I had a 37 LaSalle for many years. It had about the same horsepower as the Terraplane, but weighed 2000 lbs more. It rode better, but didn’t handle nearly as well, and of course it was a lot slower. Nice looking, though.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I am aware of some Model T owners in my area who drive them occasionally.

    For me personally, I am disinclined to drive on modern roadways with modern drivers in their modern vehicles on their modern phones without the benefit of modern safety engineering [working on my side]. (So mid-90’s is my oldest.)

    [Using similar reasoning, my kids drive relatively large vehicles with multiple airbags, antilock brakes and reasonable crash ratings.]

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      After having watched a scared-straight driver’s education movie last weekend, I am with you on that. It puts lie to the notion that big, steel boxes are better at keeping one safe that futzy safety technology which are offensive to our overabundance of above average drivers.

      https://youtu.be/_VKOoenqbOk

  • avatar

    Ironically, my sister and brother-in-law just purchased a 1941 Cadillac Serie 75 limo this past week.

    What makes it even more special is that it only has 468 original miles (used only for weddings) and as they’re in Australia; the car retains its US LHD

    Due to the lockdowns and travel bans in Australia, I haven’t seen it in person. It looks gorgeous in the photos. My brother-in-law always wanted an old American car for the garage and I’m thrilled to see that dream come to fruition

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I don’t know them personally, but someone in town has an ’08 Buick, as in 1908. They bring it to shows and it is registered/road legal though I don’t think it’s fast enough for anything but city streets.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    A street over and there is an older gentleman (I’m getting there myself!) who routinely drives a Model A.

    My dad’s first car, back in 1960ish, was a Model A. I’ll have to ask him about it, since I wonder if it had an electric starter or not. I will admit my knowledge of anything pre-1964 gets sketchy.

    The local muscle/sports/weird car dealership had a 1939 Plymouth that I was thinking of taking a look at. Rattle can grey paint, large whitewalls, and a 4 on the floor. It’s definitely not stock but it would have been an interesting city cruiser, but alas it was already sold.

  • avatar
    KevinB

    A guy in my little town regularly drives his Model T around. He must have gotten delayed one evening and had to use his headlamps. I could not figure out what was coming my way until he passed me.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Dad used to have a ’37 Plymouth. Built like a tank.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    When I was growing up, my next door neighbor had his first car, a 36 Ford coupe that he hot-rodded. Visited him a few months ago, he still has it, along with a 39 Plymouth roadster he restored a few years ago, with a small-block Chevy.

    Friend of mine has a Model T, he drove it in a few parades but something about the transmission makes it a real PIA to drive at low speed, so gave that up.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    My neighbor.. its probably 1950s car. But a daily driver for him.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    A good friend of mine currently has a late ’30’s V-12 Lincoln that he takes around on nice days. He’s had several pre-War cars, including a Model T, and a couple different bodystyles of Model A’s, including a convertible truck that we trailered over to Michigan a few years back for the Woodward Dream Cruise. That thing was a blast. Not pre-war, but last weekend he picked up a beautiful ’48 Lincoln Continental in southeast Michigan (he went to the Dream Cruise again – without that car – and attendance was down about 80%, by his estimation). He’s got a serious thing for old Fords and Lincolns.

  • avatar
    karonetwentyc

    Short answer to the question: yes, and most of them have Citroëns.

    There have been a few in the family from time to time, but as of now everything is post-1945.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    My dad’s cousin owns a small car museum and a good number of the cars in it. There’s a large number of “pre-War” cars there and one I know he used to drive in parades is an early (31?) Model A Deluxe Town Sedan.

  • avatar

    I know a guy who owns like 30 pre war cars, from Model T tow trucks, to Lasalles, even an orient. I get to see them quite a bit as the building holding them is near my work.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I had a friend whose father was like that, but his collection was ~1940s-60s imports – E-Types, XK-120s and such.

      Some 20 years after my one visit to the building, it burned to the ground, along with the cars. In hindsight, the origin of the fire depends on whether the collection was insured….

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    All of my cars are pre-war-on-COVID cars. Heh.

    40 years ago, working in a gas station, a fellow used to come in with a ~1930 Model A, which was old even then. Despite being a full-serve station, he kindly said he would take care of the filling duties. That was fine with me; I didn’t want to risk any spills or scratches on that beauty.

    As much as I admire these rare classics, actually having one is a burden I don’t want. I don’t have the patience or resources to keep a car like that.

  • avatar
    texan01

    I don’t know what the fastest pre-war record was, but the first record was 63 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes in a 1902/3 Winton.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Over the decades I’ve owned four ‘A’ model Fords, three were bone stock, the pickup was upgraded using various years of ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ (yes, yes, I know : THERE AIN’T NO MODEL “C” !) parts .

    All were good daily drives in Los Angeles, Southern California and the surrounding Deserts, highways and freeways included .

    Ford added the electric starter in the later ‘T’ models along with shatter proof triplex safety glass, just like in your new car but flat .

    The ‘A’ model headlights were the only ones I ever knew you had to get out of the car and check with a flashlight to see if they were working…. =8-) .

    OK., not quite that bad but the 6 volt generator was fairly anemic and IIRC the headlight bulbs were only 25 watts or so .

    I also had a 1937 Harley – Davidson EL KnuckleHead Motocycle, another fun ride and faster than any new ones in the mid 1970’s to boot .

    I just came back from looking at the new kids down the street’s 1962 Chevy Impala convertible, they have a ’38 pickup in the driveway that’s unrestored and look nice .

    _Some_ kids, mostly Hispanics, are taking over their parents and grandparents oldies and learning the joy of keeping them mostly stock .

    The one constant in Hot Rods is : they’re not much fun to drive in traffic .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My uncle has a 1932 Chevy sedan street rod and a late 20’s early 30’s Essex coupe with a rumble seat in original condition.

    The Chevy has a small block in it and back in the early 90s when he finished it he’d go to car shows with it and folks would pack up and leave when they saw him arrive. I never really understood why, but he took best of show every time he showed up. It’s definitely nice, even 30 years later, but I thought there were many cars just as nice there.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Nate always good to see the next generation interested in keeping the old cars and trucks running and maintained especially those vehicles that were in their families. It is always sad when the older vehicles that were well maintained end up being neglected and then scrapped and forgotten. That is one thing I like about Jay Leno and his car collection that some of the good old cars that are plain and have lesser value are kept up and preserved. I like Leno’s philosophy in that he doesn’t really own these cars but he is taking care of them and preserving them for future generations. Leno also drives his vehicles. It is always a good thing when the next generation takes an interest in older vehicles.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    A co-worker’s mother keeps a 1938 Ford up at the collective cabin. Allegedly it still runs, but infrequently since her dad died.

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