The hood ornament on this 1926 Model T is a devil thumbing his nose, but it may take a while for a student driver to develop a devil-may-care attitude.
There are three pedals and three levers to manage, and none of them line up with the functions expected by someone used to a modern-day car.
David Messer climbs into the black sedan with a little trepidation.
“I’m just afraid of breaking something,” he said.
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The instructors volunteering their time and their prized cars wondered about that, too, back when they started teaching people to drive Model T’s at the LeMay Family Collection Foundation in Spanaway. But the “Tin Lizzies” have survived into a second year of classes with no abuse, lead instructor Mike Conrad said.
No crashes, either — almost.
“We had a little bobble one time,” Conrad said. A car stuck in low gear failed to stop before bumping the parked one in front of it.
While Messer’s passenger kidded him after their car jerked to a stop — “a crash landing,” David Gomez said, there were no mishaps during Saturday morning’s class. Just glee at rumbling through the foundation’s wooded 88-acre property at 25 mph while feeling like a character in a gangster movie.
“This is what driving should be,” said Gomez, used to driving a Toyota RAV4.
It was a new experience for Messer and Gomez, soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, while the third student in their car was relearning a skill he acquired as a teenager in a Model T that had belonged to his aunt.
“That was my very first car,” said Jerry Hardy, an accountant who grew up in Harrington near Spokane and now lives in Fircrest. “I was 15 years old when I got the call — ‘Jerry, come and get it.’”
Safely parked, the three students and their classmates headed off for lunch and a history lesson.
Ninety dollars buys a day of driving and learning about the car brought to the masses by Henry Ford and his assembly line. That’s if you can get in. This year’s classes are full, with a waiting list.
With instructors riding shotgun, students Saturday morning had no problem getting the hang of the controls.
The key is forgetting everything you know about driving, Conrad said.
“If you were to drive this car like you drive a manual-transmission car,” he said, “you’d be in a lot of trouble.”