- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

LURAY, Va. | The 1913 Model T Ford in Dennis Fleming’s garage looks like it rolled right off its famed creator’s assembly line.

Mr. Fleming’s collectible car sports the black metal chassis, wood-spoke wheels and hand-crank starter typical of Model Ts, which Ford sold to Americans at historically affordable rates from 1909 to 1927.

“Every day, I do some work on it,” Mr. Fleming said. “Mechanically, I maintain the car in tip-top shape.”

This weekend, Mr. Fleming’s attention to his Model T will matter more than ever. On Sunday, the 49-year-old will take his automotive relic out for an unusually lengthy spin from New York City to Seattle.

Joining Mr. Fleming will be his wife, Martha, 46, and daughter Katie, 21.

The occasion will focus on a turn-of-the-20th-century contest that showcased a landmark invention by legendary automaker Henry Ford.

The excursion marks the 100th anniversary of the New York-to-Seattle Endurance Run, an actual Model T race that in 1909 lasted 22 days and covered 4,106 miles.

The centennial trek, titled “Ocean to Ocean in a Model T,” will cover 3,886 miles in 30 days.

The shorter distance, said Mr. Fleming, stems from better roads than the ones of 1909. The Model T Ford Club International Inc., a group of Model T enthusiasts that hosts tours and other events throughout the world, organized the anniversary drive.

The longer schedule was planned to accommodate nightly stops and tours in Detroit and Fort Collins, Colo., said Mr. Fleming. In Fort Collins, the Flemings will visit their son, Bryan, 23, a paramedic from Loveland, Colo.

This year’s excursion will take the loose procession through 12 states and almost exactly the same route as the 1909 run, Mr. Fleming said.

Mr. Fleming’s wife shares her husband’s zeal for Model Ts and the upcoming trip west. “I’m very excited and looking forward to it,” Mrs. Fleming said.

Mr. Fleming’s vehicle will be one of 54 Model Ts that will represent all 50 U.S. states and three other nations, including two entries from England.

The centennial run, which will feature every Model T model made, begins Sunday at New York’s City Hall and ends July 12 at Drumheller Fountain at the University of Washington.

“I feel comfortable that the car will do the 3,800 miles,” said Mr. Fleming, who had to sign up for the event five years ago because of mounting interest in the trip.

After the celebration in Seattle, the Flemings will fly back home. A friend and fellow Model T buff, John Strickland from North Carolina, is transporting Mr. Fleming’s Model T in a trailer, which will also house spare parts for the car.

Mr. Fleming bought his historic Ford, which he estimates he’s driven 5,000 miles, in 2003 for $14,000 from a Model T owner in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mr. Fleming caught the antique-car bug nine years ago from a neighbor, Bill Price.

In 1984, Mr. Price, 60, and his wife, Gayle, drove their Model T from New York to Seattle in the 75th anniversary event.

Mr. Price said such an extensive trip reaffirms the quality of the Model T.

“This event proves how good these Fords are, and were, at the time they were first made,” he said.

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